Thursday, January 26, 2012

The New Coviewing at the Cooney Center

Monday night Women in Children's Media and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center cosponsored an event at Sesame Workshop showcasing the center's newest study, "The New Coviewing: Designing for Learning through Joint Media Engagement." You can download a pdf of the study here--it's the center's first study published exclusively online; this not only saves trees but also allows for some cool interactive features impossible in paper. (Mac users should use Acrobat rather than Preview.)

Now last night I spent just over an hour writing what I thought was a really thorough review of the event and the report; that got deleted when I tried to post it, and I'm not able right now to rewrite the entire post. (Frustrated with google!) But the most important thing I can say is to read the actual report itself. The design guide will be an excellent resource for content creators of all stripes: it contains great, research-backed advice about how to design media that will maximize the opportunities parents have to interact with their children while using/viewing your product. Like I wrote at the very outset of this blog several years ago, smart parents will look for those opportunities anyhow, so it's savvy of producers to maximize that potential in our products.

One great example of this that I wanted to mention is the new Electric Company video game "Electric Racer." You can download this for free at the show's website. It's basically a phonics game couched stealthily in a racing game. That in and of itself is worthwhile for kids in its target 6-9 demo, but it goes further by involving parents as well. Kids man the arrow keys to steer the car while parents use the mouse to unscramble words and give their kids additional speed. It's a great example of media designed to foster collaboration and learning through "joint media engagement," or JME.

So to be brief, what are some pointers for maximizing JME? Check out the report for full discussions, but here are some bullet points:

* Make it kid-driven

* Provide multiple planes of engagement

* Ensure differentiation of roles; parents shouldn't be backseat driving the kids' task

* "Scaffold to scaffold," meaning you should make it easy to engage with immediately; parents shouldn't need a lot of prep

* Previous/Next -- build on prior experience and prepare for future experiences, within your own brand or elsewhere

* Co-creation -- like old Lego, give the kids the tools and let them build their world the way they want; allow parents the tools to collaborate but not dominate

* Fit -- make sure it fits well into daily routines, otherwise it won't get used

* Collaborate, don't compete; it's never good to pit parents against kids, at least not in educational media

Wish I had time to repeat some of the other great points. Perhaps the best lesson is for people to get in tune with what WICM is doing, either on their website or through their twitter feed (@wicmnyc), for future events and writing groups. They're a great resource and another joy of working in children's media in NYC.

NOTE: To the IT team, "Electric Racer" isn't downloading (with Safari). Any thoughts?

No comments: