kidsmediacentre http://kidsmediacentre.ca exploring kids' media futures Thu, 25 Jan 2018 19:40:34 +0000 en-CA hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 95667073 ‘Busy Shapes’ for Busy Minds: Learning Through Explorative Digital Play! http://kidsmediacentre.ca/2017/08/18/busy-shapes-busy-minds-learning-explorative-digital-play/ Fri, 18 Aug 2017 04:01:37 +0000 http://kidsmediacentre.ca/?p=4322 Busy Shapes by Edoki Academy is, hands down, one of the coolest kid's games I've played to date. It's fun, adorable, unique, and it's SO EDUCATIONAL.

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Busy Shapes app icon

Busy Shapes by Edoki Academy is hands down, one of the coolest kid’s games I have played to date!  I LOVE everything to do with Children’s Media and will often find myself just browsing kid’s games, books, apps, and tv shows.  The other day, I came across this little game that didn’t look too exciting or familiar but I decided to check it out.

Hands Down, One of “The Greats”

What did I find?!  One of THE best apps for kids that I’ve ever stumbled across; even enjoyed playing this game.  Not only was it incredibly fun, adorable and unique, but it is SO EDUCATIONAL.  Busy Shapes has a Montessori approach to learning and is being called “The First Digital Playground” by one educational app review site.

Since playing this game, exploring the features, and doing my research, I have become passionate about all that this mobile application has to offer and I am excited to share what I’ve learned!  I will explain how this game fits into the section of the Ontario Kindergarten Curriculum that highlights innovation and problem solving.  Through examples, I will demonstrate how Busy Shapes inspires innovation, how it explores problem solving and why every parent or adult who is working with children, will love it!

Learning through DIGITAL play: If Jean Piaget had an iPad

So many people think that for children, screen time is “bad”, that games are “addictive”, that digital media is “unsafe”.  While it’s been proven that learning through play is the best way for young children to learn, why wouldn’t that include the digital playground?  I wholeheartedly believe in the benefits of children’s media, when it is used as intended.  There is so much for children to learn through the increasing use of technology.

Don’t believe me?  The recently edition of the  Ontario curriculum for Kindergarten (updated  January 2016) emphasizes the importance of new-aged thinking and learning.  It discuss how the most recently designed Kindergarten program outlines a pedagogy that requires a more complex approach to theories, practices, mindsets and habits (page 10).

From Section 2.4 of the Ontario Kindergarten curriculum (pg 87-88):

Thinking About Problem Solving and Innovating

“Researchers acknowledge that the need to engage in problem solving and critical and creative thinking has “always been at the core of learning and innovation” (Trilling & Fadel, 2009, p. 50). Children in Kindergarten are growing up in a competitiveglobally connected, and technologically intensive world. Educators need to provide opportunities, explicitly and intentionally, for children to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they will need for solving a wide variety of problems. It is therefore essential for children to develop the skills required for problem solving, creative and critical thinking, and innovating; con dence, curiosity, and the willingness to take risks and to see mistakes as opportunities for learning; and the ability to collaborate and to build and maintain relationships. Through the exploration and inquiry that are part of play, young children develop these skills…

“Children entering Kindergarten bring with them the capacity to wonder and imagine and the ability to discover and experiment as means of nding answers. When children are able to explore the world around them with their natural curiosity and exuberance, they are fully engaged and see themselves as contributing members of their world. This creative approach is a central aspect of both problem solving and innovating.”

In this section of the curriculum (Section 2.4), innovation centres around children in Kindergarten asking questions about why things happen and how they happen; what would happen if things happened a different way?   It is about exploring creativity.  It is about thought, test, and design.  It is about identification and connection and perspective.  It teaches these young minds to be open and flexible but also to think critically (Ontario kindergarten curriculum, pages 88-89).

Problem solving in the curriculum (Section 2.4) encourages children to collaborate and engage with others in an attempt to find many ways to solve the same problem.  It stimulates the concept of identifying problems as they occur and it communicates encouragement around a diversity of theories.  It teaches children to persevere and push forward when the first solution isn’t the best solution.  Children are inspired to create their own solutions through exploration and this type of approach builds confidence around problem-solving abilities (Ontario kindergarten curriculum, pages 88-89).

Take a look at the following chart from the Kindergarten curriculum and keep these objectives in mind as you read more about this application and how it functions.  Does Busy Shapes meet the curriculum expectations?

screengrab of part of Ontario kindergarten curriculum

Ontario Curriculum Reflection on Section 2.4 (Ontario kindergarten curriculum, page 93).

What exactly IS Busy Shapes?

Busy Shapes is a matching-type game where the player is able to drag and drop shapes into the matching hole.  I know what you’re thinking… booooring.  We’ve all played a million different games where we’ve matched shapes and colours etc.  It’s nothing new.

BUT IT IS NEW!!!

Yes, sure, it’s a matching game… but it’s a matching game with a twist; so many twists!  Twists that are simple for a child to discover, yet complex in nature and innovative in design. As the levels progress, so do the opportunities for problem solving.  There are several ways to solve different levels and different methods have different outcomes.  This is exactly what the Kindergarten curriculum is all about!

How Busy Shapes Makes For Busy Minds

Through incredible graphics, bright colours, unique shapes, and creative sound effects, Busy Shapes encompasses all of the processes around innovation AND the concepts intended for problem solving. The following images show simple problems  that have children asking questions, which is what section 2.4 of the curriculum aims to achieve.

  1. Here is a red button and a red hole, along with a green flower and a purple hole.  What happens if I drop the red button in the red hole?  Can the green flower fit in the circle holes?  Is the flower the same shape as the button?  What is the difference between a flower and a button?  What matters here?  Shape?  Colour?  Context?
    Busy Shapes app on an iPhone
  2. As I move the red button towards the red hole, a purple button pops up.  Why does it pop up?  Should I keep moving the red button?  What will happen if I stop and move the purple button?  Can I move the flower?  What has changed?  Has the goal changed?  Have the potential outcomes changed?
    Busy Shapes app on an iPhone
  3. Now I’ve dropped the red button in the red hole.  Should I try putting the purple button in the purple hole? What about the flower?  Why is the red hole still there?  Is there a special place for the flower to go?  What will happen next?
    Busy Shapes app on an iPhone
  4. Oh wow!  I dropped the purple button in the purple hole and now I’m in a different room.  There is a sticky mess on the floor that slows my button down.  What is that mess?  Will it stop me from sliding the button?  Now where do I put the purple button?  Maybe I should try matching the square sponge with it’s hole.
    Busy Shapes app on an iPhone

This is just a very brief introduction to the series of levels that the player encounters.  As they move forward in the game, different challenges present themselves, encouraging both innovation and problem solving techniques.  The game play is automatically being saved at every turn, so the player can quit and come back without ever losing progress (unless an adult resets it).

Not only does each level inspire innovation and creativity, but this game is beautifully designed and creates a 3 dimensional experience for the player.  The different “rooms” have different textural backgrounds including rough wood, squeaky tiles, gritty sand, smooth grass, scratchy metal and more; each with their own sound as the shapes are moved around on them.  The sound effects of both the changing objects and the changing backgrounds (ie. a wet sponge on a squeaky tile) adds a whole new sensory experience for the player.

Why Will Adults Love It?

Developers are always trying to ensure that the Adult section of a kid’s app is for adults only.  They achieve this by making the icon for the adult section look bland, which will not inspire the child to click on it. Busy Shapes takes it one step further: To access the adult section you have to double tap the icon and then answer a skill testing question!  A child would have to be able to read the instructions that say to double tap and then they would have to answer a mathematical question.  Now, while I appreciate the purpose of these extra steps, I have to admit… it sometimes takes me a few tries to get the math question right and prove I’m an adult, which gives me a good chuckle!

In Busy Shapes, the adult section is highly informative and functional.  It offers the adult the opportunity to create up to 40 student profiles, allowing educators to use this app as a classroom tool.  The benefit of bringing this app into the classroom is that the educator can track the player’s progress live, as it’s happening.

There is a fantastic ‘About’ section (image 2.0) that highlights the target audience and the benefits of the application.  It discusses the developers decision making being based on the workings of Jean Piaget, referencing Piaget’s books that were specifically used in the making of this application.  The Walkthrough section is simply a visual answer key to each level.  This is unique, as most children’s apps don’t have in-app walkthroughs. The walkthroughs give the adult a visual idea of what the game looks like and what it is about, without them having to play each level.

Busy Shapes app on an iPhone

image 2.0

In the ‘Account’ section (image 2.1), it summarizes the benefits and features of signing up for an account, where you will have the option to create many player profiles and monitor the progress live… best of all??  IT’S FREE!!  No need to worry about in-app advertisements or in-app purchases.  What you see is what you get.

Busy Shapes app on an iPhone

image 2.1

Under ‘Progress’ (image 2.2), you can see the child’s individual progress, including the level they’re currently on and the levels they’ve already achieved.  Levels are uniquely identifiable by descriptions, rather than numbers.  This is just so wonderful because it enforces the concept that progress isn’t quantitative but qualitative.  I love it!!!

Busy Shapes app on an iPhone

image 2.2

In Conclusion…

As I’m sure you can tell, I absolutely love this game.  To be honest, there isn’t much I would change about it!  The only thing I’m not a big fan of?  The icon, believe it or not.  This game creates a wonderful world of textures, sounds, colours, shapes, and objects… all found in everyday life but brought together to create a magical learning experience for kids 2-5 years old.  Yet the icon?  Boooooooring.  I think the little buttons and metal blocks and square sponges are all so adorable and appealing, so I’m not quite sure why Edoki went with such a ‘blah’ first impression.  That being said, I think that the choice could be attributed to maintaining the academic integrity of the game, making it appealing to educators; remember… learning isn’t supposed to be fun or cool… right??  WRONG!

Hopefully, as more parents and educators come to realize the benefits and the importance that games like these have on a child’s development, the more open minded they will become.  By offering a fair balance of education that pleases the educator and super cool fun stuff that excites the child, Busy Shapes is one-of-a-kind mobile application.

I’m excited to hear about YOUR experiences with this app and whether or not the kids in your life enjoy it.  Please leave questions or comments below to get the conversation started!

Get it for your iOS device here!

I’ll leave you with this fabulous quote from the Edoki Academy that really sums up their values and deliverables as both educators and developers:

“A child’s environment is what peaks their passion and curiosity for the world around them.  Educators Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert carried out Maria Montessori’s vision by creating settings that encourage children to manipulate objects.  On the same note, Edoki Academy offers stimulating and enchanting worlds that serve as a platform for discovery to take place in.”

— Edoki Academy

Happy Learning!

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What’s with All the Live-Action Remakes? http://kidsmediacentre.ca/2017/08/04/whats-live-action-remakes/ Fri, 04 Aug 2017 04:01:20 +0000 http://kidsmediacentre.ca/?p=4353 Turning classic animated stories  — like Beauty and the Beast and Riverdale — into live-action films and TV shows is a trend that’s here to stay.

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Turning classic animated kid stories into live-action films and TV shows is a trend that’s here to stay. From Beauty and the Beast to Riverdale, live-action retellings are a hit.

Partly, that’s a result of the technology available to filmmakers today. Live-action movies can rely on special effects and still look like real life. Just think of 2016’s The Jungle Book – watching the film it’s easy to believe that Mowgli, played by kid actor Neel Sethi, swims and converses with a bear named Baloo. The seamless combination of live-action and CGI in The Jungle Book would not have been possible 10 years ago. But the technology is just part of what drives the making of live-action adaptations.

In the clip above, Mowgli and Baloo sing together in a scene that looks convincingly real.

Riverdale, the TV show based on Archie Comics, doesn’t rely on CGI. Instead, it takes popular comics and completely changes the tone of those stories. Riverdale presents characters audiences can already name in a different light; it provides an alternative version of a town audiences already know. The show replaces the comedy found in the comics with drama, and in doing so gives new life to the source material. Riverdale expands the world of Archie beyond the familiar.

Instagram Photo

The look and feel of Riverdale are dramatically different from the original comics.

This year’s Beauty and the Beast is very familiar to fans of the 1991 animated film. At times, the live-action film brings the cartoon to life almost shot-by-shot, but there are key changes to ensure that the story feels modern. Recent live-action adaptions don’t simply replace cartoon characters with human actors, they are updated to reflect contemporary values and norms.

Among other changes that reflect modern audiences, LeFou is Disney’s first openly gay character.

The stories we loved as kids never leave us. They are always available to transport us to another place and time, to welcome us back into the story. Perhaps that’s why we reach back to the stories we loved as kids and bring them with us as technology evolves, we move forward, and society progresses. Live-action remakes of classic animated tales are a way to pass on stories that were meaningful to us as kids in a form that lets today’s kids make them their own. It’ll be up to the kids of today to decide what to do with those stories next.

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Magic, swords and dragons: Christopher Paolini’s ‘Eragon’ soars, reviewer Noah says http://kidsmediacentre.ca/2017/08/02/magic-swords-dragons-eragon-soars/ Wed, 02 Aug 2017 04:01:52 +0000 http://kidsmediacentre.ca/?p=4421 Eragon by Christopher Paolini is full of high-action adventure and suspense, and an amazing blend of magic, war, sword fights, dragons and more. 5/5 stars.

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Eragon book cover featuring a dragon

Eragon, by Christopher Paolini

Eragon by Christopher Paolini, one of my favourite books, is both adventurous and suspenseful. The book takes place in the mystical land of Alagaёsia (pronounced al-uh-GAY-zee-uh), a land with dwarves, humans and elves living together in peace since the beginning of time. When humans arrived in the land, they went to war with the elves, and the Dragon Riders were created to keep the peace. These human magic-wielders had fulfilled their task for countless years, until one turned against the others, ending the reign of the Riders.

All of the dragons were slayed, and all of the Riders vanished from existence. However, there were three dragon eggs that survived, in the presence of the evil human king, Galbatorix. If the king gets one of the eggs to hatch, he will be able to control all of Alagaёsia. As it turns out, one of the eggs has been stolen, and hatches in the presence of a farm boy, in the north of the land, isolated from the rest of the country. The name of the farm boy is Eragon.

Eragon travels the land of Alagaёsia with an old storyteller named Brom who trains him in the uses of magic, swordplay, and dragon lore. They want revenge on the Ra’zac, evil beings who work for the king and killed Eragon’s stepfather in search of the farm boy. The Ra’zac want to bring Eragon to the king in order to make him work for their master, but Eragon has managed to evade them. After tracking them to a small town, he is captured and thrown into prison. Eragon is questioned by a Shade, the darkest spirits that walk the earth. He manages to escape, along with a fellow traveller named Murtaugh. Eragon, through his magic, learns that an elf is captive in the prison, and manages to save her. The three cross the great Hadarac Desert, hoping to reach the Varden, a group that rebels against the king’s reign. Whichever side controls eragon, the first Dragon Rider in hundreds of years, will have a major advantage in the war.

The story is very adventurous, as there are many chases, battles, and traps. Both sides use different means to try to sway Eragon to join their side. It is also very suspenseful. Most of the time, characters refuse to explain their full history to anybody, as any information could fall into the hands of the enemy. Eragon has many adventures and in just the first book of this series, meets with the dwarves in their magical city, talks with an elf, and rides a dragon: feats that few, if any, of the people in Alagaёsia can boast of.

Because of the high-action adventure, the suspense, and the amazing blend of magic, war, sword fights, dragons and more, I give this book 5/5 stars. There are three other books in the series.

Noah’s bio

Kids’ panellist Noah.

Kids’ panellist Noah.

Noah, originally from Toronto, now lives in the Greater Boston area.

He is a Grade 7 student who enjoys math, science, and engineering.

He loves to read, run and eat sushi, though not all at the same time!

He also plays the cello.

Noah has visited every Canadian province except Newfoundland.

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Why Peg + Cat is Perfect for Kids Under 7 http://kidsmediacentre.ca/2017/07/21/why-peg-cat-is-perfect-for-kids-under-7/ Fri, 21 Jul 2017 04:01:08 +0000 http://kidsmediacentre.ca/?p=4310 Peg + Cat succeeds in making math fun and relevant by showing kids how math is present in their lives and can be used to solve a variety of problems.

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This adorable program airs on Treehouse for children aged 3 to 5 and follows the adventures of a little girl named Peg and her pet cat. Peg + Cat succeeds in making math fun and relevant by showing kids how math is present in their lives and can be used to solve a variety of problems, from giving her mom the proper number of birthday presents to saving baby chicks. Peg + Cat follows the Ontario Grade 1 math curriculum, making it a great tool to prepare kids who are going into Grade 1, or to reinforce their current learning.

Ontario’s Grade 1 math curriculum is designed to help children develop necessary skills such as: problem solving, reasoning, reflective thinking, connecting concepts to the world around them, representing mathematical ideas visually, and communicating their thinking clearly (The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Mathematics, page 32 of 135). Peg + Cat helps to develop these types of thinking and behaviour very well. The content in each episode is repetitive as the creators take the time to teach it’s viewers in multiple ways. Whenever there is a problem to be solved, Peg verbally explains the problem while writing it down for viewers to see and then explains each step of the solution in the same manner. While Peg, Cat, and friends carry out her plans their, they all sing about what they are doing and why or what they learned. These problems are anchored in the real world to further emphasize that math is everywhere. As we see in “The Slop Problem”, Peg, Cat, and the teenagers need to catch and place the chickens back into their coup. Each person can carry up to five chickens, thanks to a smartphone app, and they learn about counting in fives.

Peg + Cat teaches more than critical thinking and communication, however, as the types of math taught can be linked directly to more specific goals in Ontario’s Grade 1 math curriculum.

Number Sense and Numeration

Two of the three overall expectations in Ontario’s curriculum for students are to “demonstrate an understanding of magnitude by counting forward to 100 and backwards from 20;” and “solve problems involving the addition and subtraction of single-digit whole numbers, using a variety of strategies.” (The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Mathematics, page 33).

In the episodes “The Arch Villain Problem” and “The Birthday Present Problem” Peg and Cat practice counting forwards and backwards. In “The Arch Villain Problem”, Cat can only do nine clumsy things before he scrapes his knee. Peg keeps track of his blunders by counting backwards from nine in order to help keep him safe. Meanwhile in “The Birthday Present Problem”, Peg and Cat must collect five rocks of from six different places in order to give her mom 30 rocks for her 30th birthday.

Measurement

This section’s goals are to “estimate, measure, and describe length, area, mass, capacity, time, and temperature, using non-standard units of the same size;” and “compare, describe, and order objects, using attributes measured in non-standard units.” (The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Mathematics, page 35).

In “The Slop Problem”, Peg, Cat, and the teenagers have to clean up the farm animals before the farmer comes to check on them, but they have trouble figuring out which animal should go in which tub and how much water to use. Peg must help them understand how to estimate and relate size with mass and capacity.

Geometry and Spatial Sense

Peg + Cat fits into two of the this area’s learning expectations of “identify common two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional figures and sort and classify them by their attributes;* compose and decompose common two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional figures.” (The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Mathematics, page 37).

“The Straight and Narrow Problem” deals with a mysterious villain who starts turning other shapes in town into triangles, and it is up to Peg and Cat to save the day! Together, they teach viewers how to identify various shapes and how to combine them to make new ones in order to restore the city.

Data Management and Probability

“collect and organize categorical primary data and display the data using concrete graphs and pictographs, without regard to the order of labels on the horizontal axis; read and describe primary data presented in concrete graphs and pictographs; describe the likelihood that everyday events will happen.” (The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Mathematics, page 40).

In “The Mega Mall Problem” Peg and Cat must search the mall for the teenagers who wandered away right before their dance competition started. By learning how to read the mall’s map and creating a graph to represent what each teenager wanted before disappearing, Peg and Cat were able to find all of the teenagers and get back to the dance competition right on time.

This is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

After watching five 11-minute episodes, I was able to find all of this information. Just think of what the whole season can teach kids. I may not be a teacher but I’m giving Peg + Cat an A+.


Works Cited

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Levelling Up: How Prodigy Makes Learning the Loot http://kidsmediacentre.ca/2017/07/07/levelling-prodigy-makes-learning-loot/ Fri, 07 Jul 2017 04:01:18 +0000 http://kidsmediacentre.ca/?p=4316 Prodigy Math Game is an educational desktop game built around math curriculum between Grades 1 to 8.

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Many kid’s games on both mobile and desktop incorporate curriculum elements to advocate learning concepts. There’s a bit of a paralysis of choice right now – games that teach early literacy, mathematics, or science populate pretty much every app marketplace or game website. The question of their appropriateness or suitability to the curriculum is a big question. As it stands now, there’s a lot of discussion and debate surrounding how kid’s games should incorporate curriculum into their content.

One game that’s been at the forefront of curriculum-based content for teachers, parents, and kids especially, has been Prodigy Math GameLet’s look at how:

Prodigy Math Game is an educational desktop game built around math curriculum between Grades 1 to 8. Self-described as “curriculum-aligned”, Prodigy incorporates solving math problems and learning math concepts delivered in a gamified world where players can create their own character and adventure through a game filled with objectives and challenges.

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Kris reviews Anusree Roy’s ‘Little Pretty and The Exceptional’ http://kidsmediacentre.ca/2017/07/05/kris-reviews-little-pretty-and-the-exceptional/ Wed, 05 Jul 2017 04:01:38 +0000 http://kidsmediacentre.ca/?p=4416 Little Pretty and The Exceptional by Anusree Roy — on stage at Toronto's Factory Theatre — wasn't perfect but it was a play worth checking out.

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A gifted and haunted older sister and an air-headed younger sister duo, along with their traditional immigrant father, struggle with mental illness in the family while opening a new shop. It sounds like a clichéd story of a family overcoming their dark past and everything is back to normal and everyone is happy at the end. However, it was a pleasant surprise to be wrong.

Little Pretty and The Exceptional is one of the six plays that charts new Canadian experiences at the Factory Theatre in Toronto.

It’s a bittersweet family story that deals with heavy themes. Simran (Farah Merani) is an aspiring lawyer — the exceptional — while her younger sister Jasmeet’s (Shruti Kothari) highest ambition is to be prom queen — little pretty — and spending time with her boyfriend, Iyar (Shelley Antony). Dilpreet (Sugith Varughese), their father, acts traditional and thinks differently from the sisters, but together they plan the opening of their sari shop on Gerrard Street East. Simran becomes frantic after receiving poor LSAT results. Over time, Simran’s mental state declines, and the family has to support each other through the hardship.

The acting was notable, particularly Sugith Varughese as Dilpreet, the father. Sugith portrayed the character to a T. He never broke character and even put on an accent. Even without lines, all the actors still stayed in character; it was most noticeable during the microwave scene, when the actors were waiting for microwaved Chinese food. Iyar, portrayed by Shelley Antony, lacked depth as a character originally. He would awkwardly leave when the scene became serious and didn’t quite fit. However, in the second part, Iyar became more aware, resulting in a better character. Jasmeet also matured in the second part, but lacked a reaction when she learned new information about their family’s tragedy.

The set was spectacular. The lighting was the most impressive aspect; it helped smoothly transition between scenes and set the mood of each scene. A good example is when Simran was hallucinating — the flickering of the lights in the shop added a horror feel. The usage of all of the stage was wonderful. An example of this is Simran peeking from the curtain and stepping out from there. All of it is made even more impressive by the fact that the whole story took place in one location, the shop.

The playwriting/script/plot was good. The struggles of an immigrant family, the ties of family and the toll of mental illness on everyone was portrayed well. The family strain when Simran was slipping away from them was tear-jerking. Simran having schizophrenia wasn’t shown well; the various symptoms were questionable, especially in a specific scene where Simran was detached from her body. It could’ve been interpreted in many ways. It could’ve shown disillusion of reality or another personality (Dissociative Identity Disorder) or Depersonalization Disorder. It was also disappointing to how quick and easy it was for Simran to find the right medication that works and getting the correct diagnosis, considering the play took a minute or two to microwave Chinese food for authenticity.

The story set a base for the actors, but the actors really brought it to life. Everyone stayed focused throughout the production and the set allowed the scenes to feel more real. The plot had so much potential, but could’ve been more precise. It’s a play worth checking out. Unfortunately, Little Pretty and The Exceptional showings ended on April 30th but the Factory Theatre offers other productions also worth looking at.

Kris’s bio

Kids’ panellist Kris.

Kids’ panellist Kris.

Kris is 14 years old. She’s a librocubicularist (a person who reads in bed).

A movie that she recently watched and enjoyed was Kubo and the Two Strings.

The classic Christmas movie Home Alone is loved by Kris and her family.

She shares her fondness of the TV show Case Closed with her siblings.

An artist style she likes is Tim Burton’s for its whimsical and dark combination.

Kris delights in learning, which fuels her affection for school.

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What Are Your Kids Listening To? http://kidsmediacentre.ca/2017/06/30/what-are-your-kids-listening-to/ Fri, 30 Jun 2017 04:01:29 +0000 http://kidsmediacentre.ca/?p=4216 How many times have you been driving with your kids, listening to a tune you've heard 100 times, only to be struck by the true meaning of the song?

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How many times have you been driving with kids in the back seat, listening to a song you have heard 100 times or more, only to be struck by the true meaning of the song? Maybe it’s a great song, with a strong message that you want your kids to hear. Or maybe it’s a song with a more mature message than you are comfortable with, and you have never really listened to it until now, and you are shocked to hear that your kids know all the words without fully understanding what they are singing about. There is an easy way to avoid this upsetting realization that the radio DJ’s do not always have your children’s best interests in mind.

Play your own music.

You do not have to subject yourself to juvenile nursery rhymes to ensure that your children are listening to appropriate music. Nursery rhymes are great, don’t get me wrong, but don’t think that there is nothing else out there for your child to listen to.

So how do you know what kind of music is best? Experts can provide tips, but at the end of the day it is up to parents to decide what they are okay with their children listening to.

The best musical library includes a variety of styles. It is never a good idea to expose children to one genre and close them off from everything else. Children should be exposed to different styles of music and music from different cultures. If you feel like it, you can even throw in a nursery rhyme or two for good measure.

If you as a parent think a song sounds good, has a good message, and is overall enjoyable to listen to, there is no harm in letting your children listen along. Growing up, one of the greatest things that our family bonded over was music. Chiquitita by ABBA wasn’t just a song with a good message, but a song sung in times of trouble. I still listen to it when I’m feeling down and I am grateful for having been exposed to it when I was so young.

So many parents cocoon their kids in a bubble of children’s music with high pitched melodies that parents themselves can’t stand to listen to. According to Eric Rasmussen of the Peabody Institute, music that is specifically geared towards children is not necessarily healthy for them. They may not understand the meaning behind some of your personal favourites, but that is where you have the opportunity to talk to them and educate them, and have some say over what messages they receive from the media. Before they can fully understand it, kids learn to love music ­­– the sound of it, the rhythm of it, the way it makes them feel. Music is something we hear when we are young and as we grow older we take it with us, adapting it to our moods and fitting it into our personal situations. Parents have the privilege of ensuring their children grow up with music that is worthy of the person they want their child to be.

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Kris meets Libby, a friendly ebook and audiobook borrowing app http://kidsmediacentre.ca/2017/06/14/kris-meets-libby-friendly-ebook-audiobook-borrowing-app/ Wed, 14 Jun 2017 04:01:27 +0000 http://kidsmediacentre.ca/?p=4394 Libby — an app developed by OverDrive Labs — Is a resource to read ebooks and listen to audiobooks that’s available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

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Readers are just one tap away from unlocking the power of the written word.

getlibby.com

Libby is an app developed by OverDrive Labs. It’s another resource to read ebooks and listen to audiobooks and it’s available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Introducing Libby

Borrow ebooks and audiobooks from your local public library.

Libby allows you to use multiple cards and different libraries, which is great if you want to include the whole family. Libby’s design is simple and easy to use. The app starts with the user saying hi to Libby. All materials will be available as soon as you log on. There are collections of different genres and types of materials. There is a single bookshelf that automatically presents all of your loans and holds, all the materials you borrowed through the OverDrive app (or your library’s OverDrive website) will show up in Libby too. All the materials can be downloaded and borrowed with a single tap.

Some advantages of using Libby is that your session doesn’t time out, you can download your materials to use offline, you can sample books, tag your materials, you can keep track of what you read with your activity tab and you can skip and rewind your audiobooks. The best part about Libby is that materials are always available and will be returned automatically, so fees will never be a problem.

This is an educational and potentially fun app. Libby has books and materials for everyone. From beginning readers with read-a-long picture books to the foreign language learner and anyone else. However, you still must monitor children using Libby to keep them away from material that isn’t age-appropriate. It is possible to apply preferences but some materials could slip through and the setting could be changed easily.

Kris’s bio

Kids’ panellist Kris.

Kids’ panellist Kris.

Kris is 14 years old. She’s a librocubicularist (a person who reads in bed).

A movie that she recently watched and enjoyed was Kubo and the Two Strings.

The classic Christmas movie Home Alone is loved by Kris and her family.

She shares her fondness of the TV show Case Closed with her siblings.

An artist style she likes is Tim Burton’s for its whimsical and dark combination.

Kris delights in learning, which fuels her affection for school.

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Characters with Disabilities: The Deficiency of Difference in Children’s Media http://kidsmediacentre.ca/2017/06/09/characters-disabilities-deficiency-difference-childrens-media/ Fri, 09 Jun 2017 04:01:22 +0000 http://kidsmediacentre.ca/?p=4274 When entertainment doesn’t do its best to reflect real people and real-life experiences by diversifying its characters, we "real people" feel cheated.

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Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome book cover

Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome, by Clarabelle van Niekerk, Liezl Venter

As I’ve grown, I realized that there was no one like me in any of my recreational distractions. I’m and African American female who also happens to be completely deaf in one ear. Granted these may be setbacks that don’t outrageously affect my everyday life, but they are still part of who I am and I’d like to see that portrayed in the media. Once my difference became apparent to me I began a full-fledged examination on the shortage of characters with disabilities in the media. When entertainment doesn’t do its best to reflect real people and real-life experiences by diversifying its characters, we “real people” feel cheated. It affects the self-esteem of any child with a disability who can never relate to what they watch or read, and it creates a strain on children who haven’t learned how to properly approach other children who are disabled.

Wrong Representation:

Secondary Character Syndrome

The problem is not only the matter of the lack of children’s media that feature characters with disabilities but also the way they portray them. There is a difference between media about a character with a disability and media that includes a disabled character. The latter could easily be ensnared by “secondary character syndrome”, i.e. creating this character that is different from the others in race, sexual orientation, or special needs and using them as a prop or a filler instead of a character the audience can actually relate to. They have no story, they barely have a voice, and by the end of it you probably won’t remember their name (if they are given one). More effort should be put into making those characters count and creating a storyline around them that develops their needs and lifestyle in a way that accurately portrays someone who is disabled.

The Hero, or the Tragic Villain…

Presenting a disabled character should not be done in a pitying or condescending way, but rather in a way which sends the message that these are real people, with real emotions and they should be treated like everyone else. There has always this trope of making a person with a disability the hero or the villain. An example of the hero is found in the Daredevil comics where Matt Murdock becomes blind, but as a result all his other senses are heightened and he becomes a hero who fights crime. Not only is this unrealistic but it enforces over-achievement so those who are disabled never accept who they truly are. In Flipped (2003) by Wendelin Van Draanen one of the protagonists has an uncle who is disabled and lives in a home. Although he is fiercely loved, he is also seen as the man who sucks all of the money from the family because it is used to keep him in one of the nicer homes…thus the tragic villain.

Although the lack of special needs characters in the media is abhorrent, there are a few bright sparks that correctly depict strong disabled character as leads:

  • Sesame Street (Blindness, Deafness, Wheelchair use, Autism)
  • Finding Nemo/ Finding Dory (Abnormality in the limbs, Short-term memory loss)
  • How to Train your Dragon (Amputee)
  • Wonder by R.J Palacio (Severe Facial Abnormality)
  • My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete, Ryan Elizabeth Peete (Autism)
  • Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome by Clarabelle van Niekerk (Asperger Syndrome)

As a young woman I now look back on the media that I grew up with and its lack of options; admittedly, things are getting a little bit better — there are a few more options for kids now — but I still call for the media to step up their game! In the meantime, parents can read these books and watch these TV shows and movies with their children to start conversations with them about how to approach kids with disabilities. They can use it as a teaching technique; pointing out the characters’ differences and highlighting how others view or treat them. Hopefully, with a partnership between the media creating more ability-diverse characters and with the dialoguing between parents and children, we can better support the diversely abled “real people” and kids in this world!

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Noah finds excitement in Farley Mowat’s ‘Lost in the Barrens’ http://kidsmediacentre.ca/2017/05/31/noah-finds-excitement-farley-mowat-lost-in-the-barrens/ Wed, 31 May 2017 04:01:35 +0000 http://kidsmediacentre.ca/?p=4385 I recently finished reading Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat. Set in the north of Canada, it tells the tale of two young boys stranded in the wilderness.

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Lost in the Barrens cover

Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat

I recently finished reading Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat. Published in 1956, this story is both adventurous and exciting. Set in the north of Canada, it tells the tale of two young boys stranded in the wilderness.

Editor’s note: To accurately describe the content of Lost in the Barrens, this review references terms for Aboriginal Peoples used in the book that were in common use at the time of the book’s publication.

Awasin, an Indian Chipewyan, has lived in the north all his life. Jamie, on the other hand, grew up in Toronto and attended an expensive, private boarding school. He was sent to the school after the death of his parents when he was nine years old. But Jamie’s uncle and only living relative, Angus McNair, does not have enough money to continue sending his nephew to the school, so he arranges to have Jamie brought to the north to live with him. When Jamie arrives at Angus McNair’s dwelling in the woods, he and Awasin become good friends.

Jamie is enjoying his life in the north. But winter is coming, and an Indian camp even farther north is running out of food. This camp, led by a man named Denikazi, normally has plenty of caribou meat to last the winter. But this year, the caribou are late in coming, and the camp is starving. In a desperate effort, Denikazi and a group of hunters go searching for the animals, hoping to find enough meat to feed their camp for the rest of the year. When Denikazi and his hunters arrive at the Chipewyan beach in their canoes, looking for supplies and help, Jamie and Awasin eagerly volunteer.

Everything was going well on the hunting trip, until Denikazi and a small group of hunters decided to leave the boys behind, heading northward at a faster pace in order to hunt. But the boys get bored and want some adventure. Leaving the camp by canoe, they paddle miles downstream. After a day’s excursion, Jamie and Awasin find a rapid that they can’t traverse. It wrecks the canoe, and the boys are left stranded on the endless tundra.

This book is very exciting, and there are many times when it is suspenseful. It is also interesting to see how resourceful the boys are in their quest for survival. They build an igloo of stones, spend days making clothes of deer skin, and collect lots of fuel for fires. When winter arrives, they can be seen as courageous and inventive. After finding a small hidden valley, they construct another cabin, this time out of logs. Jamie and Awasin show incredible skill while they prove that surviving in the frozen north is not hopeless.

One of my favourite things about this book is that Jamie and Awasin’s beliefs are challenged. The Indians were traditionally terrified of the Eskimos (now called the Inuit), thinking that they were cannibals and inhospitable. The two boys were in constant fear of these men of the north. During the long, cold winter months, a short change in the weather convinces Jamie and Awasin that it is time to attempt a break for the south where they will be safe, but they travel less than forty miles when a storm rolls in. The two boys, just minutes away from death, are lucky to find an Eskimo’s igloo. After days spent recuperating, they become friends with a young Eskimo. Jamie and Awasin realize that the Eskimos are, contrary to their previous beliefs, warm and welcoming people.

One thing that I dislike about the story is that time passes so quickly. There are multiple instances when, in just one paragraph, many days pass. This makes parts of the story seem like you are just reading about the passage of time.

Farley Mowat has managed to create an extreme survival story in unbearable conditions – the endless Canadian north. Lost in the Barrens also has an amazing blend of diverse cultures and near death experiences. Overall, the book has a very strong sense of danger. At every turn, the boys are trying to solve the problem of what could kill them next – the cold, the wild animals, food shortages, or living conditions. The book is suspenseful and exciting; in every chapter, Jamie and Awasin are put to the test to survive in the barren north.

In conclusion, the read deserves 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Noah’s bio

Kids’ panellist Noah.

Kids’ panellist Noah.

Noah, originally from Toronto, now lives in the Greater Boston area.

He is a Grade 7 student who enjoys math, science, and engineering.

He loves to read, run and eat sushi, though not all at the same time!

He also plays the cello.

Noah has visited every Canadian province except Newfoundland.

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