Playing & learning with our kids easier than ever

By Anne Collier

Mobile gaming (on cellphones, iPads, etc.) is doing a lot more than entertaining kids. Yes, it’s bringing out their inner scientist (with Project Noah) or cartoonist (via Toontastic) and fueling their outdoor adventures (see, and yes it’s occasionally a digital babysitter. But it also offers lovely, gentle changes in family dynamics. Mobile gaming can add to the household scene togetherness, spontaneity, and maybe a little more of the collaborative playfulness increasingly needed in this world (and the cost is low because most families already have cellphones). “By situating learning in family spaces, we [creators of educational mobile games] enable kids to play alongside mom and dad while they cook dinner or clean up the house and, in turn, enable parents, siblings, grandparents, and cousins to step in as mentors, tutors, collaborators, and playmates,” writes game designer Andy Russell in the Joan Ganz Cooney Center blog. And then there’s the vital addition of social to educational: “Instead of bottling lesson plans and building robot tutors, mobile devices allow us to create online community spaces for teachers and homeschoolers to share best practices for facilitating hands-on learning. Rather than design for one child and one mouse, we can build collaborative playspaces for many fingers and many voices – the holy grail of intergenerational play.” This sounds so sound to me! [Thanks to educator Jackie Gerstein for pointing this post out.]

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