Still here!

13 Nov

I’m still focusing on the iQ Journals more than this blog… but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of people interested in TV co-viewing out there! I was quoted in an article about co-viewing in today’s Daily Beast by Barbara Spindel – so check it out!

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Autism and Co-Viewing

1 May

To my Loyal Readers of the Co-Viewing Connection,

We need to talk.

Take a seat. How are you doing? Good? Okay.

Now I have to tell you something, but I don’t want you to get upset. I’ve been… well… I’ve been working on another blog. First, let me say this: It’s not you, it’s me. My needs have changed. Sure, I’m still the same Covert Coviewer you know and love – I just have more to say about another topic. Well, it’s not really all that different from co-viewing, it’s just a different angle.

For those of you who have been following me on Twitter, you may have noticed a recent uptick in the number of posts I make about autism and media/ tech. My son, Quentin, has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified) which is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Besides being bogged down in an alphabet soup of acronyms, doctors, therapists, special ed teaching methods, and school searches, I am taking time to document how I see him interact with media and technology. It is fascinating to me as an expert in cognitive development, but I am also struggling with it all as a parent. 

My new blog is called The iQ Journals. Please check it out, leave a comment, and share it with your colleagues, friends and social networks.

As for us… well, I do hope we can stay friends. Seriously. I will keep this blog active, because I see from my stats that it continues to get a fair number of hits every day. I may even occasionally post here, if I find something more relevant to this space. I assure you that I will always care about co-viewing. Please, let’s stay in touch!

Does Co-Viewing = Helicopter Parenting?

15 Mar

I came upon an article today in the Wall Street Journal called, A Field Guide to the Middle-Class U.S. Family. It outlines the research of Elinor Ochs at UCLA. Dr. Ochs is an anthropologist who, along with her team, set up a bunch of cameras and observers in homes to study the American Family. (That thought alone gave me shivers… I can only imagine how intrusive it would be for a family to be observed all the time, in daily routines!) The results are now in: We American, middle-class parents are leading child-centered households, where kids reign over our every move.

That point is not too surprising to me, but it did hit a nerve. It made me think about my own style of parenting, and my need to help my kids in every single way. Yes, I’m picking up after their messes, helping them cut their food, making weekend entertainment decisions based on what they would like. So I guess… that makes me a “helicopter parent”. (Pause here to let my reluctant tone set in.) But it also got me thinking about our family’s digital and media life, and my obsession with co-viewing and co-playing. There, too, our viewing and playing together is always based on the kids’ choice. Is this also “helicopter parenting“?

Part of it is about engaging in appropriate material with my children. For example, I’m not going to let my preschoolers take a turn in my very competitive Scrabble game via my iPhone app. I’m also not going to let my children co-view “Glee” with me. They are simply too young to engage in this kind of content. But that basically means that our co-viewing and co-playing come down to their own interests and content made for them.

So, dear readers, please help me out here. Do you think that co-viewing is a form of “helicopter parenting”? And if so, does it bother you to recognize that it is? Please comment!

Math Talk: Why you should be co-viewing “Team Umizoomi” with your daughter

28 Feb

Most of you probably know me as a researcher who is passionate about using media and technology to enhance learning for kids. That’s true. But I also happen to have a particular affinity for math-learning in the early years. In grad school, my adviser was Herb Ginsburg, who co-wrote a preschool math curriculum, and I spent many years working with teachers to implement it. Now that I’m a parent of preschoolers, I look for math everywhere, and take every opportunity to talk about math concepts with my kids. I was always good at math in school, and have no fear at facing it; however, I understand for many American women, I might be in the minority about this.

Nonetheless, I was surprised to read in the Motherlode column of the NY Times that researchers have recently discovered that mothers talk about math less to their daughters than their sons. In other words, the Moms in this study spent more time with their sons going over principles that involve counting or cardinality (how much). The researchers did not say that this lack of early math talk is the cause for why girls tend to be less confident in math, but they do suggest that “familiarity breeds liking”.

Team Umizoomi

My blood pressure tends to rise just little every time I read a research study that puts blame on parents. After all, parents are an just easy target. In reality, this research did not even find a connection between math performance and math talk by mothers; it simply said that mothers talk less about math to their daughters. And we all know that a variety of factors could influence math confidence, but none of those were investigated. So no pressure, Moms, but apparently you subconsciously aren’t expecting your daughter to be an engineer, an architect, or an astrophysicist. That’s interesting. I’m proud to claim I am expecting my daughter to be one of those. Or maybe all.

I felt like this was a good opportunity for me to point out how nicely Nickelodeon’s Team Umizoomi works for co-viewing. Both my son AND my daughter thoroughly enjoy this show, and (thanks to their mom’s co-viewing) find the math challenges on the show to be easily accomplished. My daughter quickly learned how to count backwards from 10 due to the show’s theme song. She looks for math patterns every where we go, can identify all her basic shapes, and has a tendency to read out loud the street address of every apartment building we walk by. Perhaps it’s not necessarily co-viewing this TV show that makes her enjoy math – perhaps it is just her math-loving mother. But in any case, co-viewing Team Umizoomi has given us a platform to work on this school topic together, in a non-threatening way. In addition, there is more good news – several new math TV show are on their way, starting in the fall on PBS. Look for one aimed at preschoolers, and another aimed at kids in early elementary school.

Go forth, ye parents, and co-view a math show TV show with your daughter!

Question: Did you co-view the Super Bowl with your kids?

6 Feb

It occurred to me sometime last night between Madonna’s halftime show and reading my Facebook news feed that there are a lot of parents out there who watched the big game with their kids. (Not in my home, by the way. My kids were in bed before any real action started, and we only checked in occasionally between breaks from watching a PBS documentary, because that’s how we roll.) I was chuckling at various pictures posted on Facebook with kids dressed up in football jerseys and eating chips and dip. It made me realize that the Super Bowl (and any other big sporting event) offers a great opportunity for family co-viewing. It’s a great way for parents to share their passion with kids.

It was all very innocent, until I considered the content of most of the ads during the Super Bowl. Remember those? Many of the ads during the Super Bowl are about beer, encouraging people to drink. Many of ads also involve sexual innuendo or portray women in a negative way. Yes, there are some family friendly advertisements that can be quite fun to share, but what about those that require some discussion?

Luckily, we have Common Sense Media in this world. They recently posted tips on how to discuss ads with your kids shown during the Super Bowl. They also presented this little research tidbit: “A study by the Center on Alcohol Advertising showed that 9- to 11-year-old kids had higher recall (73%) of the Budweiser frogs’ slogan than the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (39%). And kids knew what the frogs were selling: 81% identified beer as the product promoted by the frogs.” But I’m going to guess that many parents out there did not have the opportunity to check this out.

Did you watch the game with kids this year? If so, please comment on this – how did you do it? Were there any discussions? Did you watch the ads together or simply use them as an opportunity to get more food, use the bathroom, etc? Did your kids have any questions about them? How old were the kids watching with you?

Cooney Center’s Report on Joint Media Education

3 Feb

Cooney JMEGood news, Co-Viewing fans! Last December, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center released it’s latest report, “The New Coviewing: Designing for Learning through Joint Media Engagement.” (To this Covert Co-Viewer, it felt like a holiday gift made just for me!) Chock full ‘o research, this one is worth downloading for yourself (here) and digesting in your own time.

On January 23rd, I had the pleasure of attending a panel presentation about the report hosted by Women in Children’s Media. While many aspects of the report were covered (you can actually watch the whole presentation here), my favorite part covered the case study of Electric Company’s interactive game, called Electric Racer. Simply put, Electric Racer is a two-person on-line literacy game, intended for children ages 6-9 and a grown-up to play together. Developed by the brainiacs at Sesame Workshop, it’s free and it’s focus on literacy should appeal to any parent hoping to connect with their child in that age group.

A nifty marketing video shows it best:

Researchers pilot-tested the game with parents and kids, and that process helped them tweak the product quite a bit. In this research, they learned that they needed better role clarification for both parent and child. In this case, the child is the “driver” of the vehicle, collecting certain words, while the adult must unscramble certain words to help the driver. (Roles can be reversed, of course, but this is how the game-play was intended.) Researchers also instituted a point system that allowed for more teamwork, but also showed how each player was performing. Finally, in-game instructional supports were added to remind players of their goal.

If you know of a 6-to-9 year old you’d like to try this game with, you can download it for free here!

Smartphone Co-Playing Continues

10 Oct

playscienceA new report entitled “Mobile Playgrounds: Kids, Family, & Mobile Play,” released today by PlayScience, a global research and development firm, confirming that co-playing between parents and kids is on the rise. The results are from an online national survey of 531 parents with children between the ages of 2 and 13.

According to the report, a whopping three-quarters of parents in their sample say that their kids have access to a smartphone at home, with one-third of 10-13 year-olds owning their own. Of course, those 10-13 year olds are more likely to have an ipod touch; the report states that half of their sample of kids in that age range owns one.

The results from this report are a bit staggering to me, and while PlayScience claims that the sample is “nationally representative,” I am dubious here. Just by making this survey online and not on paper would eliminate a good portion of the population which might not be able to afford technology like smartphones and ipod touches if they don’t have access to the internet to respond to the survey.

That being said, even if the numbers might seem a bit higher than a national representation, I did find one trend super interesting: apparently, Dads are getting into the act of co-playing by shelling out more cash for it. The report states that Fathers are more likely to spend money on apps than Mothers, paying an average of $0.45 more for phone apps and $0.75 more on tablet apps. Of course, this does not mean the Dads are actually playing more than the Moms (we all know that Dads are just suckers for spoiling their kids), but it does imply that they are interested in having their kids play more.

The take-home message is that smartphones and other touchscreen devices are certainly emerging as a new way for families to interact together. “Playing together is an important form of communication for families,” explains J. Alison Bryant, the President of PlayScience. “They are looking for new ways to have play fit into their hectic daily lives, and touch- screen, mobile devices allow for everyone in the family to play anywhere, anytime. For the industry, this means rethinking what co-play means, and developing games that pervade daily life and allow parents and kids to play together even if they are not in the same place.”

A family that plays together… stays together!

27 Sep

Oh blog… how I’ve neglected you! Not that I ever forgot about you (who could forget what joyous times we spent together in cafes while I was looking for a full-time job, just a year ago!) – it’s just that… well, things get in the way. But I promise to be better. Or at least try harder. I want this relationship to work!

Loyal readers of the Co-Viewing Connection know that I have a very busy life, which includes an awesome full-time job working at the Institute of Play, as well as two adorable preschool twins and a husband who provide me with never-ending adventures in the evenings and on weekends. I have been tagging some great blog post items left and right for months, but never seem to get to them. (To see most of them, feel free to follow  me – “Covert Coviewer” – on Twitter.)

One interesting find, however, definitely deserves some special attention. Family Gamer TV is a new series devoted to parents co-playing with kids. I watched their pilot episode, and found myself entranced.  

What a fabulous idea! I love the idea of a (relatively) newbie parent connecting to an experienced gamer to learn about great new games and gadgets. I also like that these dads took into account the ages of the kids to play with. Andy Robertson is a likeable host and I’m going to stay tuned for more… as should you!

Technology and Media Policy for Zero to Eight

30 May

techie totsFor the past year, the folks from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media have been working on an update to the preexisting NAEYC 1996 position statement, Technology and Young Children—Ages 3 to 8.  Needless to say, but after 15 years an update was definitely necessary! They now have a draft, and are taking comments from the general public until May 31 – tomorrow! So if you haven’t done so already, take a (very quick) look here, and offer your comments!

There’s a lot of good stuff in this. The document places a strong emphasis on co-viewing and co-playing of media and technology. It has updated the 1996 document to include recommendations from birth until age 8 (previously 3-8). Unlike the American Association of Pediatrics, these organizations do not discourage use for children younger than age 2. Instead, they acknowledge that technology is here to stay, and offer clear recommendations on how to navigate it for the youngest users. There is a strong emphasis on media literacy and using media in a non-passive way.  It advises early childhood educators to be careful about both the selection and implementation of technology in the classroom.

What’s missing in this document? My only issue with it has to do with the “what now?” situation that this policy statement will face once it has final approval. The draft does recommend that both pre-service and in-service Early Childhood Educators need positive examples of how to adapt and integrate technology into classrooms (p.3), but where are the classes and professional development workshops for this? They are few and far between. Policy statements are nice, but action is better. The next step is creating a series of workshops that teachers of young children can actually use. What are your thoughts?

“Co-Viewing” (and “Co-playing”) vs. “Joint Media Engagement”

9 May

looking up termsA few months ago, I learned about a new website about Joint Media Engagement (JME). This website – which goes by www.newcoviewing.org – is really considering the same stuff that I am: using media, technology, and digital experiences to inspire social behaviors and learning. (In fact, I was surprised to see on their “video examples” page they even have a link to the storyvisit video I made for one of my past blog posts!) The website comes directly out of a series of meetings conducted by The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and the LIFE Center (with support from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation); these are names much bigger than little ol’ me! So perhaps a new movement is afoot. But the whole thing got me thinking about terminology. Is “Joint Media Engagement” really a better term than “Co-Viewing”?

I began this blog primarily interested in television co-viewing, as this is a large part of my personal research background. But as my career has moved into the digital world, I am continuing to post more and more about digital technologies and games that can create a sense of shared learning for parents and teachers with kids. I always have preferred the term “co-playing” to explain the gaming-side of using media with others. “Co-playing” shares similarities to “co-viewing” in that they both sound like something a parent or a teacher could accomplish. They sound friendly and fun. While the term “Joint Media Engagement” has the benefit of encapsulating the concept I’m aiming for here, I am wondering if the phrase sounds too much like an affliction than something which should be lighthearted and fun. What do you think? Is there a better term out there that we haven’t tapped into yet?

On that note, there was new research reported today coming out of UT Dallas about people who play EverQuest II, a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. Apparently, gamers who play this game alongside family members saw an increased amount of family communication. Gamers who do not play with family members had the opposite effect; they spent less time communicating with their families. This is a small finding (and the quality of communication might be a sticking point), but for millions of parents out there looking for a way to connect with their adolescents, this might be their big ‘in’.

The big message to parents and teachers, no matter what term we use: Play together! Play with your kids! Play with your students! Get out there and explore the world of media and technology with someone you know and want to share things with.

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