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Reviews as of Oct 27, 2008 - 8681

Previous issues (click a cover for a closer look)

10/27/2008 Dust or Magic is full. Dates for next year are Nov. 1-3, 2009

10/8/2008 The October issue ships tomorrow

10/7/2008 Dust or Magic has 4 seats left.

9/1/2008 The September issue contains a really fun version of LittleClickers, plus a back to school technology checklist. Subscribers, log in to download the issue as a PDF.

8/4/08 We've managed to squeeze 76 titles into the August issue, including highlights from NECC and E3 '08.

7/26/2008 Sadly -- Dr. Randy Pausch, a guy who cared about empowering children with technology, died yesterday.

7/1/08
The July issue of CTR (pictured to the right) has shipped, our 100th issue.

6/21/2008 New to CTR? Get last month's issue, in PDF format, free! Start downloading the PDF.

May 2008

6/16/2008 Don't miss So Young and So Gadgeted by CTR Editor Warren Buckleitner, in the June 12 issue of The New York Times. He applies a developmental framework (Piaget's) to things like Leapsters and cell phones.

6/14/2008 Debra Lieberman (Games for Health), Kathleen Kramer (Fisher-Price), Jim Gray (Leapfrog) and LEGO Universe manager Mark William Hansen will be speaking at Dust or Magic '08. Register online here.

6/9/2009
Beat the heat with some cool reviews! The June issue (right) is now live for subscribers, with 58 new commercial children's interactive media products.

6/6/2008 SKIP THE LOGIN PAGE! We are pleased to announce that you can now bypass our log in page, to offer your employees or patrons direct, one-click IP-based searching of our database, for prices as low as $150! More information.

5/11/2008 As promised, here's the demonstration of the LiveScribe -- a recording of Connie Yowell, Director of Education at the MacArthur Foundation during the Cooney Center event last friday.

5/8/2008 We just posted the May issue. Print subscribers, we start mailing tomorrow. You can watch a YouTube demo of Boom Blox.

5/6/2008 Like Taking Candy from a Baby: How Young Children Interact With Online Environments is now available from Consumer Reports WebWatch. Authored by CTR Editor Warren Buckleitner (a WebWatch advisor), the report combines ethnographic techniques with YouTube, to make the case that when it comes to young children's (ages 2-8) online content, we all need to take a close look at what's going on when a young child sits down with a browser. Download a PDF of the report here.

4/7/2008 Remembering Dith Pran
by Warren Buckleitner. In the early spring of 2001, David Pogue interviewed me for an article for the New York Times. A few days later, a staff photographer stopped by our office in Flemington for the story. That photographer made a lasting impression. My wife, Ellen Wolock remembers a wiry, energetic guy, with a huge smile that exuded joy. After every picture, he'd turn his new digital camera around so the children could see the viewfinder, and marvel at his work, saying "New York Times photographer -- very good." At one point, he took off his shoes and started jumping on chairs, barefoot, for a better angle. Here's the photo he snapped that day, while standing on my desk.

Dith Pran

Little did we know that we should've been the ones taking pictures of him. As he left, he handed me a card with the URL www.dithpran.org. It was only then that we realized that we had just met the famous Cambodian refugee whose story was portrayed in the movie "The Killing Fields." That huge smile that had charmed us was the same that had convinced the Khmer Rouge soldiers to allow the New York Times reporters to help tell the world of the horrors that were going on in Cambodia from 1975-79, when 1.5 million people died. Dith Pran died last week of pancreatic cancer. But his joy of living, despite all that he had suffered in his life, is a reminder that we should not take our freedom for granted. In Dith Pran's words, when it comes to any form of genocide, "once is too many."

3/17/2008 Dora and her older cousin Diego are featured in a new line of games from 2Kplay. These, and 35 other new releases are covered in our March issue.

2/25/2008 We've discovered more titles that bend the definition of Educational Technology, once again.

1/2/2008 Get Children's Technology Review for less than one poorly selected Wii game -- just $30 for one year (12 issues, in PDF format, no database or back issue access). Order online or call 800-993-9499 (9-3:00 EST)

12/17/2007 The December issue has been sent to subscribers. Happy holidays, and we'll see you next year!

11/28/2007 Curious about Rock Band and some of the latest music titles? See the New York Times article by CTR Editor Warren Buckleitner: Your Rock and Roll Fantasy.

11/8/2007 Thanks to everyone who made Dust or Magic 2007 happen this year. For those of you who missed it, have a look at the wiki for notes, movies and brainsprints.

4.8.07 The study Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products: Findings from the First Student Cohort is important to read, as it is sure to become a reference point in discussions of the role computers can play in our classrooms. The key conclusion is "Test scores were not significantly higher in classrooms using selected reading and mathematics software products." Here's a few points to keep in mind:

1. They tested 15 products, but there is no listing of scores by product. So which ones are the best or the worst? That will come next year, when the part two is released. This will be more useful.

2. The scores didn't go down in the technology group. So another way to read the conclusion is that the technology solutions are equally as effective as the traditional methods. Which is easiest to implement and/or most affordable?

3. Standardized tests were used to measure the outcome. Is this the correct yardstick? Have a look at the study and make your own conclusions.

We're familiar with most of the products that were used in the study. We're pleased that they are being tested (after all, we certainly test our students enough). We also feel that many of these products could use interactive techniques much better than they do. Very often, the content is less than interactive and rarely wanders from the multiple-choice format. WE CAN DO MUCH BETTER with the interactive curriculum being sold to our schools.

The Current Cover

Children's Technology Review
October 2008
Volume 16, No. 10, Issue 103

Get Children's Technology Review monthly for $30/year. Subscribe online and download the current issue.

Editorial: Spore’s Unpleasant Surprise

By the time you read this, Spore will have been out for a full 30 days; enough time to know that our testers love it. Spore’s concoction of creativity and creative problem solving has raised the bar for game design, to be sure (see the full review on page 15).

Warren Buckleitner Daughters

But our 4.7 star rating is in direct odds with just over 3000 reviews at Amazon.com, where the average rating is just under 1.5 stars. A glance at the comments reveals that the discontent is due to unclear labeling. Spore is one of the first consumer games with DRM, or digital rights management, a fact that should be better disclosed in the product description. What this means is while you’re installing the program, a hidden bit of code is sent to the publishers home server to verify that just one copy of the game is online. This isn’t a problem, unless you happen to have a second Spore-loving daughter. DRM is common with professional software packages like Adobe PhotoShop or Microsoft Office, but until Spore, it has rarely been implemented in mainstream consumer games. The ratings at Amazon reflect the feelings of parents who are tired of such installation surprises that tend to error in the favor of the publisher.

Other highlights found in this issue include Crammer, a new study aid from LeapFrog designed to sync with LeapFrog’s new Learning Path, plus the return of some old familiar classics on new platforms, including Math Blaster on the Nintendo DS and Pajama Sam on the Wii. We were also
pleased to discover a site/book hybrid at www.miza.com, and if you like MMOs, be sure to try Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow (www.pixiehollow.com), which now is open for flying. Finally, this month’s www.LittleClickers.com column, on page 4, links to sites that deal with a rather sticky subject—Bubblegum.

We hope you enjoy the issue,

Warren Buckleitner

Note: Since the Spore’s launch, Electronic Arts has “increased the number of installs from three to five, and we're expediting a system that will allow consumers to move authorizations to new machines,” according to Nikki Flynn, a Spore/Maxis Studio Publicist (By email, 10/8/2008).

New reviews or future releases on Youtube: Ultimate WALL•E— http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd7TswkfAng Line Rider— http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHayztgYVho

Reviews in the Oct. 2008 issue:
Active Life Outdoor Challenge
Animal Rescue
Avatar: The Last Airbender - Into the Inferno
Babysitting Mania
Backyard Sports Baseball '09
BUZZ! Quiz TV
Clickables Fairies Collection
ConceptDraw MINDMAP 5
Crammer
Curriki (www.curriki.org)
Defendin' De Penguin
didj: Indiana Jones
Digimon World Chamionship
Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow (www.PixieHollow.com)
Disney Puzzle Family
Drawn to Life: SpongeBob Squarepants Edition
Dropcast
FaceBreaker
Freaky Creatures
Guitar Praise
Hardy Boys, The: Treasure on the Tracks
Huru Humi
i-Dog dance
iDance WALL•E
KidDesktop
Kidi Art Studio
KidThing
Kirby Super Star Ultra
LanguageLinks & Prepositions! Syntax Tests
LeapFrog Learning Path
LEGO Batman: The Videogame
Line Rider 2: Unbound
Lock's Quest
Lost in Blue: Shipwrecked
Madden NFL 09
Math Blaster in the Prime Adventure
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames
Mission in Space
Miza.com
MLB Power Pros 2008
Mother Goose Nursery ROMS: Volumes 1-4
My Dream Job Babysitter
My Dress-Up
My Make-Up
Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir
Naked Brothers, The: The Video Game
Nancy Drew: The Phantom of Venice
New International Track & Field
NHL 09
NHL 2K9
Order Up!
Pajama Sam in Don't Fear the Dark (Wii)
Poingo
Purr Pals
Quizilla (www.quizilla.com)
Robotic Arm Edge
Room Tech beingz Mood Lamp
Saving Planet Earth
SingStar Pop: Volume 2
Spore (Windows/Macintosh)
Spore Creatures (Nintendo DS)
Thomas & Friends: Special Delivery
TNA Impact!
Ultimate WALL•E
Wario Land: Shake It!
www.wumblers.com

From last month: A Back to School checklist...

Besides our overworked washing machine, what other technology is needed for back to school tasks (like homework?)
Of course that depends on the age of your child (for a general roundup, see my column in last week’s PARADE magazine) at
http://www.parade.com/articles/editions/2008/edition_08-24-2008/Parade_Picks). With my daughters now in middle and high school and me teaching a class at Rutgers, our home technology needs have increased. Here are the essential items on our Back to School checklist for our house.

1. Google. We each use it continually, along with Facebook.com, youtube, fanfiction.com, moodle and others.
2. Something to see Google on. Both daughters are old enough (13 and 16) to have their own Toshiba Satellites (about $700 each, from www.jr.com) running Vista, with 2 GB of RAM. We gather around a large (19”) iMac near the kitchen for editing videos, checking weather and class projects. Connected to the “big Mac” is a Canon ZR 800 mini-DV camcorder, a 500 MB hard drive
for backups. I use a MacBook.
3. Something to get Google to the computers. We pay $40/month for DSL service from Embarq and a wireless router in the basement that can reach every corner of the house.
4. Something to print papers. We have two printers on our network -- a low cost Brother laser printer ($230, www.tigerdirect.com) and an HP 6980 Inkjet ($160 from Staples). The Brother is used for longer black and white papers, the HP for color covers or just in case the Brother jams on a deadline. We buy ink from our local Cartridge World franchise (www.cartridgeworld.com).
5. Software for writing. The girls use Microsoft Works on their Toshibas but often finish and fine-tune projects on the big Mac, which has a copy of Microsoft Office (including PowerPoint and Excel). We added a USB hub so you don’t have to keep reaching in back to plug in a Flash drive. Each of us has our own folder for storing our “stuff.”
6. The Pulse Smartpen (www.livescribe.com). When my oldest daughter heads off to college, she’ll take one with her. I use one every day for taking notes and recording my bad jokes at lectures.
7. A 55 gallon drum of hair conditioner. Enough said.

 

 

FROM THE LAST ISSUE

Free editorial from August 2008:

Editorial: What's Next?
It’s amazing how the future sometimes snaps into focus. Like tea leaves, a glance at the 76 products in this issue provide an image of how our children’s futures will be affected by technology. I describe this with more detail on page 5, but here’s a preview. This fall, a high schooler can fill in the dots on a virtual SAT test on a Nintendo DS, with FutureU (in our next issue) or MySAT Coach on page 19. Or they’ll be able to relax with a game of Spore on their iPhone. Once the bus arrives at school, they’ll pull out their wireless tablet computer and sign into Pearson’s Envision Math (page 16) or their science lesson on ASU’s Adaptive Curriculum (page 12), both new types of web-delivered textbooks.  Parents at home are finding an increasing number of sites, like Professor Garfield (www.professorgarfield.org, page 10) that can playfully extend the school curriculum. 
After school, kids can play a chess-like game of history on their high-definition 1080p screen with Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution (page 24); a title that has migrated from the complexity of Windows to the simplicity of a game console. Or, they can take on their parents in Hasbro’s Family Game Night (Wii and PS2), a title that brings traditional board games like BattleShip to life. Little brothers and sisters can playfully explore school readiness concepts with more sophisticated TV toys, go sledding on their Wii Balance Board or take on mom in a wood chopping contest, with an axe that precicely mirrors your hand motions, thanks to the Wii MotionPlus. After many years of software watching, it’s fun to see the future start to happen.

Enjoy the issue.
Warren Buckleitner

Reviews and New Releases in This Issue Include
2Go PC
Active Life Outdoor Challenge
Adaptive Curriculum
All Star Cheer Squad
Animal Crossing: City Folk
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
Ben 10: Alien Force
Ben 10: Protector of the Earth
BigIQkids.com
Bob the Builder: Can-Do Zoo
Claymation Studio 2.0
Clear Creativity In the Classroom
Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force
Command & Conquer: Kane’s Wrath
Crazy Machines 2
Disney Create-A-Story
Dizzywood
DrawPlus X2: Graphics Studio
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
EnVision Math
Giggles: Computer Funtime for Baby - Nursery Rhymes
Goosebumps Horrorland
HotChalk.com
I SPY Treasure Hunt (Leapster)
Imagine: Master Chef
Imagine: Rock Star
iTeddy
Kid-Tough Portable DVD Player
Kidi Art Studio
Know Your USA 1.5
LittleBigPlanet
MatchMaster
miJam Pro Air Drummer
miJam Studio Mike
Monster Lab
My SAT Coach
MySims Kingdom
Nancy Drew: The Mystery of the Clue Bender Society
Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution 2
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom Fortress
NCAA Football 09
Net Nanny 5.5
Outwit!
PagePlus X3: Publisher Professional
Paws & Claws
Petz Crazy Monkeyz
Petz Dogz Fashion
PhotoPlus X2: Digital Studio
PixelJunk Eden
Professor Garfield (www.professorgarfield.org)
Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party
Rock Band Track Pack: Volume 1
Samba De Amigo
Secret Agent Clank
Sid Meier’s Civilization  IV: Colonization
Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution
Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution (DS)
Star Wars Force Unleashed
Teachermate Computer
The Tuttles: Madcap Misadventures
Ultimate Band
Ultimate I Spy (Wii)
Ultimate Wall-E
UltiMotion Swing Zone Sports
V.Smile Cyber Pocket
V.Smile: V-Motion Active Learning System
Venture Arctic
Viva Pinata Pocket Paradise
We Love Golf!
WebPlus X2: Website Maker
Wii MotionPlus
Wii Sports Resort
Wonder World Amusement Park
Zoo Hospital
Zoo Tycoon 2 DS

About Children's Technology Review

Children's Technology Review (CTR) is an ad-free, subscriber-supported web and print-based publication. It is designed to keep educators, parents and librarians informed on commercial interactive media products designed for children, aged birth- to 15-years. These are the products that children use for both fun and learning, either at home and/or at school. They include software, video games, interactive toys, web sites that a child might visit, and so on. From a theoretical perspective, CTR exists in the space between child development and interactive media. The Children's Software Finder(TM), our database of more than 8,000 reviews, has become a critical step in our core subscribers' purchasing-making decisions. It is published on the first business day of each month.

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