Preparing the Next Generation of Digital Natives

Link to: Mommy, Help Me Download ‘Farmer in the Dell’ to My MP3 Player – New York Times

Digital cameras and MP3 players designed for kids 3 years old and up. Increasingly, I’m being drawn into discussions by K-12 educators about the appropriateness of various technologies for very young students. I’m not sure about the MP3 players, but the digital camera seems like a great way to get kids to create based on things that they see in the (real) world rather than merely creating on their screens. I’ve talked with a colleague who has a 6 year old (I think) who is manipulating images using Photoshop. Now it will be easy for preschoolers to capture images and to use those in creative ways.

On the surface this seems like a good thing, though you have to wonder how the schools and colleges will adapt to kids who continue starting earlier and earlier to use technology to create rather than consume media.

Fisher-Price, synonymous with Elmo and Power Wheels, will introduce a digital music player and digital camera for children ages 3 and older that will be sold during the 2006 holiday season.

Executives at Fisher-Price, a division of Mattel, said the company’s MP3 player and digital camera, both priced at $70, are specifically designed for young children, with a rugged design that can survive repeated four-foot drops and big easy-to-use buttons that simplify the technology.

The Kid-Tough Digital Camera, for example, has two view finders — much like a pair of binoculars — rather the single window found on the adult version; two large handles to steady it before shooting a picture; and a two-step process for deleting unwanted pictures verses the four- or five-step version on a typical camera.

Because not all preschoolers can read a song title before hitting the play button, the Digital Song and Story Player relies on easily recognizable icons to symbolize each song, like a star for “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or a barn for “Old McDonald.”

Both products take a minimalist approach. The digital camera has only five buttons. “We analyzed what kids did with these products and what appealed to them and threw out what they didn’t need,” said David Ciganko, vice president for product design at Fisher-Price.

Lisa Mancuso, vice president for marketing at Fisher-Price, said that with the camera “there is a sense of accomplishment, of ‘Mommy, look what I did.’ ”

With both technologies, however, it is mommy and daddy who will have to do some of the accomplishing. A parent’s help is required to download new songs on the digital music player and upload photos to a computer before printing. Fisher-Price said it has developed easy-to-use software that makes the setup fairly simple.

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