Engineering Play: A Cultural History of Children’s Software by Mizuko Ito

By Mizuko Ito

At the present time, desktops are a part of kids' daily lives, used either for play and for studying. We envy children's typical affinity for desktops, the convenience with which they click on out and in of electronic worlds. Thirty years in the past, despite the fact that, the pc belonged nearly completely to company, the army, and academia. In Engineering Play, Mizuko Ito describes the transformation of the pc from a device linked to adults and paintings to at least one associated with young ones, studying, and play. Ito supplies an account of a pivotal interval within the Nineteen Eighties and Nineties, which observed the increase of a brand new type of patron software program designed in particular for common school--aged young ones. "Edutainment" software program sought to mix quite a few academic philosophies with interactive gaming and leisure, and integrated such titles as quantity Munchers, Oregon path, KidPix, and the place on the earth Is Carmen Sandiego?.

The children's software program increase (and the bust that followed), says Ito, might be noticeable as a microcosm of the negotiations surrounding new expertise, youngsters, and schooling. the tale she tells is either a testimonial to the transformative strength of innovation and a cautionary story approximately its barriers.

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Additional info for Engineering Play: A Cultural History of Children’s Software (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning)

Sample text

They departed from the strictly curricular and instructional goals of the majority of school-based software by incorporating visual and narrative elements from popular culture. For example, Math Blaster took a standard drill-and-practice instructional mechanism but embedded it in a shooter-game idiom. The late 1970s and the 1980s saw the founding of experimental efforts such as the 5thD, Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow, the Vivarium project at Academics 37 the Open School in Los Angeles, and programs at the Bank Street College of Education, which piloted these new technologies in experimental educational settings.

My work documenting the ways in which kids produce meaning through play, appropriating and reshaping the meanings of technology in local micropolitics, is an effort to consider the significance of kids’ agency in the here and now of their everyday lives. In line with this approach, I often use the term kid rather than child because kid is the term that schoolage children tend to identify with themselves (Thorne 1993, 9). I turn now to a description of the field sites in which I encountered kids and their engagements with children’s software, and thereafter to a description of the fieldwork I conducted on the industry side.

Although there are many gaps in the public record, I was able to gain an overview of the corporate players involved. I also reviewed advertisements for children’s software over a period of a year and a half in 1999 and 2000 in the magazine Family PC. Organization of the Book The next three chapters draw from my research on both the 5thD and the children’s software industry, organized by the focal three genres: academics, entertainment, and construction. The academics genre, discussed in chapter 2, is centered on software to support school-based content and is marketed to middle-class families oriented to academic achievement.

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