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Title: “Hey, hey, hey! It’s time to play.” Exploring and mapping children's interactions with ‘smart’ toys
Authors: Plowman, Lydia
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Editors: Goldstein, Jeffrey
Buckingham, David
Brougere, Gilles
Citation: Plowman L (2004) “Hey, hey, hey! It’s time to play.” Exploring and mapping children's interactions with ‘smart’ toys. In: Goldstein Jeffrey, Buckingham David, Brougere Gilles (ed.). Toys, Games and Media, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 207-223.
Keywords: toys
electronic toys
Issue Date: 2004
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum
Abstract: The chapter is based on findings from an 18-month ESRC/EPSRC-funded study ‘’Exploring and mapping interactivity with digital toy technology’. These words (“Hey, hey, hey! It’s time to play.”) were produced by one of the toys in this study. The toys appear like traditional soft toys, are 60 cm tall and have a vocabulary of about 4000 words, motors to provide movement and a ROM chip so they respond to inputs such as the hand, toe or ear being squeezed. The toys were targeted at children ages four to eight and are based on Arthur and his sister D.W., two aardvark characters from the popular Marc Brown stories. The toys ask questions, suggest games and can also be used in conjunction with compatible CD-ROMs that feature language and number games. Playing with the toy and the software simultaneously requires a ‘PC pack’ accessory consisting of a radio transmitter that looks like a modem and connects to the computer’s game port. This increases the toy’s vocabulary to 10,000 words so that it will ‘talk’ to the child, commenting on their interaction with the software and offering advice and encouragement. Whilst engaged in the software activities, children are able to elicit help and information from the toy by squeezing its ear. If children have difficulty progressing through a game, or persist in making the same mistake, the toy reminds them of this. Used together, the child does not interact solely with the computer but also interacts with the toy (described as an ‘interactive learning partner’ on the box) which, in turn, interacts directly with the computer and mediates the child’s actions. If the child plays with a friend the interaction possibilities are multiplied. These multiple interactions and children’s perceptions of the relationship between the computer screen interface and the toy interface were a focus of the research, particularly the new form of interface presented by the toy. This chapter describes different patterns of interaction and mediation, particularly in the context of children’s homes (12 children, average age of 6:2), although the study also included after school clubs (22 children, average age of 5:5) and a reception classroom (32 children, average age 4:7). We looked at interaction between children, toy and computer and between children and adults and/or peers, with different combinations of toy and/or software and for both individuals and pairs of children. The toys have raised concerns about whether they are too structured for imaginative play, whether children attribute human psychology to the toys and the toys’ role in learning. These concerns, along with the broader issue of whether young children should be using technologies at all, have mainly been prompted by lobbyists rather than illuminated by academic research. This chapter addresses some of these concerns in the light of this empirical study.
Rights: The publisher has not responded to our queries therefore this work cannot be made publicly available in this Repository. Please use the Request a Copy feature at the foot of the Repository record to request a copy directly from the author; you can only request a copy if you wish to use this work for your own research or private study.
Type: Part of book or chapter of book
Affiliation: Education

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