Category Archives: 17 months

Get in the Game

Stella’s dad is a true gamer. To give you an example, he was one of those dorky fanboys who picked up his copy at midnight when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was released Nov 8—contributing to the new entertainment record of $400 million in the first 24 hours, making it the biggest entertainment launch property of all time (source). (It’s not the first time he’s done that either.) So whenever there are interesting studies about gamification of learning, he and I both tend to perk up.

Gabe Zichermann recently gave a talk at TEDxKids@Brussels on “How games make kids smarter:”

Some of the highlights in his talk:

  • Is it that our children have ADHD, or is our world just too freaking slow for our children to appreciate?
  • Today’s kids play games and they are expected to chat, text, and voice; operate a character; follow long- and short-term objectives […]. Kids have to have extraordinary multi-tasking skills to be able to achieve things today.
  • The act of learning produces increased gray matter [in the brain], not performing the activity itself.
  • There are five things you can do to increase fluid intelligence [to help build problem-solving skills]: 1. Seek novelty, 2. Challenge yourself, 3. Think creatively, 4. Do things the hard way, 5. Network. (Does this resemble the pattern of a video game?)
  • Video games present a constant and exponentially increase in learning, which may help us explain the Flynn effect, which is that the pattern that human intelligence is actually rising over time. The rate of fluid intelligence increase has risen starting in the 1990s…[hmmm…coincidence?]
  • Games are wired to elicit a particular kind of dopamine loop in the brain, which produces an intrinsic reinforcement to keep seeking that activity.

Related to problem-solving skills, I recently recorded Stella playing the matching activity in the Monkey Preschool Lunchbox app. It’s so cute to see her discover a pattern (dopamine rush!), although she doesn’t yet use a very effective strategy. It appears that she can only hold up to one card in memory at a time.

Gabe’s TED talk ends by telling parents to “get into the game” with their kids. One way to do this is to ask your kids to explain the strategy of the game back to you. It reinforces their ability to synthesize and verbalize complex material. Most importantly, it communicates to them that you’re interested in what they love to do. I’m sure Jesse will have no problem with this advice! I can already imagine Stella a few years from now playing Xbox with her dad. (Do they make pink headsets?) As for me, I will sit happily on the sidelines for that one. Maybe then I can finally use the iPad for myself for a while!

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Repeat After Me: ABC

Stella’s 18 month appointment with her pediatrician is coming up, so I decided to quickly jot down all of the words that she says so that I’d have a ballpark figure. Once I started writing, I almost couldn’t stop. I easily filled up a page worth 65 80+ (see update below) words—words that she regularly says on her own without any prompting from me. (A widely-known benchmark at this age is 20, but it’s common for kids to have much fewer or much more without any indication for concern or pretense.) She also strings a few of them together; her favorite phrases are, “Kick it,” “Where-da-go?”, and “Hi, baby!

Obviously I can’t credit the iPad for everything Stella does. After all, she does get to spend a lot of one-on-one time with me, and she has a phenomenal daycare provider, where she is also surrounded by a 4-year-old boy, from whom she learns a lot.

However, I can’t diminish the iPad’s role in her learning environment either. Not only have I seen some amazing apps with excellent educational value, but I also think the iPad itself has given us a reason to sit down and interact with each other more than we might have without it. We take walks, read physical books, and build blocks together, but what I mean is that the iPad removes the burden of creating both educational content and context, which makes the learning process so much more accessible. For example, I don’t think I would have taken the time to create physical flash cards, let alone keep her interested enough to practice them daily. The iPad just works.

Now that she has started repeating EVERYTHING anyone says, the ABC app has been really fun for me to watch. Most of the time she repeats the letters without my prompting. How cool is this?

Remember, the purpose of my blog is not to make claims one way or another, although I have an obvious bias toward both my daughter and my iPad! I’m simply exploring a new technology that hasn’t been available to us before, so I’m not judging against an alternate approach. What parents do with their children’s educational experience is their own business—I’ve just chosen to share mine along the way.

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UPDATE: We were way off with our estimate. As the week went on—and now conscious of counting her words—there were easily 30-40 more that we missed. I’d estimate that she is well over 100 and into the 120s. According to BabyCenter, this is very common for 19-24 months: “[Your child’s] pace will pick up as he acquires ten or more new words each day. If he’s especially focused on learning to talk, he can add a new word to his vocabulary every 90 minutes — so watch your language!”

SignShine – Take 2

I know I already reviewed the SignShine app last month, but since purchasing additional songs, it has become one of her favorites, and I have an update to share. In the last few days, her signs have evolved to express emotions by using her facial expressions with her hands. (Note her furrowed brow and pouty lips for the “wha-wha-wha” part of the “Wheels on the Bus” song.) So cool!

Movie Critic

Stella’s new favorite thing to do on the iPad is watch videos of herself from my YouTube channel. I showed her the video of herself going down her new slide, and she absolutely lost it—she was laughing so hard that it gave her hiccups and we had to stop. I decided to record her the next day when I showed her the same video again (this time on my phone). I didn’t get quite the same response, but you get the idea:

I also gave Stella a video to watch of Stella watching a video of Stella, but she seemed uninterested. Too many layers, I guess. (It’s okay, Stella. I couldn’t really follow Inception either.)

Diaper Bag or iPad Tote?

Going out to eat with a 17 month old is not fun. She usually wants to eat right away, so somewhere between placing our order and receiving adult food, she has already finished her meal and wants out of her high chair…immediately. One of us winds up walking her around, outside the restaurant while the other one eats alone. It’s a pretty sad scene.

To keep Stella better entertained, the other night I decided to bring along iPad 2 to the restaurant. It worked like a charm! We played until the food came, and then we all ate together. It was also interesting to see the iPad juxtaposed with diapers and wet naps in her diaper bag. I call it the “diapad,” as in, “Don’t forget to grab the diapad.”