by Silvia Lovato
When it comes to kids, the answer is similar to what television programs should public media air: games that engage, educate and delight children, broadening their horizons and helping them discover unlimited possibilities.
In today’s digital world, kids are engaging with media content anytime and anywhere, expecting consistent experiences with their favorite characters whether they are watching them on TV, interacting with them in an online game, or playing an app. When choosing what to focus on with nearly-unlimited digital possibilities, innovative formats have definitely been a driver. We are curious about how effective new platforms and formats are in helping kids learn, so testing and research is an integral part of our development process at PBS KIDS.
Some of the trends PBS KIDS has been exploring recently include gesture-based games, which use the now ubiquitous webcams to allow kids to control the experience by moving their whole bodies. Kids love to be in the picture! Good examples are Curious George’s Monkey Jump, produced by WGBH Boston, which teaches numeracy to preschoolers, and Going Batty, produced by the PBS KIDS Interactive group in conjunction with the Kratt Brothers, where kids learn about bat behavior by imitating movements used by them to fly, sleep and hunt. Modding, or letting kids create their own levels, is appealing for its empowering nature and educational potential: what better way to explain how games work then helping kids make their own versions?
Public television has always been a frontrunner when it comes to using new technologies to reach children. In the 1960s, when television was still relatively new, Mister Rogers was the first to use it to have conversations with children about things that really mattered to them. Sesame Street famously incorporated new and creative techniques to teach letters and numbers to preschoolers. As public media continues to pioneer and innovate for a growing digital audience, gaming is the core content genre: when we ask kids what they’re looking for when they come to pbskids.org, the answer is almost always “games.” To say we’re interested in how game design trends are evolving and how they can be used for learning would be an understatement!
I’m excited to participate in the Games for Change festival this week and for the chance to talk to game developers about what we should be thinking about next.
Silvia Lovato oversees PBS KIDS interactive products, including the PBS KIDS online and mobile video players, which deliver over 100 million streams per month. She has spent the past 10 years working with PBS KIDS producers to develop engaging, fun and educational web and mobile content for kids. Silvia was instrumental in the creation of the PBS KIDS GO! block and site in 2004, and has overseen the PBS KIDS GO! digital strategy since then. Prior to joining PBS, she was at washingtonpost.com. At the Games for Change Festival, she’ll be participating in the Public Media Panel on Monday June 18th and the Funders Roundtables on Tuesday June 19th.