Guest blog by Tracy Cooper of Scottish Book Trust.
Books and apps can be, at their best, fantastic, life enhancing and good for you. Both can engage families and inspire creativity, imagination and fun family bonding time. But how do we know which is better? Can we even compare books and apps to each other?
But there’s a huge disparity on the quality of available apps, and it can be difficult to know which one to choose. You might be able to get a preview, but until you purchase or download the app in full, you might not know it’s full content and potential. Like books, there is an overwhelming choice. With a book, it feels a bit easier to flick through, check its content first, and see if the book will appeal to you and your child.
Whose voices are we listening to when we discuss what makes a good app or digital book? Do all young children have access? Can you explore digital books when you’re at the library?
Apps are sometimes free, but if you want to avoid adverts you’ll need to buy them to have control of the technology. If that’s the case, then knowledge of children’s technology experience and preferences is likely to come from families who can afford to enjoy apps.
Technology, like paper and ink, does what we (and that’s usually adults) want it to. Although in different ways, the experience of the story can be manipulated and controlled by both adults and children. But depending of the type of app you’re exploring, can it be more or less restrictive than a book? Likewise, are books more restrictive than apps?
Classic children’s picture books are those that expect the reader to invent and imagine, to recreate the story out loud or in their mind. Great books make connections with children’s emotions, tap into children’s experiences and create new ones.
And a classic app? How do we judge that? Does it leave you space to create or does it fill the gap?
A book with the words ‘la la la’ or ‘baa, baa, baa’ makes you, the reader, make choices about how to make those sounds. Do you sing? Do you imitate a sheep? You – adult or child – have to recreate sounds for yourself. How you interpret ‘la’ or ‘baa’ will depend on the pictures you see alongside them, but will rely on your own ideas about singing or sheep.
If an app turns those words into sounds for you, which you hear by pressing the picture of an animal or a face, you may be momentarily entertained, but the imaginative space to create something new has been filled for you by an app designer who is more excited by what’s technically possible than what creative design can unleash. You’re at the disposal of the app designer’s interpretation.
An app can bring a voice and a sound which you may struggle to vocalise. Children with limited mobility can also enjoy the freedom to explore the story at their own pace. Being able to control virtual turning of pages rather than having to have an adult do it for you brings freedom.
And for an adult with literacy difficulties an app that can read out and highlight words can make story sharing with a child more accessible and appealing. Parents don’t need to worry about their ability level, but instead can focus on relaxing and enjoying the story with their children.
The challenge for all book-inspired or story sharing apps is to recreate the space for the reader to bring their own creativity and interpretation to the experience. And designers need to ensure that those with communication difficulties don’t miss out.
Next time you or your child enjoy a few bells and whistles when you share an app think about your own contribution to that experience. Did you need to bring your imagination to help create that digital story world?
An app could never replace a book, but a book shouldn’t replace an app either. Children need to get to grips with digital technology and interactive storytelling apps are a great place to start. It’s about what the user brings to each experience, and sharing these experiences together can be very rewarding.
If you’ve the technology, then you might want to browse a few apps and test out your critical skills. Scottish Book Trust have a few recommendations for you:
As does children’s author Chris Haughton http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/jan/04/top-10-book-and-bookish-apps-for-children-chris-haughton
And cbeebies, where apps are free! has some good advice: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/grownups/toddlers-and-tablets
Join us on Thursday, 25th February 2016 from 7:30pm-11pm for our 'Spring Into Action' event when Scottish Book Trust will be our guest speakers.
Tickets available here: www.eventbrite.co.uk
Venue: First floor, The Beehive Inn, 20 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, EH1 2JU
For a while now we have wanted to do an article focusing on character design. A slightly closer look at what the role of character designer involves. As animation audio guys, it's quite interesting for us to look at the beginning of the process as we typically come in at the very end. So, with that in mind we decided to speak to one of the UK's best emerging talents in the character design game, Ryan Adams...
Article originally appears on Bigmouth Audio's blog: www.bigmouthaudio.co.uk
Amy Holdsworth, Lecturer in Film and Television Studies, University of Glasgow.
Karen Lury, Professor of Film and Television Studies, University of Glasgow
We are based in Film and Television Studies at the University of Glasgow and over the last twelve months have been talking a lot (as academics are prone to do) between ourselves, with other academics across the UK and with colleagues in the Children’s Department at BBC Scotland about different notions and practices of care in relation to Children’s Media. What does it mean to ‘care for’ or ‘care about’ the production and the audience of children’s media? How does the audience translate that sense of care? And how does children’s media exist as part of a network of caring relations between and within families, homes and communities? For example, we might think of the ways in which the ‘Bedtime Hour’ on CBeebies is integrated into the rhythms and routines of family life offering a structure for a transitional (and potentially difficult and anxious) time in the child’s day.
Certainly within the context of a public service broadcasting there is a clear tradition of an explicit philosophy of caring and nurturing. The BBC – often seen as the ‘sister’ national institution to the NHS - is undergoing a review of its funding and charter through which its fundamental role as the ‘carer’ or nurturer of the national audience is being interrogated by a hostile Conservative government, with cuts threatening the provision of dedicated Children’s channels. For this and other reasons we feel that discussions of ‘care’ have a political agenda – to value care as a material and as an aesthetic practice, and to describe how and where ‘care’ happens.
Currently our research has begun to explore two particular themes: Firstly, inspired by Katie Morag’s relationship with Grannie Island in the CBeebies hit series Katie Morag we are particularly interested in looking at the way in which television programmes made for younger audiences in the British context have explored inter-generational relationships and we consider how closely aligned the very young and the very old are – particularly in their relationship to a domestic medium such as television. This is an alliance we’d like to explore further through research into the use of television as a ‘technology of care’ within the lives of its audiences at either end of the life course.
The second research theme investigates the provision of media content in the UK for children with disabilities. Amy’s early work on this theme explores the implicit and explicit rhetorics of ‘care’ within the remit and content of CBeebies through an analysis of the series Something Special. She hopes to extend this research to address the work of independent producers and commercial broadcasters and the use of children’s media by audiences with disabilities and their families.
It is our hope that this short introduction to some of our research interests and questions might spark a conversation amongst the members of this network to think about the role of care and caring within their own practice and in the consumption of children’s media. We hope that this network might offer a forum to start this conversation and that it could lead to a productive collaborations (in the future) between Film and Television Studies at the University of Glasgow and the children’s media sector in Scotland.
We hope to be at the next network meeting in November but if you’d like to share any thoughts on these questions and themes please get in touch (email: Amy.Holdsworth@glasgow.ac.uk).
As one rather eager founding member of Children's Media Network Scotland, excited at the prospect of both attending the first ever BAFTA Children's Question time in Scotland and getting the chance to put names to faces of the newly signed up CMNS directory entries, I was maybe a bit too keen to locate the BAFTA event as I mounted the golden staircase of The Corinthian Club, Glasgow, on Thursday 14th May. So much so, that along with the first founding member Mick Cooke (the other being Steve Scott who was in Canada enjoying the Rocky mountains at the time) we found ourselves blindly walking into what we thought was the BAFTA venue, straight past a desk full of dental implants and false teeth (oblivious) and sitting ourselves down to a screen full of gnashers, not of the Beano variety! Looking around we very quickly realised this was not the panel for the BAFTA QT and made a hasty exit in search of the correct venue.
Quite a hilarious start to the night, but apt too since our new CMNS website page boasts a wonderful picture of the real Gnasher himself!
How easy it is to take a wrong turning and end up in the wrong place. I'm so glad I didn't miss the event. I felt that the night at the Corinthian was the start of an exciting brand new journey for children's media in Scotland and a case of being in the right place at the right time. Hopefully you felt the same.
Our huge thanks must go to the Question Time panel for contributing so informatively and to Lisa Prime and Jude MacLaverty from BAFTA for organising this event. The evening gave us much to think about and hopefully challenged us to make the most of the opportunities facing us in Scotland whilst inspiring us to become even more creative in overcoming any obstacles we might face. Here's hoping for another return event soon, there have already been suggestions made.
With the CMNS hat on, apologies to those who we maybe didn't get a chance to talk with afterwards and to any who didn't get to mingle with the people they wanted to mingle with. Generally though it seemed a great opportunity to meet up and to hear a little about each other's take on the children's media industry in Scotland ... to hear what you're up to, the struggles you are facing but also your encouragements and your hopes for the future. It was great to meet those new to the industry and those with many years of experience.
The general consensus seemed to be that we need events like this to spur each other on, pick each other's brains and to possibly look at ways of collaborating in the future. The potential is there and hopefully the months to come will be a chance for things to happen. There are some more dates for your diary below. Meanwhile if you are out and about at any other conferences over the summer months, please drop us a line; we would love to hear your take on events and share it with others via the website.
Have a great summer and hopefully see you again soon!