The smartest thing about Brain Age…

Posted by dkidwell on June 15th, 2006 — Posted in parenting, reading

I finally got a copy of “Brain Age: Train you Brain in Minutes a Day!” Nintendo is doing bundle promotions with Best Buy and Circuit City where Brain Age is included with the purchase of DS Lite. (Yay, Father’s Day!)

On the last page of the Brain Age manual, is the most intelligent and refreshing thing I’ve seen anywhere in quite a while. Brain Age includes readings from the canon of English Literature. Apparently reading aloud arouses a tremendous amount of activity in your brain. That alone should be good news to parents who read to their kids – it’s good for both of you! But it’s not the reading that is so remarkable. Rather, it’s the literature they chose. They did not back down from classics that are considered controversial and have been placed on lists of banned books. Instead, they included a comment about it, and the list of books from which they selected excerpts.

This list itself is wonderful, and below is the content from pg 49 of the Brain Age manual. Bold and italics are mine, and * denotes literature that has been banned, supressed or censored by legal authorities.

Works used in “Reading Aloud”

Some of the works excerpted here contain language and themes that may be considered controversial to some users. However, we have chosen to present them as they originally appeared, and we ask you to understand their context in the greater canon of English literature.

Louisa May Alcott: Little Women
Sherwood Anderson: Winesburg, Ohio
Jane Austen: Emma
Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility
Ambrose Bierce: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
William Wells Brown: Clotelle: ATale of Southern States
Lewis Carroll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Kate O’Flaherty Chopin: The Awakening
Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness
James Fenimore Cooper: The Last of the Mohicans
Stephen Crane: The Red Badge of Courage
Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe
Charles Dickens: AChristmas Carol
Charles Dickens: Great Expectations
Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities
Fredrick Douglass: My Bondage and My Freedom
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Lost World
Alexandre Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo
George Eliot: Middlemarch
*George Eliot: Silas Marner
Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays—First Series
Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones
Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter
O. Henry: The Gift of the Magi
Washington Irving: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Henry Jacobs: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written
by Herself
Henry James: The Turn of the Screw
Abraham Lincoln: The Gettysburg Address
* Jack London: The Call of the Wild
Jack London: To Build a Fire
Jack London: White Fang
Herman Melville: Bartleby the Scrivener
Herman Melville: Moby Dick
Thomas Paine: The American Crisis
Edgar Allan Poe: The Cask of Amontillado
Edgar Allan Poe: The Pit and the Pendulum
Edgar Allan Poe: The Tell-Tale Heart
Samuel Richardson: Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded
* Mary Shelly: Frankenstein
Laurence Sterne: The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman
Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson: Treasure Island
Bram Stoker: Dracula
Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Jonathan Swift: Gulliver’s Travels
Henry David Thoreau: Walden
Anthony Trollope: The Warden
*Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
*Mark Twain: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Mark Twain: AConnecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Booker T. Washington: Up from Slavery: An Autobiography
H. G. Wells: The Time Machine
H. G. Wells: The War of the Worlds
Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray
* The Constitution of the United States of America
The Declaration of Independence of the
United States of America

I found the banned books listed here.

Gamer mom wonders how to get her youngest son to read

Posted by dkidwell on February 1st, 2006 — Posted in ages 4-8, parenting, reading

My youngest son is 6 and is struggling with 1st grade reading and math. Those two are likely related – he doesn’t read the instructions for the math, and doesn’t recall words that he just wrote. Maybe it’s what his teacher called ‘academic scaffolding.’ If so, he’s likely to just grown right through it, and retention will just come to him.

Waiting isn’t a good approach, however. So instead, Gamermom is schemeing up a way to get her little one engaged in reading. Approach it from his interests…

Last year, over Spring Break, we found an innovative way to use World of Warcraft to teach him letters and letter combinations. He would sit on a computer behind me logged on as one of our characters. I’d sit on my machine and use the in game page function to send him letters and letter combos.

Our chats looked alot like this:

Huncamunca pages: “A”
Huncamunca pages: “a”
Huncamunca pages: “a”
Huncamunca pages: “E”
Huncamunca pages: “e”
Huncamunca pages: “e”

He would call out the letter I paged with all the excitement that only a 5 year old can.

For a week, we worked through all of the letters and beginning letter combos:

Huncamunca pages: “th”

His teacher called me at work the week following Spring Break. “What did you do with George? His progress is remarkable?”

Well, I explained that we played a computer game together and she responded with “Well, whatever you did, do it every night!”

Yes, my son’s teacher encouraged us to play WoW every night. Lots of arm twisting involved there.

We graduated over the summer to spelling out the name of monsters in the game. The quicker he spelled them out, the faster I’d attack. We died many times, but in the end, he got really good at it.

We aren’t playing WoW currently, and we’ve taken that technique as far as it could go. Now I need something new….got any ideas for how to teach your child to read in games? Stay tuned and I’ll let ya know what we come up with.

Animal Crossing: Wild World

Posted by dkidwell on December 28th, 2005 — Posted in Animal Crossing, Nintendo DS, reading

As I type this I’m in Tag mode waiting to see if my Nintendo WiFi finds anyone online to play…so far, the playground is looking pretty lonely…

But, the game is great. All that you might have experienced in the original GameCube version, but with some great additions.

So far, differences we’ve noticed:

  1. You don’t have to send fossils off in the mail to have them identified. The museum curator has been certified to id fossils and can handle the whole thing for you. Much faster and makes for early revenue generation!
  2. The observatory is new – take a look through the telescope and create your own constellations. Very nice.
  3. Tag Mode – but I can’t tell you what that is, because while I’ve sat there for the last 20 minutes, I haven’t actually seen anyone.
  4. WiFi – it was incredibly easy to set up the Wifi to use our home wireless router. Dectected it right off and it was technically a no brainer. Now, since I haven’t actually been able to play with anyone. I’m not sure what I’ve gained by ease of set up….stay tuned.

Nintendo & Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age?

Posted by dkidwell on December 10th, 2005 — Posted in daughters, interface design, Nintendo DS, Nintendogs, reading, technology

I just read an older post on Engadet theorizing about a Nintendo Communication Revolution: Nintendo DS wireless hub trick up its sleeve? – Engadget – www.engadget.com

The notion in a nutshell – the Nintendo DS has 802.11b wireless, but what if it acted as both a device and a hub? Allowing you to lilypad DS systems – creating organic gaming network? All wifi geek obstacles aside, I loved this idea for one reason…

What if you wanted to do something really visionary…

What if you…

  • created a system that appealled to little girls and young women in a way that no other system had, just through it’s form factor.
    [Nintendo DS doesn't simply have 2 screens - it has a whole new interaction dynamic.]
  • launched a killer app that was ‘best of breed’ (forgive the pun’ of all the artificial companion, virtual pet apps. [Nintendogs is selling out in the UK and you can't buy the Best Friends Bundles in retail stores in the US.]
  • bundled the app and device into hot Christmas sellers right before parents are most likely to shell out the ~$150 price point.

Suddenly you have a high density of some of the most agile communicators on the planet. A substrate for something particularly fantastic. A entrance point to a highly lucrative and as yet, virutally untapped market.

Maybe the DS isn’t Nintendo’s trojan horse into a brave new world of girl gamers. But man…what if it was?

BTW, if this post was at all interesting and you haven’t read , “Diamond Age” by Neal Stephenson, maybe you should.