and other learning strategies come together in Warner Bros. and Sesame Street Workshops’
Once Upon A Monster to provide young children educational video game play that also has promising implications for children with disabilities.
The Sesame Street Workshop was founded by Joan Ganz Cooney and LLoyd Morrisett in the early 1970’s when these pioneers in technology and learning set out to create a television series that would both entertain and educate children. Sesame Street, revolutionary at the time of its inception, incorporated research related to how children learn as the foundation of its content. Many decades later this television program remains a preferred choice among young children and their parents as well as on the many platforms its content inspires: full-length movies, DVDs, books, video games and more.
(Herr-Stephenson, et al., 2013 p. 1).”
The Kinect controller recognizes the whole body movements of the player. Using these whole body functional movements such as running in place or jumping, gestures such as pointing and waving and speech, the player enters a simulated world that is animated and includes Sesame Street’s beloved friends- Elmo and Cookie Monster. The Kinect controller, along with other features of this game, allows the player to use their senses: visual, auditory and kinesthetic to immerse themselves in a virtual world. This experience leads to a sense of embodiment for the player; the player then feels and acts as if they are actually in this Sesame Street world and interacting with the characters themselves. Anna demonstrated evidence of this feeling of embodiment when she talked directly to the television, and the characters saying, “This is fun guys!” or “Wait for me!”
The absence of a hand held game controller, and the use of the players body in its place, made it easy for Anna to quickly learn how to operate the game. If the task required the character to jump, Anna jumped. If a task was completed and the digital storybook needed the page turned to begin a new task, Anna used the same gesture of the turning a page in a physical book.
Anna initially struggled with maintaining the appropriate distance away from the Kinect sensor. A square on the floor was created with masking tape that then helped her identify the optimal position for game play in front of the Kinect sensor and reduced her initial frustration with the game.
Once Upon A Monster, uses digital a storybook format to provide a narrative that imbeds video game play in the form of “mini games”. A new character named Marco needs help getting to his own birthday party. Cookie Monster, Elmo and Anna, luckily, were there to help him get there.
Does it then lend additional support or considerations for
children with disabilities?
(Rose & Meyer, 2000).
Transmedia done well, as Jenkins suggests (Herr-Stephenson, et al., 2013) offers children multiple points of entry. Once Upon a Monster offers children the opportunity to play with Elmo and Cookie Monster in a virtual world. But, children likely have significant experience with these characters long before they play this game through Sesame Street television viewing, its many published books, DVDs, full length movies and even toys or stuffed animals. It provides children multiple opportunities to learn both from and more importantly with its content. Children are not blank slates or empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge; instead they are active participants in creating knowledge and learning (Vygotsky, 1985). Anna immediately related to the characters and the virtual Sesame Street world because she entered the game play with existing background knowledge. She was also familiar with the script of a birthday party from her past experience both having parties of her own as well as attending the parties’ of others.
Westendorp, et al. (2002) conducted a study that compared 104 children with Learning Disabilities with 104 typically developing children to examine if there were specific relationships between two subsets of gross motor skills (locomotor skills and object-control skills) and different domains of academic performance. Results revealed a statistically significant relationship between gross motor skills (locomotor specifically) and reading; the poorer the reading scores the poorer the gross motor skills. This study and those like it lend support to the idea that the mind and the body have a reciprocal relationship and influence each other thus, embodied learning. Therefore, the embodied learning that is inherent in Once Upon A Monster provides students with disabilities multiple opportunities to work on the motor skills, language and cognitive skills, necessary for later academic success.
Anna played the game for three hours, a testament to its ability to engage her. But, more important, was its ability to motivate her to engage in language, cognitive and learning tasks that were not initially easy for to complete. She was asked to follow novel complex directions such as, “Dress the monster in the outfit that matches the color of the flag it is holding”. She was asked to engage in complex motor tasks that required her to cross midline, use both of her hands simultaneously or engage in two actions simultaneously such as running in place while reaching to the left and the right to pick flowers for points. She was asked to do cognitive tasks such as sortingt items such as trash for the recycling bin or the landfill.
In my role as a therapist, I provide the scaffolding or support necessary for children to improve their existing skills or gain new ones.
(Herr-Stephenson, et al., 2013 p. 7).”
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