Programs for the box

I want to start out by making it clear that I don't think computers have a place in any preschool classroom. Children need to be touching, exploring, moving, getting up to their elbows in their work (and sometimes further). However, sometimes you learn to give in to others and you have to choose your battles. That being said, I am reviewing this new game I just got for our computer that will be going into the classroom. I held off the battle for over 4 years; now I have to concede defeat. I will get in deeper tomorrow about my whole philosophy on computers, how you can make them work in the classroom, and all my arguments to trump any argument others bring up.
In the mean time, let's discuss this computer program: Learn, Play, & Grow. This is produced by Sesame Street. Although I very typically stray far away from commercial products, this was really the only game I found that I could remotely accept as a quality program for the children. I would have to say that, over all, they did a great job with this program. If I were to be pro-computers, this is the first game I would choose. That's good since I am anti-computers in the classroom and it's the first game I chose.
There are several different sections. First is shapes and colors. Each section has several different steps that get progressively more complex in development in a pretty evenly spaced way. First, it's as simple as seeing a blob of color on the screen and Big Bird telling you to put the star over it to hear the color. When you click it, it announces the color, the color does a funny disappearing act, and an object of the color dances across the screen. The next game involves several color blobs on the screen and Elmo asking you which one is the green one (or which ever). You can play each of these levels as long as you choose, or speed through to the next level. After the colors, it's shapes. These levels follow the sequence of the first two. Level five (if you want to call them levels) you get to pick any color and any shape and then it gets announced (you made a yellow circle). Lastly, you are asked to make a specific item: can you make a red square? At anytime you can quickly click back a level or up a level. It is very easy to maneuver through the levels; which is one plus.
The letters are next. This is great because it progressively takes you through levels pretty much the same as the color and shapes. This is the progression: name a letter (basically takes you through the alphabet), find the letter, make the sound (again through the alphabet), find the letter that makes this sound, this word starts with this sound (kangaroo starts with kah), last which of these pictures starts with this sound (it shows three pictures and the letter for the sound is also shown).
Next up, numbers. This one I felt did a sort of backwards progression. I take the children through counting and then numeral recognition. Here is the progression of the game: name the numeral (the written number 1, 2, 3,..), find the numeral (three different numerals 4,2,6), count the objects with the objects and numeral showing, count the objects and the numeral changes as you count. I found this to be backwards logic and didn't like it; but at this point this was the first thing I didn't like. Now, it's redeeming factor is only sentimental: the last activity in numbers involves the infamous pinball game and you pick a number. And did you know that there is a different scene for each number? It only took me close to 30 years to discover that!

Next was community people. You know the song, sing it with me: These are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in you neighborhood, oh these are the people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet each day! There are six different pictures on the page and when you click on one you are shown a short video clip of someone at work while singing a song that goes with the same tune about the job: farmer, doctor, barber, astronaut, baker, (one more I can't remember). The videos are nice, but I work hard at keeping children out of television in the center (no movies allowed) so this goes against everything I stand for...then again, so do computers.
Second to last: Sounds. This one is pretty boring and takes you through the sounds different objects make. It's redeeming factor is that it actually uses the term "percussion" to describe the instruments, but then there are no other kinds of instruments represented. They have bugs, cars, and instruments.
Last is the art. This is where it drops way down in my opinion. There is no control over what you draw. You pick the line/blob/squiggle and click on the paper and that exact line/blob/squiggle appears on the paper. You can't make your own line/blob/squiggle. I'm sure some children will get something out of it; but really I would rather use the paper and crayons.
So, the children will learn from the alphabet, numbers, and shapes. I don't doubt that. The second half of the program goes down. But, like I said, the quality is better than some of the other ones I have looked through. I will probably be reviewing those as well...reluctantly. I don't want to give the impression that I agree with computers in the classroom. I would say, if anything, the children should be able to type in a word document, but that's about as far as I would go.
Okay, I better stop before this post gets too long, but know that I will be talking more about this in the very short future (hopefully tomorrow).

No comments: