Talking Tech: Kids, Interactivity, and Creativity

by Melissa Morgenlander, PhD.
September 20, 2010

Guest post by Melissa Morgenlander, PhD.

Last Wednesday, September 15th, Gary Goldberger presented his most recent projects at event, to a packed audience at Teachers College, Columbia University. Gary is President and Co-Founder of FableVision – a transmedia “social change agency” dedicated to helping all learners reach their full potential.  Women in Children’s Media sponsored the talk, and the audience included both students and professionals in the children’s television and digital industries.

 

Gary has an enthusiasm for art and creativity not often seen in the educational media world.  He presented several of his favorite FableVision projects.

  • Animation-Ish is billed as the “world’s easiest animation software.” Users are led through three optional levels of increasing animation skill: Wiggledoodle-ish, FlipBook-ish, and Advanced-ish. The software allows users as young as age 5 to create their own animations.
  • Zebrafish is a series of animated Webisodes they created for the Children’s Hospital Trust that inspires tweens to help and care about sick kids. The story follows a group of kids who form a band to raise money for a sick friend. The story was recently made into a graphic novel, and a real-world “battle of the bands” is about to take place motivated by the series.
  • Dr. Peggy Healy Stearn’s Fab@School Designer is a very recent venture (not yet available) that uses digital fabrication, an emerging technology. The product provides a powerful and compelling context for integrating STEM education into the existing classroom curricula by allowing students to fabricate their own inventions with specialty printers. Gary was very proud to show the crowd a video of how he tested the product at home with his son to create a real-life duplication of a gear made out of cake frosting.
  • The Lure of the Labyrinth is a multi-player on-line video game developed in conjunction with Maryland Public Television and MIT Education Arcade to improve literacy and math scores for middle school students. The game encourages collaborative play, but also allows kids to work individually to achieve their goals.

Following the presentation, there was an interesting conversation with the audience about transmedia storytelling.  The term, coined by Henry Jenkins at MIT, is about the intentional use of connecting different forms of media. (For example, Zebrafish started with Webisodes, but later became a graphic novel and an on-line “battle of the bands” competition.) Gary stressed that it’s important to consider the audience and different places the audience can access the message being created. “It’s not just a branding exercise, but taking advantage of inherent capabilities of the medium,” he said.  He also emphasized the idea that different partners need to be involved to accomplish this, as no one company can do everything.

It was a great evening, exploring some exciting projects that combine creativity and learning with technology.  Participants walked away with a better understanding of FableVision’s inspirational philosophy and a desire to create transmedia projects of their own

 

Melissa Morgenlander is a kids’ media researcher specializing in cognitive development and early childhood math understanding. She received her Ph.D from Teachers College, Columbia University, where her doctoral dissertation was about adult-child co-viewing of Sesame Street. Read more about Melissa at her blog, the Co-Viewing Connection.

 

Further Exploration:

Read more about children’s creativity tools in our recent blog post by Ann My Thai and Andy Russell: Tech Supported Tools to Foster Kids’ Creativity