Dispatches from the Digital Revolution

Digital kids

I normally don’t find the world of children to be particularly compelling, but even I have to admit that being a kid in the digital age is increasingly a pretty sweet deal.

Learn Chinese: Toy Story 3


Just recently, Disney Publishing Worldwide released a groundbreaking language learning app, Learn Chinese: Toy Story 3. According to this Publishers Weekly article, the app will be available in the United States, China, and Australia, as well as 25 other countries in Europe and Asia, and is set to be the first in a series of language-teaching storybooks.The app utilizes a teaching method called Diglot Weave, which, aside from being the name of my new band, has been shown to be exceptionally effective. In this Publishing Perspectives article, Dr. Yuhua Ji, chair of the department of English Language and Literature at Xiamen University, explains the rationale behind the method:

 A Diglot Weave story is told partially in the native language of the learner and partially in the language being taught. As the learner’s understanding progresses, an increasing proportion of the story is told in the foreign language until the reader is experiencing the story entirely in that foreign language. Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of the Diglot Weave method.

Toy Story 3 gradually transforms from English to Chinese through five levels of the story: English Only, Beginning Chinese (25 percent), Intermediate (50 percent), Advanced (75 percent), and 100 percent Chinese.Along with the bilingual narration, the app also includes music and sound effects, pronunciation of individual words accessible by a tap, and a voice recording with which to practice and compare pronunciation. According to the same Publishing Perspectives article, rumor has it that the next storybook app in the series will be in Spanish. So that’s nice for the kiddies; my jealousy knows no bounds that in the days of my English as a Second Language classes, we had to rely on boring stuff like  human teachers and whiteboards and Muzzy. But it doesn’t stop there. RRKidz has partnered with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Holiday House, and Charlesbridge Publishing for a Reading Rainbow app, with a launch date set for this spring. And Barefoot just recently released the Barefoot World Atlas. for the iPad 3, a gem of an app that allows children to spin an interactive, three-dimensional globe, examine historical objects, and get live country facts. For more info, check out this excellent review of the app by John Rodzvilla, ePublishing Consultant for Ploughshares and the Electronic Publisher-in-Residence at Emerson College.

Barefoot World Atlas


It’s too bad kids have such grubby, germ-laden little fingers, and will likely taint their iPads and ereaders while tapping and swiping at these awesome apps, leading to a raging epidemic of somethinghorribleitis and setting the stage for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

But wait. Singapore-based company Karuma has considered these epic repercussions and addressed them by releasing a supposedly antibacterial tablet for children. The PlayBase+, with a tagline of “protects with every touch,” features an easy-to-clean screen with a silver seal that is meant to inhibit bacterial growth. I’m not entirely sold on the effectiveness—my grandmother is convinced that rubbing gold rings on styes makes them vanish, and this silver seal business sounds like more such Old Country lore—but if it works, it has definite potential for parental excitement, as well as the added benefit of warding off werewolves and possibly vampires.

It’s just not fair. Kids these days get everything handed to them on an antibacterial silver platter. Why not me? I want MY tablet to protect me from disease and creatures of the night.

2 comments on “Digital kids

  1. Pingback: Toy Story Piece Study Set

  2. Claire Schulz
    April 1, 2012

    I thought of this post the other day when, waiting for my bus to arrive, I sat next to a young family in the T station. The dad and young son were doing geography drills with a tablet app, and the kid was LOVING it. He was actually a whiz, too, except for an unfortunate tendency to guess Cuba when he didn’t know the answer to a question.

    On the flipside, though, Mom was there too, and said not a word because she was so wrapped up in her own smartphone.

    So… there’s no substitute for human interaction. It’s great when technology can supplement that.

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