December 12, 2007

kreative kid stuff

I am bursting at the seams to blog about some kid and craft related topics but it's already getting so late so I'm just going to put up a quick post to remind me later about all the stuff I want to blog about.

First off, I am excited about Lucian's new interest in crayons and paints. He is only 17 months old, but already he is showing signs of being ready to get into crafts and I couldn't be more excited.

We went out grocery shopping this evening and I had to stop off in the office supplies section and look for crayons and finger paints. I bought a box of crayons because they were under a buck and truth be told, I bought them for MYSELF! I Looooooove the smell of Crayola crayons. It is one of the best smells on Earth to me. I'm going to tuck these crayons away for the time being because I think they are too small for him yet. I got an 8-pack of the big fat crayons for him instead.

I also go him one of these toddler type scribble markers. I'll go look at the package later and add in the details. I plan on editing this post to include links and other resources. Anyhow, it's called "Bob the Barking Bulldog" and it barks when you put the cap back on! So cool.

Ok, so here is a topic that is burning on my brain right now. Kid software. I have heard TuxPaint mentioned now several times on the Jumping Monkeys and TWIT podcasts and it makes me giddy listening to them talk about it. If only they knew the intimate experiences I've had with this software! Oh, I so badly want to share and talk about how much I love this little application and how it's better than KidPix and possibly better than Beautiful Dorina.

I just read the history of KidPix and I was thoroughly impressed. I'm still a bit confused as to why the OS X version of KidPix was not as well adopted. I wonder if it's because Broderbund took it over?

I also want to elaborate more on a cute story about a time when I was upgrading the school from OS 9 to OS X and how I had to practically pry KidPix away from a lot of really addicted kids.

Have you ever sat in one of those tiny little kid sized chairs? Your knees end up close to your chest. Ok, now try doing that while 8 months pregnant.

Yeah, those were fun times.

Have you ever had a face off in software with a determined first grader? I have. I once went to toe to toe with a first grader who was trying to convince me to keep KidPix in the lab while I was trying to convince him that TuxPaint was just as cool if not cooler.

Bill, if you ever read this...all you need to do is add in sound recording capability and it will be golden!

What I really want to do is write in to Jumping Monkeys and give them a full review of TuxPaint and what it's like to manage it in a lab with 30 computers and kids from ages 5 to 10 using it - ALL AT THE SAME TIME. I want to talk about all the details of what teachers need to know in order to be prepared to use this successfully in a class environment.

Last year, I helped a kindergarten teacher use TuxPaint in a morning and afternoon class where they used it to make self portraits. We then printed out the pictures on the color printer and I made a huge mural with them that covered the walls in the bland computer lab. Let me just say that trying to organize 20 five year olds is no easy task and I think the teacher may have bit off more than she could chew when embarking on this journey. I have seen so many frustrated teachers over the past several years and it's really sad because they just don't have the tools, resources and training needed to be able to teach kids how to use technology. Even if they did, where would they have the time?

I would love to be the equivalent of the art teacher or the music teacher or the gym teacher – a specialist – except I would want to be the technology teacher. It's such a shame that technology is not a specialized area given the same amount of weight as the other subjects. Instead, teachers are forced to take on the role and it adds so much more frustration to their already full plates.

Anyhow, I can't wait to start discussing more in depth on the software I like to use with little ones. My focus in the next coming blogs will be on: TuxPaint, AlphaBaby, Beautiful Dorina and KidPix. I already know how to tweak and "hack" TuxPaint and AlphaBaby and configure them to be really educational for really little kids and I can't wait to share this information.

For example, now is the perfect time of year to show kids how to use TuxPaint to create a holiday card. This has worked well in a lab full of mixed faiths because the stamps in the stamp selection include Christmas icons as well as Jewish icons like the Menorah. One of the things kids LOVE to do is pick out cool fonts. Unfortunately, TuxPaint only comes with standard set of fonts. I found a really neat font called "Brrrrr" that looks like letters with snow on them. You can alter the package contents of the application and install additional fonts, but it's just a little tricky in that they have to be TTF files and you can't install too many or your system may crash.

Kids also LOVE cursive. This is true for girls AND boys which surprised me that boys like to type in cursive as well. 1st and 2nd graders absolutely love it when you show them a cursive font.

I also learned that kissing kangaroos are cool and cause squeals of delight when shown to kindergarteners. But, show this same exercise in stamping to 1st graders and you'll get booed and hear "ewww gross!" Fascinating how so much changes in the course of one school year.

Well, that's all for now. I need to gather my thoughts and go document some ideas with screen shots and then maybe I'll shoot off the email to Jumping Monkeys and see if they are interested in my review.

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