Sunday, 29 July 2007

Children's television

Things are not so good for children's television in the UK. Changes in advertising and funding streams means that some commercial broadcasters, such as ITV, are stopping the commissioning of new programmes for children. I talked about the role of television in young children's lives (drawing from the 'Digital Beginnings' study) at an event on this issue last week - for a report on the event, link here. Unsurprisingly, the study indicated that television features largely in young children's daily lives. If they end up having to rely totally on imported programmes and repeats of old UK-produced material, what are the consequences? I am not suggesting imported programmes aren't valuable - what would we do without The Simpsons, for example - but children need a wide range of programmes, including programmes that reflect something of their own cultural lives and social concerns. Keep up-to-date with what is happening in this area at the 'Save Kids' TV' website.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Virtual genetics

If you think that the Barbie Girls world is rather saccharine, then you will no doubt think that the virtual community that is Pony Island is just as bad, filled as it is with My Little Pony creations, including newborn ponies...Participants can raise and train their ponies but if you think that it is just all play then the Pony Island creators claim on the parents' page that it 'uses a simplified version of real life genetics, our players will over time learn about dominant and recessive genes, how they work and are used'. Simplified genetics? Surely young girls deserve better than this as they begin to explore virtual worlds?

Sunday, 22 July 2007

2020 and beyond

Envisioning the future is always risky and so I admire Nesta Futurelab for attempting to do just that in their report '2020 and beyond'. They offer some fascinating thoughts on what might lie ahead in terms of technologies and discuss the implications for education. Lots of food for thought. I was a little dismayed, however, to read on page 25 that I might have to don 3D glasses in order to get my furniture flatpack up – I always hated those 3D glasses we had in the 60s and 70s (they made me feel travel sick) and I would have liked them to have disappeared down history lane. Anyhow, I am hoping in the hyper-techno future that IKEA will sell robots that you can take home in order to put their impossible furniture up.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Tuning up

I was at this conference today, where I enjoyed presenting alongside Lynn Scott, a very talented teacher at Childwall Valley Primary School, Liverpool, on young children's digital literacy practices. Lynn amazed the audience with the high quality of digital animation work produced by the 3 and 4 year-old children in her foundation stage setting. You can see some of the films produced by children in other classes in the school on their website, here. The children in the foundation stage also created their own soundtracks for their films using GarageBand - it took me two sessions today before I got the hang of the software, but of course the children were much quicker than that! (And I have to confess...produced much better tunes than I did!)

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Making movies

There is so much film-making by children and young people happening in schools and community spaces currently, it is very exciting. The wide audience offered by the web is a great incentive, although it has been my experience of film-making with children for many years that they have always been excited by the challenges the process offers. Still, the thrill of posting your film on the web to be enjoyed by unknown others is great and so the Web 2.0 spaces for these productions abound. I really like 'theoneminutesjr.' site, which hosts films made by young people that last exactly 60 seconds. Impressive stuff. To see films made by younger children, visit the cinema in Film Street.

Sunday, 15 July 2007


I have been interested in machinima for a number of years now, having listened to a fascinating discussion of these films (made within computer games) at the Showcomotion Children's Media 2005 conference. Over the past few years, the films have become more sophisticated in nature and are appealing to a wider audience, not just fans of the computer games featured. For example, this film is popular with children because it features characters from the game 'World of Warcraft' dancing to MC Hammer's song 'Can't touch this'. This intermedia-textuality (or intertextuality across media) is a central feature of children's popular culture, as Marsh Kinder noted 16 years ago now. What's different in 2007 is the way in which this weaving together of disparate texts is central to children's production of texts as well as those they consume. This remixing is, as Colin Lankshear says, the 'stuff' of new literacies.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007


I have not had chance to blog recently as I was at the UKLA conference, where I talked about the work of Peter Winter, a brilliant teacher who has been working on blogs with primary children for a few years now. Here is the first blog the children developed, related to a project on dinosaurs. The blog uses the tools offered by a number of sites such as Evoca (for podcasting) and Bubbleshare (for constructing slideshows with caption bubbles). Luckily, these sites have not been blocked by the local education authority's firewall, which is the case with YouTube. Rather ironic, then, that YouTube posts videos giving advice about getting past school blocks of YouTube.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Digital natives?

No doubt you will remember the story of 3-year old Jack who bought a car on e-bay because his parents left their PayPal details on the computer. Some people were surprised at the time that a 3-year old could do this, but people now seem more accepting of the notion that many young children are competent and confident users of technology. Frequently, the term ‘digital natives’ is used to describe them. I confess to some discomfort with that term, as the native/ immigrant dualism leads to 'othering' and too stark a dichotomy is posed between groups. In addition, not all young children have access to a wide array of technologies in the home and so do not have opportunities to develop skills and knowledge in the same way. It is not just about access to hardware and software either - even in families where children have access to the technology, they may not get to use it for a variety of reasons. There may also be great variation within families - I was interested in this woman's reflections on the digital divide between children within her own family. And if you haven't yet read it, then Nesta Futurelab's report on the digital divide contains some interesting stuff. There are a number of challenges posed for early years educators in considering these issues, not least the need not to make assumptions about children's access to and experience with technologies before entering nursery. We may well encounter children like novice ebay-er Jack in nurseries, but we should also consider the needs of children who have had very little opportunity to develop these kinds of skills and knowledge.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Strategic moves

Pictured here, 5-year-old Lucy loves watching her favourite Avril Lavigne videos on YouTube and uses the search engine effectively to do this - perfect spelling not needed, as YouTube conveniently asks her, 'Did you mean 'Avril Lavigne'?'! I am interested in the strategies young children use to find information on the web or locate their favourite sites when they are not yet fluent readers and writers. For example, in one study I did, a parent told me that her child was able to use the computer independently because the child had memorised the icon for Internet Explorer and then, once online, went to the 'Favourites' menu to find the 'CBeebies' site, having memorised that word without being able to decode it phoneme-by-phoneme. If only the Rose Review had recognised the varied reading strategies that many young children use!