At the CES Kids@Play Summit I had to the chance to see a demo of the new PBS subscription service called "PBS Kids Play". For those that spend time on the PBSkids.org website (like my family does) know that there are lots of great activities on the main site. One of my twins actually begs for his screen time to be "PBSKids.org" (seriously, he has the URL memorized).
So the big question is "Why do a paid subscription service?"
To answer that, here are details from the PBS Kids Play FAQ page:
"PBS KIDS PLAY! is the only online school readiness program that
customizes the learning experience to your child's level across 20
different subject areas. Your subscription to PLAY! gets you access to
more than 50 exclusive educational activities that you won't find
anywhere else – and all of them match with national educational
standards and benchmarks. PLAY! adjusts based on your child's
individual learning achievements, unlocking exciting new challenges. A
personal progress chart for each child shows the results as he or she
advances through the curriculum. Plus, PLAY! has built-in safety
features that prevent keyboard banging and give you the option to set a
time limit… Ding!"
So the main difference from the main PBS Kids website is that PBS Kids Play offers a customized learning experience. So the next question is "Why should my kids go online to learn"?
I have to start off by saying I have been a big PBS fan for years (yes – I watched Sesame Street as a kid – didn't you?). I just saw the new Electric Company show which made me tear up with excitement (that was my favorite show as a kid).
Screen time is now part of the social culture, so I think it is important for screen time education to start at home. Which means setting up screen time limits to start (i.e. after school, homework, outside play time etc..). After that, it is important to educate kids on where to spend their "screen time". Even though I have content filters installed, I still talk to my kids about where to go on the Internet. I thrilled that my Kindergarten age twins request to go to PBSKids.org for their screen time because I know they are having a fun, safe and educational experience online. I am also happy that they can navigate around the site on their own – choosing which games they want to play. My twins see their brother and other friends playing online games and have requested to also.
I view PBS Kids Play as a great way to provide an online gaming experience that will also be educational (and safe). The learning goals help me guide my kids to different sections to practice skills and the goal setting is a way for them to feel a sense of accomplishment.
***NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY – PBS was kind enough to offer 10 – 2 Month Free Trial coupons. Those that comment on this post will be randomly chosen to win. For those that want to enter, please put a valid contact email in the "email not displayed" field in the comment section. GIVEAWAY STARTS TODAY AND CLOSES FEB. 4 AT 9AM pst.
Here are some screen shots and the full press release details :
(Displayed above is the home room screen). The PBS Kids Play folks explained some of the customization features available: "When signing up for the service, a child can select a picture to go along with his or her screen name. Each time the child comes back to use the service he or she just has to click on this picture to play. If there is more than one child in the house using the service, you can keep track of each child’s individual learning profile and preferences (for up to four children).
One unique attribute of this room is that each child can customize it and thus take ownership of his or her learning environment. Kids can click some items in the room (bed, wall, toys) to change them and more items will be added on a seasonal basis. Kids can also change their room through game play: For example, the bulletin board will show a thumbnail of the last project the child has saved in PBS KIDS PLAY!.
To start their learning adventures, children can click the round purple portal to go outside and visit the PBS KIDS PLAY! neighborhood or can click a character’s face (bottom bar) to visit that character’s home and explore a virtual world based on the TV program.
Also note that from the Home Room, a child may visit the “TV Room” (doorway to the right) to watch videos and a “Play Room” (doorway to the left) to play games. The Home Room makes it a cinch for kids to find projects they’ve saved, see learning rewards they’ve earned, or to return to favorite activities. And Dash is always there to offer help!"
Here is a screen shot of the Progress chart.
Above is a screen shot of the Super Why game.
This screen shot is a picture of the music game.
This screen shot is of the Thomas & Friends game.
Listed below is the official press release for more details:
© 2008 Public Broadcasting Service
About PBS KIDS PLAY!
In March 2008, PBS released PBS KIDS PLAY!SM, a computer-based subscription service providing interactive, educational games and activities for families with children ages 3 to 6. The service offers a fun, safe online environment that is designed to address educational standards and benchmarks for preschool and kindergarten education. PBS KIDS PLAY! includes games and activities that explore more than 20 skill areas in math, science, language, literacy, creativity, healthy living, and social studies.
PBS KIDS PLAY! is a place where children can play with favorite PBS KIDS characters and receive an interactive learning experience tailored just for them. The software adapts to each child’s skills and abilities by tracking progress and recommending games and activities at the appropriate level, based on the child’s past performance. Parents and caregivers can track each child’s learning progress, as he or she advances.
PBS KIDS PLAY! includes a variety of features for both kids and parents.
Features for Children:
- Popular Characters: Positive character role models from CURIOUS GEORGE™, SUPER WHY!™, BOB THE BUILDER™, MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD®, THOMAS & FRIENDS™, THE BERENSTAIN BEARS®, FRANNY'S FEET™, MAMA MIRABELLE'S HOME MOVIES™, and the online exclusive property, WUMPA’S WORLD, guide children through interactive educational activities. New programs have joined the program since launch, including BOB THE BUILDER and THOMAS & FRIENDS, with plans for many more new games and activities in 2009.
- 100%-Original Game Content: All-new, exclusive learning games and activities! Self-Leveling: The learning games and activities adjust in difficulty based on each individual child’s tracked progress. The software adapts to each child’s unique developmental stage, which may not correspond with the child’s age.
- Rewards: Upon completing each game learning objective, kids receive a collectible item.
- Saving: Kids can save interactive projects and continue with them later.
- Favorites: Kids can easily bookmark favorite activities with a single click.
- Exploration: Kids can explore colorful, inviting environments recreated from favorite TV programs.
- Text-Free Navigation: Pre-readers can navigate PBS KIDS PLAY! independently.
- Customization: Kids can customize the look and feel of their Home Room, Play
- Room, and TV Room. They also can choose special decorations for national holidays and seasons.
- TV Any Time: Dozens of full TV episodes available at broadband streaming quality 24×7. All video is 100% program content – no promotional clips – and 100% ad-free.
- Always Something New: New content added every week!
Features for Parents:
- Educational Value: Games and activities help build essential skills in math, science, language, literacy, creativity, healthy living, and social studies. Each activity has been developed specifically to address a nationally recognized McREL (Midcontinent Research for Education and Learning) standard and to sequence by developmental stage, in accordance with PBS’ own Childhood Development Tracker(compiled by leading childhood development experts).
- See the Results: The software includes a progress chart for each child that tracks individual learning progress with both an overview, which shows progress across the entire curriculum, and a detailed view, which provides personalized guidance on activities recommended specifically for each child.
- Recommendations Engine: In addition to providing recommendations to parents, PBS KIDS PLAY! also uses characters to recommend educational content to kids that is right just for them. This is often met with less resistance than if parents try to recommend content.
- Search by Skill: Includes a search engine for locating activities by skill or keyword.
- Safe and Secure: PBS KIDS PLAY! is a password-protected desktop environment
- Limit Screen Time: Parents can set a timer to limit the amount of time their child spends on PBS KIDS PLAY!. This feature allows parents to easily supervise their child’s media experience.
- Customer Support: Round-the-clock toll-free phone and email support.
PBS KIDS PLAY! requires the following specifications:
- A broadband Internet connection.
- A monitor capable of 1024×768 or above screen resolution. PBS KIDS PLAY! runs in
full-screen mode and adjusts the computer’s display, similar to a CD-ROM product.
- Adobe Flash 9.0.115.