Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Web sites for toddlers

A freelance journalist recently contacted me because he was writing a piece for a parenting magazine on choosing good websites for toddlers and wanted my opinion on what I felt were good sites to recommend. I thought I would post my response to him here in case anyone could add information that would be helpful. If anyone has additional suggestions, do add comments or send me an email with them. This is what I wrote to him:

It would be important to point out to parents that the 'skill and drill' websites we often see for children of this age (where, for example, they link words to letters or pictures) can be very demotivating and can feel for children as if they are completing electronic worksheets - and early years educators would not promote the use of worksheets for young children. Instead, the best websites would have some or all of the following features:

- bright and attractive, with good use of colour
- clear images
- large font, using a typeface that is open and easy to read
- clear navigation, with key words in text boxes that are easily
recognisable from page to page, and on the same point on each
page so children become familiar with, for example, where the
'back' button is

- relevant signs and symbols linked to words so that children
are able to guess what words mean e.g. use of an arrow with
the word 'back'

- use of pictures and maps to aid navigation
- activities and games which promote creativity and imaginative
responses and promote interactivity

-effective use of animation
- appropriate use of sound and music to stimulate.

For a great example of a good website that involves these elements, I would suggest:

By the way, the 'In the Night Garden' programme is fantastic, if you haven't come across it. It's from the same team that created the 'Teletubbies' and, like that programme, it is based on a sound understanding of early childhood development and learning.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Moving Literacy On

Over the last two years I, along with Eve Bearne of UKLA, have been evaluating a project developed by the British Film Insitutute (BFI) in which lead practitioners in over 60 Local Authorities (LAs) in England were trained in moving image media education. The evaluation was based on work in 35 LAs. The project was very successful and has led to lots of exciting work. The Executive Summary of the report 'Moving Literacy On' can be downloaded here. The full report, which includes details about how LAs developed their projects and offers guidance for LAs on implementing this kind of work, can be purchased by contacting the UKLA office, details here. Watch out also for the publication of the BFI's 'Reframing Literacy', which will contain examples of some of the work carried out in classrooms.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008


If, like me, you have always had a soft spot for the C'mon dolls in the Vauxhall Corsa adverts, then you will love the 'Dooodolls'. Amongst the photos tagged with 'Dooodolls' on Flickr is this, which just shows what fun you can have with them if you really want to. Interesting how the dolls are being marketed across countries, with related comics and animations featuring on this site, presumably aimed at the Asian market, but not on the UK site, which only markets the dolls and outlines their horoscope signs. Well, I am not Taurus, but I can't help liking 'Orange Butch' (pictured) best. And judging by the reaction of many folks well beyond their childhood years, this is obviously one of those 'kiddult' toys that appeal to all ages.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Summer school slides

I talked via a video link to teachers at this summer school at Geelong in Australia this morning (or yesterday evening, depending on where the centre of your universe is), which was very exciting. For those of you there yesterday evening, thank you so much for the excellent question/ discussion session at the end, I learned much from it. Thanks also for the Mexican wave before the talk - it meant I connected immediately to you from all those miles away despite you being contained in a tiny square at the top of my screen! Enjoy the rest of the summer school.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

D-I-Y television

On the theme of user-generated content again, it is noticeable that there are now opportunities for the general public in the UK to upload videos which may then appear on television. For example, Sky News have begun to air selected videos made and uploaded by viewers onto Skycast. Satellite and cable viewers are able to get Bedroom TV, a channel that shows lip-synch-to-fave-songs videos made at home (Channel 376 on Sky if you haven''t seen it - there are some hilarious videos uploaded, of course). At the moment only short films are shown, but it is nice to imagine that one day we will be able to watch longer home-made texts on television, such as documentaries made by a particular group about a specific issue of which they have experience and insight. Even better would be a channel devoted to showing films made by children...come on, BBC, what are you waiting for?!

Monday, 7 January 2008

Content creation

I spent some of the recent break watching my three nieces using Club Penguin. They love it, but they would like the ability to create things in it as well - one niece was desperate for her penguin avatar to have a wig that included a tiara, something not available in the Club Penguin catalogue as yet, unfortunately, and she would have liked to have been able to create it herself. Maybe this aspect of the site will be developed in time. Certainly, online creation by young people is growing. A recent Pew Internet and American Life report on 'Teens and social media' indicates that 64% of online teenagers aged 12 - 17 engages in at least one type of content creation. There are other interesting aspects of the data, including the report that the teenagers who use social networking sites are 'super-communicators' who also use a range of other communication tools more frequently than non-SNS users. This shouldn't be surprising as the key issue is motivation for use and if the urge to chat to friends and family is strong, then it will strong across media. And different modes of communication are good for different things. Maybe an email to Disney about the possibility of content creation in Club Penguin would be a good thing...