Posts tagged ‘Industry’

Intel unveils new Classmate PCs

New low-cost laptops, now targeted to U.S. schools as well, have larger screens and more storage

Intel’s new Classmate PCs–slated to go on sale this month for between $300 and $500–reflect the company’s growing efforts to sell computers equipped with its own chips to schools in developing countries, a battleground for technology companies because of the millions of people there just coming online.

But the target market for these low-cost laptops has expanded to include kids in the United States, too, as potential users of cheaper, stripped-down machines.

Author: eSchool News staff and wire service reports, 3rd April 2008

Full article available here.


April 10, 2008 at 4:59 pm Leave a comment

The Byron Review; Video Gaming Recommendations for Children

As we noted in our prior post, Dr. Tanya Byron, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, recently released an important set of E-safety recommendations, “Safer Children in a Digital World,” for children in the UK. Today we turn to her summary recommendations regarding video gaming.
Byron Review
Here again, the most compelling aspect of her research as well as her recommendations is the fact that she refrains from oversimplifying the matter. When it comes to the issue of video games, Byron calls upon the video game industry and parents to work collaboratively to ensure that children are provided access to games that are age-appropriate.Risk-Reward Nature of Technology
As was her methodology with Internet safety, Byron seeks a collaborative approach to children and the video game industry. In addition, she seeks to have assistance from the gaming industry to help restrict the access of games that are inappropriate for children. At the same time, she also calls on parents to do their part in the process.

In speaking about empowering children and keeping them safe, Byron turns to the following analogy. Noting that “children will be children – pushing boundaries and taking risks,” Byron offers, “at a public swimming pool we have gates, put up signs, have lifeguards and shallow ends, but we also teach children how to swim.”

Byron notes that technology offers extraordinary opportunities for children and young people as well as adults. As for video games, the researcher indicates that such games offer “a range of exciting interactive experiences for children.” At the same time, Byron specifies that some video games are in fact designed for adults.

Byron recognizes that the debate on ‘media effects’ and violent content in video games is divided. She also confirms the obvious, that Internet and gaming technology is moving so rapidly that it is not possible for research to keep up with the developments.
What is noteworthy about Byron’s work is she does head directly to the gray areas, the risks of potentially harmful or inappropriate content, that could have negative impacts on children. As we noted in our post about Drs. Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson and their research for Grand Theft Childhood, Byron is not ready to take a cause and effect position regarding video game play and antisocial behaviors in children. Byron states, “Overall, I have found that a search for direct cause and effect in this area is often too simplistic.”

At the same time the researcher does not give a free pass on the topic, stating that it does “not mean that the risks do not exist.” Byron then moves correctly to another key element, that we must use our understanding of child development to “inform an approach that is based on the ‘probability of risk’ in different circumstances.”

What is so remarkable about Byron’s review is that she recognizes the sheer complexity of this issue. “We need to take into account children’s individual strengths and vulnerabilities, because the factors that can discriminate a ‘beneficial’ from a ‘harmful’ experience online and in video games will often be individual factors in the child. The very same content can be useful to a child at a certain point in their life and development and may be equally damaging to another child.”

In addition, Byron notes, “Very few people are genuinely addicted to video games but lots of time spent playing can result in missed opportunities for other forms of development and socialization.” In other words, concerns must develop when these gaming technologies negatively impact children at the expense of other activities and family interaction.

Byron does list some of the prevailing concerns regarding video game play. She notes, “There is some evidence of short term aggression from playing violent video games but no studies of whether this leads to long term effects.” She also states, “There is a correlation between playing violent games and aggressive behavior, but this is not evidence that one causes the other.”

Byron ReviewHer entire approach centers upon age appropriate gaming and reveals yet another critical element. “Games are more likely to affect perceptions and expectations of the real world amongst younger children because of their less developed ability to distinguish between fact and fiction (due to the immaturity of the frontal cortex).”

As for the interactive nature of games, Byron states the interactive nature may “also have a more profound effect than some other media, again especially amongst younger children (e.g. up to around 12 years old) who tend to use narratives to develop their values and ideas and who learn through ‘doing’.”

At the same time, Byron is not ready to castigate video games or refer to them as the source of all that is not well during adolescence. States Bryon, “These games offer new opportunities for social interaction between children and there are a number of potential benefits for children and young people from playing video games, including cognitive and educational gains and simply having fun. Interestingly the evidence to prove these benefits can be as contested as the evidence of negative effects.”

Ensuring Age Appropriate Gaming Opportunities
Byron calls for targeted efforts from the gaming industry to increase parental understanding of age-ratings and the available controls on gaming consoles. Byron recommends a new, hybrid classification system for games. She seeks to have the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the Pan European Game Information, under the auspices of the UK Council for Child Internet safety, “work together to develop a joint approach to rating online games and driving up safety standards for children and young people.” She proposes that the new combined BBFC and PEGI logo be prominently placed on the front of all games (R18, 18,15,12,PG and U) with industry equivalent logos across all age ranges placed on the back of all boxes (ratings regarding violence, language, sexual activity, drugs activity, etc.).

Byron also seeks to have greater efforts to enforce age ratings at points of sale to ensure that children have access only to age appropriate materials. Byron suggests that games with ‘12′ ratings and up carry legal requirements that such games cannot be sold to someone under the required age. At the same time, Byron calls on both the video game and advertising industries to comply with age-appropriate message targeting that matches the video game age classifications.

I Stock PhotoIn addition, Byron wants to see “console manufacturers work together to raise standards in parental controls on consoles, delivering clear and easy to use prompts and better information for parents on where console controls meet agreed upon standards.”

Parents Must Also Parent
The researcher notes that even concerned parents sometimes still buy adult games for their children. The rationale? “Either for a ‘peaceful life’ or because it is ‘only a game’.”

Byron notes that parents must be aware of the fact that some games are suitable only for adults. She writes of how many children she came across that had been allowed to play age 18+ video games despite the fact that some children were forbidden from watching films with that rating.

She further notes that parents must be educated about the parental controls available on game consoles. If the gaming industry is expected to produce consoles that provide specific controls regarding time of play, game ratings, et al, then parents must learn to engage the technology and enforce the use of that technology.

Lastly, there is no substitute for parental responsibility especially with respect to decision-making. We noted earlier Byron’s prophetic words, the “need to take into account children’s individual strengths and vulnerabilities. The very same content can be useful to a child at a certain point in their life and development and may be equally damaging to another child.”

Recognizing the differences in children is difficult. But ultimately that recognition will have to be the responsibility of parents, not the gaming industry.

Author: Tom Hanson, OpenEducation Blog, 2nd April 2008

Article available here.

April 6, 2008 at 10:44 am Leave a comment

Channel 4 sponsors Dare to Be Digital… Introduces education as a theme

Channel 4 has announced sponsorshop of the Dare to Be Digital summer game development competition. Announced here.

As part of their sponsorship (which apparently is for a significant sum of money to support the competition), a brief to develop games with an educational or serious ‘twist’ has also been provided.

Author: Daniel Livingstone, Learning Games Blog, 4th April 2008

Full article available here.

April 5, 2008 at 10:57 am Leave a comment

Nokia debuts mobile gaming system

Screenshot from Nokia N95, Nokia

Nokia expects to have about 60 games available by 2009

Nokia has lifted the veil on its revamped mobile gaming service known as N-Gage.

Visitors to the N-Gage website can download software that connects their phone to the handset maker’s growing library of games.

Nokia expects to have about 30 games available for playing on its higher end phones by the middle of 2008.

The launch of N-Gage marks one of the biggest moves by a mobile maker into the content market.

Author: BBC News, Technology, 4th April 2008

Full article available here.

April 5, 2008 at 10:42 am Leave a comment

Bullying Games

Games are, as we know, often picked on as being the cause of all that is wrong in modern society. When a McDonald’s chief blames games for obesity, we know that games come pretty low in the acceptability pecking order. And now the BBC has posted a piece about the new-edition of Bully being released (formerly released in the UK as Canis Canim Edit).

And it’s shocking stuff:

It features a teenager who adjusts to life at a new boarding school by harassing others, including teachers.
The abuse includes dunking pupils’ heads in toilets, photographing them naked and physically assaulting them.

Shocking indeed. In fact, given that the game has been playable since last year, I’m very disappointed that the BBC are happy to present the game as though the point of it is to become a bully and harass others – when as would be known to anyone who’s gone as far as actually reading a review of the game (a step the reporter ought to have taken), or possibly even play it, it’s pretty much the exact opposite…

Author: Daniel Livingstone, Learning Games Blog, 7th March 2008

Full article available here.

March 8, 2008 at 9:51 am 1 comment

Bully game ‘danger’ to children

A “Bully” computer game sends out the wrong signals and should be withdrawn from sale, say UK teachers.

Bully screenshot

Campaigners claim the game glorifies bullying

They are part of a global coalition concerned about the impact of the game, which has been released in new formats.

Bully: Scholarship Edition “trivialises and glorifies bullying in school”, say opponents from eight international teacher groups.

UK retailers say they will not act as censors and will continue to sell the game to children over the age of 15.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SCTA) are part of an international group which thinks the game could encourage bullying.

Although it carries a British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) 15 rating, campaigners fear Bully could get into the hands of much younger children.

The idea of a game that rewards bullies and those who engage in brutal and savage attacks is irresponsible in the extreme
Steve Sinnott, general secretary, NUT

The game, designed by US-based Rockstar Games and which goes on sale in the UK on 7 March, was originally launched in 2006 but has been updated for the new generation of games’ consoles – Xbox and Wii.

Author: BBC News, Education, 6th March 2008

Full article available here.

March 7, 2008 at 12:30 pm 2 comments

Enabling the Physically Challenged

IT today has brought ample technologies to enable people with visual, hearing or other impairments to compete equally with those who don’t. Here’s a walkthrough

A few weeks ago, TechShare India 2008 was held in Delhi, where prominent speakers put forward their vision on the role IT can play for the physically or visually challenged. The event was an eye opener for everyone, because it truly demonstrated how IT can help people with impairments lead their lives successfully. It made everyone present at the forum realize that a lot has changed since the days of Braille and Talking Libraries. With so much happening, we’ve decided to give you a peak into some of the key products and technologies that were showcased there.
The technological developments in this field mean that such people can now pursue tasks of their interest, be it education, entertainment or even employment, with more ease. In fact there are many organizations that have taken the initiative to provide employment to physically and visually challenged people; and hence have also pushed the IT industry to come up with more innovative and simpler solutions. Such developments have opened up large opportunities for physically and visually challenged people to choose and explore. This enthusiasm and urge to be independent by people with disabilities has prompted solution makers to develop solutions that are specifically meant for them and enable them to lead independent lives.

Before we talk about the technology and solutions on offer, we must first salute the sheer determination and will power of these people, as it’s easy to build a solution but to utilize it to the optimum level and push it to such an extreme, where it needs to be upgraded on a constant level, proves that these people can by no means be taken lightly. They want to lead a quality life and they know how to get it. They are not going to get bogged down with limitations of any kind.

Innovative products
We saw a plethora of solutions available for people with disabilities. These included everything from hardware gadgets, software, or even websites. Here’s a glimpse of what’s available:
IBM’s Easy Web Browsing: People with visual impairment can surf the web using this solution, wherein the content will be read out loud. It even allows a user to customize the size and color of the content as per convenience.

BarrierBreak Tech’s Flash based e-Learning framework: This helps organizations provide online training to people with disabilities.

Braille Mitra: A solution where an entire book in any Indian language can be stored in the display and pronounced line by line. It’s being used in many Indian libraries, where people with visual impairments can go and ‘read’ their favorite books.

Shree-lipi Braille: A software that converts text to Braille text sequences. Once it’s been converted, one can easily take an imprint on a Braille reader like Braille Mitra. There’s also a Braille printer that enables those with visual impairment to take a print out of their favorite book or even publish their own work.

JAWS: There are several screen readers like JAWS that convert text to speech and also read it out for you.

ORCA: An open source application that contains features like a speech synthesizer that supports Braille and a text magnifier. These devices provide visually impaired people the clarity they need to read and understand.

DOLPHIN Cicero: This solution enables you to turn your printed document into speech. Just put the printed document on a scanner and the software will translate it into speech, or into a large print.

Mobile Phone Magic: Mobile phones are used by everyone these days. However, due to their tiny screen sizes, it becomes difficult for visually impaired people to read them. Now, there is software available that enables them to understand the menu and listen to dial, missed and received calls along with voice prompt based navigation. Some of this software includes Mobilespeak, TALKS, and Call History.

Developments in Hardware
Besides the software domain, there are developments happening in hardware as well, by both international and Indian organizations So whether it’s a Palm top that allows visually impaired people a mobile environment with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and FM radio along with a Word Processor, File Manager, Web Browser, Email, MSN compatible messenger, or an image magnifier that comes with a 4.3� inch wide LCD and has the capability to zoom up to 28X the image size. So a visually impaired person can read the morning newspaper with an Image Magnifier as comfortably as any one else.

What’s more, people with physical disabilities can also drive all around their house with the help of a remote control operated wheel chair called Ostrich Pristine, which runs on battery.
There’s also a home automation solution to move the furniture at the click of a button. So, if a person can’t reach up to the top of a stack, they can instead press a button and move the stack downwards.

TechShare 2008 was indeed an eye opener with so many products and technologies. What was even more enthralling was the fact that many product demos were given by people who themselves suffered from some form of disability and had worked closely to develop the device.

We have come a long way from Braille solutions and are sure that in the coming years even more solutions would be made available in this domain.

Along with IT, all of us have a major role to play to ensure that the best of technology is delivered and newer technological breakthroughs are achieved to tap the un-quantified potential of these people.

Author: Saurangshu Kanunjna, 1st March 2008

March 3, 2008 at 10:05 am 2 comments

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The purpose of this blog is to provide insight into the impact of computer games and pop culture, and effective ways of incorporating the positive surplus into learning experiences.

Please feel free to add comments and email me with any queries. I am also interested in relevant project collaboration.

Name: Alexandra Matthews
Location: UK

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