Playing together at the Computer

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We are currently providing links and materials to support young children and parents; or preschool educators; or other family members; playing together on and off screen. We want to identify the best possible computer based games and activities to support children’s language development and their learning through play away from the screen. If you have tried one of the activities that we provide with a child we would like to hear from you. Tell us how the activity went, how the child responded, what you thought was good about it, and how you think the activity might be improved. We will try to find (and encourage the development of) more activities in response to your feedback. Please submit a comment below:

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One Response to “Playing together at the Computer”

  1. James Huggins Says:

    Thanks for the resources! I’ve just been playing the Duck game with my daughter Emily who’s 3 years and 4 months old. Here’s a little report on how it went with some general comments. I hope it’s useful…

    THE GAME

    1. I asked Emily if she wanted to play the Duck game to which she responded YES with enthusiasm. I think this is as much to do with the animal connection than anything else.

    2. When the game loads you see the Duck configuration panel with the duck in the centre of the screen in flight. I had to explain to Emily that we could change various characteristics of the duck in order to see how well he could fly. I ran through some of the sliders so she could see that they were affecting the duck. She immediately wanted to try it. The slider system is way too tricky for her to master from a control point of view so I would click on the slider with the mouse button and let her use the touch-pad on the laptop to move her finger backwards and forwards so she could see the duck changing. She was definitely excited at the ability to change the duck’s appearance in this way.

    3. When we tried to FLY the duck a witty message alerted us to the fact that it’s legs were different lengths. I tried to explain this to Emily but she found it hard to see. I think that the crude rendering of the Duck and the angle it’s at makes some changes difficult to interpret (particularly wing size).

    4. We put all the settings to maximum in order to make a big fat duck and hit FLY. It ran the animation of the duck running off a cliff and it plummeted to the ground. I explained that we’d made the duck too heavy and that we’d need to make him lighter if he was going to be able to fly. We did this and sure enough the duck soared into space… we’d overdone the rapid weight-loss program.

    5. A bit of tinkering mostly on my part, got the settings in the middle and the duck flew straight. A little WELL DONE message appeared. I asked her if she wanted to play again but she had begun to lose interest. She said that she’d like to play a different game and that this game was for grown-ups.

    My assessment of the experience is really a series of pros and cons.

    PROS

    1. We were at the computer doing something together. In my opinion this is important in of itself. I’m at it a lot and she always wants to be involved in some way.

    2. The game requires explanation so there is a conversation if not, in our experience, mostly one sided on the part of the adult.

    3. The simulation provided much needed entertainment as it would have quickly becoming boring.

    CONS

    1. The application runs in a small window with no full screen option. this means there is always distraction around the outside (desktop etc.)

    2. The graphics are very crude which is not a disaster necessarily but it made certain changes to the duck difficult to see.

    3. The simulation only had three outcomes, one of which was the successful flight outcome. So you had to watch the same crash or soar into space animations quite a lot while you got the settings right.

    4. The child couldn’t easily take control of anything. In my experience with Emily, without fail if you show her something she wants to try it herself. An easy control method of allowing the child to adjust the settings in some way would have kept her engaged better and created a more meaningful collaborative dialogue between us.

    5. The sliders are unnecessarily accurate seeing as there are only three outcomes. It would have been better to toggle the settings between 1-4 where 1 is ‘small’ or ‘slow’ etc.

    Having said all this I know Emily is at the young end of the 3-7 spectrum but if you were dealing with an older child I think the graphical and animation quality as well as the lack of real simulation sophistication would limit their interest. The ‘Red Bull Flight Lab’ game you have on your site is probably a much more compelling take on a similar concept for older children.

    Thanks again, and as I say I hope this was useful.

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