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CTR May 2020

“Like a summer thunderstorm, release from COVID-19 confinement may wash away heat from the “screen time” argument and renew variety and balance in kids’ lives.” David Kleeman, Dubit, in the Cooney Center blog, at https://bitly.com/3avGQKQ

Welcome to the Spring/Summer issue of CTR. I’m writing this remotely, 778 miles away from my home and college, happily stuck on an extended spring break with my family in Georgia while the world settles down. For me things could be much worse. Besides being together with 18 month Grandson, I’m able to write, review and teach my classes I happened to have packed my laptop and tablets. I’ve been amazed at my ability to teach remotely using Zoom, and my iPads have been in constant use by my 18 month old Grandson. These devices are no longer options. They’re my link to the outside world; both for work and for fun -- serving up movies and the textbooks I left behind at thome. I can make a living as an educator, reviewer and writer. But not everyone is so lucky. As I point out in my essay for the Cooney Center, (below) the Coronavirus Pandemic shines a bright light on the digital divide.

The Cooney Center asks: What changes are in store for children as a result of the Coronavirus? 
That was the question asked of a group of early childhood media experts at https://bitly.com/3avGQKQ . Some highlights: App designer Caroline Hu Flexer from Khan Academy Kids said “great design innovations often occur within significant constraints.” We’ll look forward to seeing some of the innovations from this situation. David Kleeman of Dubit said “Like a summer thunderstorm, release from COVID-19 confinement may wash away heat from the “screen time” argument and renew variety and balance in kids’ lives.” We’re living in a time when “screen time” has moved from nuisance to a necessity. Michael Rich from the Harvard Medical School wrote that “Coronavirus is opportunistic and indiscriminate, with no nationality, politics, allies, or enemies. We must defend, not with the familiar ‘us against them’ mentality, but by protecting each other to protect ourselves: ‘us with us.’” Now is a time for unity. Finally, Mimi Ito of the University of California wrote “People of all ages crave social connection, but teens are often uniquely separated from those whom they care deeply about. COVID-19 has given more people of all ages a window into this experience.” And I wrote “This connectivity is a post-pandemic basic need, alongside such things as food, shelter, and safety, per Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.”

Can a $1500 robot teach social skills? “Moxie” wants a chance
Do you live with a moody kid? Coming this fall... an expensive smart speaker-driven robot with an animated face, voice recognition and app designed to deliver the STAR Framework (for autism spectrum disorders). According to CTR contributor Scott Traylor, extremely expensive robots for this purpose are nothing new. Learn more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/2004.12962.pdf or read the preview in this issue.

The 2020 Bologna Children’s Book Fair will be online only
“In these days we are dealing with a genuine emergency that involves not only our country but, unfortunately, has an international dimension,” according to Antonio Bruzzone, General Manager of BolognaFiere, as he called for a cancellation of the 2020 Bologna Children’s Book Fair (BCBF). My own spring migration to central Italy started in 1997, when CTR was hired to design a children’s software award program. That award has changed over the years, but the core values are the same: a face-to-face meeting of independent jurors and a common quest for quality and innovation. While I won’t be attending the fair this year, I will be discussing the awards virtually via Zoom. It won’t be the same without our Proscecco toast, but at least we’ll keep the conversation going. Here’s how you can participate:  
1. Watch the juror’s video, at https://youtu.be/2O7Icp7OsNE
2. Attend the Dust or Magic Bologna virtual masterclass at 10:30 AM EST on May 6. Register at bitly.com/dustormagic2020bologna

Stuck at home? Take a Virtual Field Trip
I’ve been teaching a virtual field trip class at TCNJ this semester using a Macbook Pro running a Zoom Pro account, a $400 Oculus Quest, an iPad Pro connected to the Macbook via USB. We use Google Maps with Street View to start the trip, and then explore the area using YouTube and local images. I’ve discovered that it’s possible to screencast the view from the Oculus Quest https://www.oculus.com/experiences/quest/ so I can “take” my students to places I’ve visited such as Ann Frank’s home in Amsterdam. By combining VR with the TouchPress app “The Pyramids” I was able to give my class a first person narrated tour of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Other tours have included Facebook’s headquarters and guest lecture tours by invited guides from Redmond Washington and small New York studio apartment. Here are some links we’ve used: 
• Kutaku’s 10 places to visit in Japan https://bitly.com/34Twxil
• The Strong Museum of Play in Manhattan NY https://www.museumofplay.org/
• ISS Space Station https://youtu.be/06-Xm3_Ze1o
• 24 Hours in Singapore  https://youtu.be/M8auD-4bGk0
• 52 Places to Go Virtually from the New York Times https://nyti.ms/2Vr7crJ

Hey! Where are Google’s “Teacher Approved” apps?
I was excited to learn that the Google Play team was going to start listing “Teacher Approved” apps. Here’s the announcement by Mindy Brooks, a UX Director at Google Play --> https://bitly.com/2SjsYga. Sadly none were listed as of April 21, 2020. We also looked to see if any apps were labeled, or if the people making editorial decisions were, in fact teachers. All we could find was a link to a blog post published two years ago. The concept is a good one in theory, but Google gets a failing grade so far.

80 Federally Funded Learning Games to Download, Free
Our friend Edward Metz at the US Department of Education (Edward.Metz@ed.gov) has curated a list of federally funded learning games on display form the recent ED Games Expo. All of the entries are free due to the COVID crisis until the end of the school year, and all of the projects have been government funded with support from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Programs at ED/IES and other agencies, as well as through programs at IES and across government.  The developers have made these easy to access. In addition, Ed has created a series of virtual conferences on early learning (Tuesday, May 5); social studies (Thursday, May 7) and Science (Friday May 21).
Read the news --> https://bitly.com/3eOd878 or skim the list of games --> https://bitly.com/2RYpUWS.

Other CTREX news of interest
• Teaching college classes in the age of the coronavirus (a WOSU Radio Interview) at https://youtu.be/lvkDw4y-4dI
• CTREX app reviews in the New York Times.Read Apps for Quarantined Families at https://nyti.ms/3auNKj

*Animal Crossing New Horizons
*Bugs and Beyond
*Code the Robot Save the Cat
*Duolingo ABC
Eduka's World - English for Kids
Magic the Gathering (2020 Update)
MarcoPolo World School
Nighty Night Forest
*Outbreak Squad
*Sago Mini School
Scrub Club
*Super Simple

Publisher’s Note: Please note our new quarterly format.
Midwinter (KAPi Winners, CES roundup, March 1)
Spring/Summer (BolognaRagazzi Winners, May 1)
Early Fall (Back to School, September 1)
Late Fall (Dust or Magic News, November 1)
Our weekly reports will continue to be delivered to subscribers by email. Contact us with questions (info@childrenstech.com).