Browsing articles in "Community Blog"

Getting Kids into the Kitchen: A Recipe for Enthusiasm

Dec 5, 2013   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Getting Kids into the Kitchen: A Recipe for Enthusiasm

When I used to work teaching little kids how to cook, we had to put a limit on how many times each child was allowed to stir the bowl of ingredients. This sounds like a strange restriction, but it was often necessary to avoid tough cookie dough, and to allow everyone to get a turn helping out. Even so, there was always at least one person who cheated – that is, someone who stirred eight (or twenty) times instead of the requisite six.

The truth is, getting kids excited about cooking is easy. They love to stir, chop, measure, smell ingredients and toss salad. I recently looked at three cookbooks for kids that work on this premise.

Do Try This At Home: Cook It!

Do Try This At Home: Cook It!

Jon Milton, author of Do Try This At Home: Cook It!, is one of three “Punk Scientists” who work at the Science Museum in London. In this vein, the book is a collection of cooking experiments that happen to yield delicious results. Recipes range from Leek and Potato Soup to Baked Alaska, each with a “Science Bit” sidebar with an explanation about the science of cooking. From a parent’s point of view, the recipes are accessible and educational, with symbols to indicate time, difficulty level, and whether adult supervision is a good idea. From a kid’s point of view, the book succeeds for the same reason How Stuff Work and Popular Mechanics for Kids succeed: because science is cool.

Cook it Together

Cook it Together

Annabel Karmel’s Cook it Together focuses on spending time together in the kitchen, and on an awareness of where key ingredients come from. The book has a lot of kid appeal with colour photos illustrating every step of the recipes and special pages about ten featured ingredients including tomatoes, rice, apples and chocolate, among others. These features explain a little bit about how each ingredient is grown, harvested or manufactured. As the title suggests, these recipes are for parents to make with their children, meaning that cooking instructions are sometimes sparse, assuming a basic adult knowledge of how to do things like cook rice and use the broiler.

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Mobile Apps and the Future of Special Education

Nov 26, 2013   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Mobile Apps and the Future of Special Education

While many are still cautious about the presence of apps in the classroom, they’ve certainly presented us with a way of reconciling the gaps between various learning disabilities and disorders in special education. Inexpensive, interactive, and easily transportable and storable, mobile apps perfectly capture the idea of adaptation on an individual, child-to-child basis.

This is a medium that was founded for engaging users in new and unique ways through intimate, personalized experiences that cater towards specific needs. And that right there is the essence of special education; adapting the learning element itself to children with special needs instead of the other way around.

Here are some of the ways in which apps are helping special education to evolve.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication app, TalkToTalk.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication app, TalkToTalk.

AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication)

AAC apps are those that give children who are non-verbal or have speech impairments another way of communicating. For example,

is a popular AAC app with a simple interface in which children tap on images corresponding to basic needs such as “bathroom”, “hungry”, “drink”, or “play”.

The great thing about AAC apps is the fact that they commonly use features like customizable commands and user-driven picture libraries to ensure children can communicate through symbols and images that actually have meaning to them.

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Context is important when shining the spotlight on kids

Nov 17, 2013   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Context is important when shining the spotlight on kids

Finding content is the challenge that all media outlets grapple with on a daily basis.

Whether it be a major television network or a small, local newspaper, the need for content is equally crucial to survive and stay relevant.

For TSN and Rogers Sportsnet, the task is made somewhat easier by their ability to cast a wide net over the realm of professional sports. Publications such as the Toronto Sun and the Toronto Star are also afforded a similar luxury.

Screen Shot 2013-11-17 at 7.59.58 PM

Toronto Swim Club coach Dave Ling conducting practice at Riverdale Collegiate (Friday, November 1, 2013).

 

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Sounding it Out: The Importance of Young Critical Reading.

Nov 7, 2013   //   by   //   Community Blog, Worth Reading  //  Comments Off on Sounding it Out: The Importance of Young Critical Reading.
Director Hannah Jayanti's recent documentary The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations explores the impact of Norton Juster's cornerstone children's novel. For more information, click the photo!

Director Hannah Jayanti’s recent documentary The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations explores the impact of Norton Juster’s cornerstone children’s novel. For more information, click the photo!

I was nine, it was winter, Norton Juster was speaking to me, and I found myself conducting the sky. My first post – no, plea – is an attempt to remind parents, teachers, siblings, whomever, to stop taking their children’s level of understanding for granted, and put a book like Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth in their hands.

A novel often deemed “too complex” for the mouldable minds that make up its major readers (children ages 8-10), Juster’s story of Milo and his tollbooth-to-conscientiousness continually accomplishes one of the greatest feats a children’s book can: instead of erring on the side of simplistic, it challenges its readers to learn beyond the pages.

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Simpson’s neighbourhood comes to life! At Universal Studios, Florida

Oct 17, 2013   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Simpson’s neighbourhood comes to life! At Universal Studios, Florida

The Simpsons, which has delighted, entertained and made over two decades of youth and their families laugh, has come to life.

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 9.59.31 PM

Photo courtesy of blondeheroine, Flickr

Since it first aired in 1989, the Simpsons have become a modern staple of cartoon comedy as one of the most recognizable TV sitcom families of all time. With over 500 episodes aired on FOX and a full-length blockbuster film under their belts, they can now add theme park to their list of accomplishments.

Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., has constructed interactive replicas of some of the more famous Springfield landmarks seen in the show including Moe’s Tavern, Kwik E Mart, and Krusty Burger. Visitors can also saddle up to a new kiosk and have their picture taken on a faux Simpsons’ family sofa.

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A delicious meal, a popular toy, and a BIG problem

Sep 23, 2013   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on A delicious meal, a popular toy, and a BIG problem
McDonald's Happy Meal

McDonald’s Happy Meal. (Photo courtesy Cosmic Kitty – www.flickr.com/photos/cosmickitty/ – CC BY 2.0)

I love cereal and I loved it even more as a kid. Left to my own devices, I would eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Strangely enough, my interest in cereal had little to do with the stuff in the bowl and everything to do with the toy or “freebie” I would receive when opening the box. This pretty much echoed the relationship I had with McDonald’s; I loved Happy Meals because of the toy collectibles, and then my interest in the food would follow. My happiest days and greatest appreciation for McDonald’s was when they partnered with a movie and offered not one, but a “collection” of toys! Those were good times!!

Fast-forward 10 years; I am no longer collecting McDonald’s toys from Happy Meal’s, and I rarely go there for the food. I’m one of the lucky ones!

Let’s look at the not so lucky ones: children. Children cannot identify the intent to advertise, they are not aware that the toy giveaway is a clever marketing tactic. Parents placing a premium on convenience cater to their child’s wants and needs, especially if it is an on-the-go solution. Most fast food restaurants are family friendly; this means they have something on the menu for everyone. Burgers, fries, pop and toys, all in one sitting. Happy meal, happy family, right? Not a problem if it’s a once in a while solution. But for parents short on cash, and energy, regular reliance on fast food can have a long-term effect on the eating behaviours and health of a growing child. However, a not-so-healthy meal accompanied with a branded cartoon toy is a win-win for a brand and a corporation.

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An Ethical Framework and Best Practices Report for Children’s Digital Developers… Let the Debate Begin!

Sep 8, 2013   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on An Ethical Framework and Best Practices Report for Children’s Digital Developers… Let the Debate Begin!

In the spring of 2012, one of our instructors in the Centennial Children’s Entertainment course approached the kidsmediacentre with a proposal. As an online, interactive developer, she recognized the need for an Ethical Framework for children’s developers. She’d heard countless pitches for kid’s content, but the marketing and monetization plans left her feeling decidedly uncomfortable. Many of these developers oozed digital and creative genius but what they sometimes lacked was an understanding of the legal, ethical and developmental needs of children and their parents.

Positive Interactive Experience Index

Positive Interactive Experience Index

While some developers entering the kids’ space are new to the concept of “acceptable industry practices”, many others are not. Ontario can hold its head high on the world stage when it comes to developing engaging children’s content. We have an award winning cross-platform children’s industry and there are many developers who live and breathe best practices. So we sought them out. We wanted to know what child development considerations govern their interactive brand development? How well did they know the regulatory landscape? What are the opportunities and challenges they face in marketing and monetizing their children’s products?

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Confessions Of A (Virtual) Serial Killer: How violent video games triggered my appreciation of Death

Aug 26, 2013   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Confessions Of A (Virtual) Serial Killer: How violent video games triggered my appreciation of Death

I’ve killed a lot of people. And dragons. And robots. Especially robots. I’ve killed gorillas who’d kidnapped my princess, soldiers who happened to be on the wrong side of a war and innocent people roaming the streets of L.A. simply because it was a darkly comical transgression.

Illustration by Evan Doherty

Illustration by Evan Doherty

I’m a digital native and some of my earliest memories are playing violent video games. I can’t tell you how many digital lives I’ve taken. I can tell you that it’s been a lot of fun.

I‘m not an expert on childhood. I’m far closer to being a child than being a child expert. And I have no idea what the enjoyment of playing out violent fantasy says about me, or about society. I’m far closer to being young than being Jung.

What I can tell you about is the key moment from my childhood that first helped me deeply respect the vast difference between deadly fantasy play and death itself.

This is nothing more than musings from a digital kid who recently grew up. When I was young, around ten, my older brother and I were in the habit of playing video games pretty much constantly. If we had nothing else to do (which was more or less all of the time) we’d be playing video games. One of our favourites was Time Crisis, a game where you shoot-to-kill any minions who get in your path on the way to saving the day. It was a blast.

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Disney’s Makeover of Merida from Brave: What were they thinking???

Jul 15, 2013   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Disney’s Makeover of Merida from Brave: What were they thinking???

Merida, the spunky heroine and iconic lead character of 2012’s Disney/Pixar Film Brave has caused controversy after Disney revealed her new more “glam” and some say more princess-like image. After this new slimmer, older and more sexualized Merida was released to the public, 200,000 people signed an online petition urging Disney to re-think their decision.

Dinsey's Merida - Before and After

Brave’s Merida – Before and After

The new Merida looks nothing like the image portrayed throughout the film; in fact, it essentially undermines the entire message of the film. Merida is not your average Disney princess.  She is not interested in waiting around to be rescued, she has no interest in fancy clothes or parties. Mostly, she is interested in riding and adventure. In short, this is a Disney princess that is more realistic and that more girls would be able to relate to. That’s the Merida that a nation of girls championed!

By giving her a new, more glam, more “come-hither” look, Disney is basically telling girls this is what a real princess should look like. Apparently her original look was not good enough to be shown along side the other Disney princesses. Read between the lines of the Merida Makeover, and what Disney is REALLY saying is that in order for a girl to be truly accepted in society she must change her physical appearance. As mentioned earlier, 200,000 unhappy Disney fans, moms and other concerned citizens find Disney’s judgement, lacking.

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Understanding violence in The Hunger Games

Jun 4, 2013   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  1 Comment
Katniss Everdeen

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.

Chances are you know someone who has read The Hunger Games. Maybe you even read it yourself. And it’s also likely you’ve thought about whether the dystopian trilogy is appropriate for younger readers.

Set in North America, The Hunger Games portrays a grim future, where provinces, territories and states have been replaced with districts.

Twelve Districts are ruled over by a dictator who enforces the annual Hunger Games, where child is pitted against child. Each district has two representatives, one boy and one girl, and they each must battle each other to be the last one standing. And therein lies the controversy of Suzanne Collin’s novels: children killing children.

On its website, Chapters lists The Hunger Games as appropriate for ages 13 to 17. I know from firsthand experience that The Hunger Games has drawn in readers of all ages, but is it appropriate for younger readers?

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