Friday, July 13, 2007

My First Computer

Photo Credit: LeapFrog

From David Carnoy over at C/Net, an overview of LeapFrog's new "ClickStart My First Computer" -- a TV-plug-in PC for children aged 3-6:
The $60 system features a "child-friendly" wireless keyboard with nice big buttons, a console and a mouse that converts for right- or left-handed play. The console comes with a few built in games and activities, and you can buy additional software cartridges ($19.99) that plug into the top of the console.

Not surprisingly, there's a friendly green puppy named Scout to guide kids through navigation, mousing, counting, ABCs, phonic skills, simple math, shapes, and colors. Tots can even click on an in-box to get a greeting-card style e-mail, complete with sound for nonreaders.

While the system isn't compatible with standard operating systems or programs (it sounds like you'd be limited to LeapFrog software only), or the Internet for that matter, the system will introduce kids to computing and Internet "concepts". For example:
[W]ord is LeapFrog's developing a game called Ratatouille: Anyone Can Blog. In it, kids learn how to link to baseless rumors or better yet, just make ridiculous stuff up so other people can link to it and send traffic through the roof.

And of course, as with all LeapFrog products, an emphasis is already being placed on licensing initiatives and "edutainment"...Finding Nemo and Dora the Explorer titles will be released later this month concurrent with the system. For the record, though, I should admit that my first computer, the Commodore 64, ALSO plugged into the television -- but the major difference was that the technology was wide open for user appropriation, had I been so inclined. There were also some pretty obvious differences between playing the C64 piano game and watching an episode of My Little Pony or Ghostbusters...a distinction I fear ClickStart users might not grasp quite as readily, particularly with a media synergy that transports their favourite television characters from the television screen to the, well, PC-ized television screen. Other than the transmedia intertextuality and commercialization potential, though, some of the features sound pretty neat..esp. the blogging game, and especially if it also teaches kids lessons about public domain, privacy and intellectual property BEFORE they're set loose on the Internet.

Here's the LeapFrog press release for more details.

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