Friday, June 02, 2006

Filling the Endless Summer Recess

Summer recess looming ahead, how to fill those endless days? Consider the Kindersite to not only stave of boredom but to provide fun with educational benefits.

The Kindersite provides a safe and secure online environment for young children and students of English.

The Kindersite Flyer is available from the Kindersite as a PDF file. The flyer can be posted to Notice Boards, sent by email as an attachment or printed and distributed to students to be passed on to parents.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Kindersite Survey of Users Now available

Recently the Kindersite carried out a initial survey of users of the website to start to understand how and who uses the Kindersite.

A large number of responses were obtained and an analysis has been completed.

The final analysis can be viewed as a PDF document that can be downloaded from the Kindersite.

Kindersite Flyer Available in Four Languages

Thanks to the help of volunteers the Kindersite free flyer is now available in four languges. English, Italian, Arabic and Hebrew.

These can be downloaded and printed from the

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Kindersite Free Flyers

The Kindersite has now added free flyers that can be downloaded and placed on notice boards or given to parents.

Just click on : download and print. They are available as Pdf files.

Soon we will be adding the flyer in additional languages.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Kindersite adds 24 more items of content

In line with the policy of constantly updating the Kindersite Project, a further 24 items of quality content have been added to the Kindersite.

There are 12 games, 9 songs and music and 3 new stories. These come from diverse sources across the globe and include some fantastic content from the acclaimed Toy Theater.

The Toy Theater content includes a spectacular item that features Drumming sequences, a must.

The Kindersite is a free resource on the Internet. Used by 11,500 schools in 137 countries as a favorite resource that can be taken home.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Finalist in the Stockholm Challenge

The Kindersite was recently informed that the project has won through to the finals, in the education category, of the Stockholm Challenge.

The Stockholm Challenge ( ) is a well established global networking program for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) entrepreneurs for over ten years. It continues to be a leader in demonstrating how information technology can improve living conditions and increase economic growth in all parts of the world. One of the main features of the Stockholm Challenge is the ICT prize, the Stockholm Challenge Award, which has attracted over 3000 projects over the years.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Disseminating Projects in the EU, A case study, ‘The Kindersite Project’

What is the Kindersite Project?
The Kindersite is a free resource on the Internet for the:
§ Introduction to technology for very young children
§ Introduction to English for any level
These missions are accomplished with 100s of items of rich, multimedia, graded, content in the form of games, songs and stories

The Kindersite primarily focuses on Content rather than how and where to use computers in education.

Today the Kindersite is a global resource in education, and for fun, for young children.
The site is being used as a resource within:
§ Preschool
§ Kindergarten
§ Early grades
§ Teaching of English –1st and 2nd language
§ Autistic spectrum
§ Deaf and hard-of-hearing

Kindersite Statistics
The Kindersite has between 500 to 1,300 users a day from around 50 countries. Over 9,400 schools have registered from 125 countries

This has been achieved with, zero funding, by voluntary work only

Why Specialist Dissemination
The Directorate-General of Education and Culture (D.G.) have made it very clear that they now expect professional level:
§ Valorization
§ Dissemination

Within dissemination this means bringing your project to the attention of the stated target group of your project. It is clear that the D.G. are asking for, ‘Value for Money’.

In my opinion, this means all your target group should be made aware of your project/resource/product and you must succeed in this task.

Dissemination is not just knowing who you want to target and delivering a suitable message to them, but actually having a wide, considered and effective methodology to put your message in front of that all target. The how of message delivery.

How Has the Kindersite Achieved Global Usage?
The Kindersite has not had the financial resources to carry out a paid dissemination campaign, leaflets, post or advertising but has relied on Internet channels ONLY.

Four strategic methodologies have been combined:
1. Positioning – ensuring that the message speaks to the target group
2. Communication – delivering a clear and readable message
3. Dissemination – delivering the message to the target group
4. Analysis and feedback – understanding who your visitors are and communicating with them

I must stress that these areas are very closely linked. For example, you cannot achieve good dissemination without excellent communications, and vice versa, the most persuasive communications are not enough if the audience does not read your message. All the steps I am about to detail were part of the success of the Kindersite

Ensuring that your message speaks to the target group is based on understanding their needs. Good positioning will enable the receiver of your message to ‘immediately’ understand that the message is relevant for him.

Positioning is always based on the target groups perception, not the projects.
Thus you will need to ensure that your message states clearly:
§ That the source of the project is respected and obvious
§ Who is it for
§ What does the project do (what is the added-value)

For example (in simple terms) a Socrates Lingua project needs to say that the:
§ Project is by specialist academics
§ It is for language schools/specialists
§ It is a free resource to locate language XXX

However good your project or dissemination campaign, if you do not deliver a clear and readable message then you will lose, possibly, half your target audience straight away.

Problems often experienced by projects are:
Not seeing the wood for the trees – writing documents that deal with the minutia of a project and miss the ‘Grand vision’ and overriding ideas. Your documents must work as a reversed pyramid, the tip, resting on the ground, contains the broad idea, as you work through the document the details that make up to the broad idea should become clear.
Trying to say everything about the project, everywhere – in every document/web page etc. each statement covers too much ground or is a repeat. Describe it feature of your project individually and then you can show how each feature builds up to make the whole.
Creating unreadable text – convoluted, long sentences within huge paragraphs. Very unattractive and intimidating. Break up the text, use headings, bullet lists and diagrams, make it interesting.

Use Clear Language

The Kindersite has mainly used 4 channels to disseminate our message to our target groups. Additional channels have been occasionally used when available. For example, speaking at conferences.
The main channels have been:
§ Linking
§ Newsletters
§ Internet newsgroups
§ Press Releases
It must be said that dissemination today is a difficult and frustrating experience due to the presence and problems caused by Internet abusers. Spam, Spoof and Conmen.

It must also be clear what you want from users i.e. the message you are communicating must be clear. Must they contact you, view your website, join the project, contribute etc. It is advisable, when disseminating, to beware of delivering more than one message at a time.

Dissemination – Linking to other Internet sites
The Kindersite is currently listed in about 3,000 other sites.

You can link in 2 directions:
1. To synergetic sites
2. To search engines and directories

By linking to synergetic sites you will bring your resource to the attention of an audience who are potentially interested in your resource. It will also raise your placement within a Search Engine.

Being ‘findable’ in a search engine or on a synergetic site means visitors and usage of your resource.

Dissemination – Newsletters
The Kindersite has a database of 238,000 schools globally, about 144,000 in Europe, plus 2,300 educational authorities, plus 1,000s of Associations and groups involved in education.

We send email newsletters to teachers, principles, education associations and education authorities announcing a resource.

§ Remember who is the target group
§ Personalize every message
§ Subject clearly shows you are a serious education institution i.e. not selling Viagra
§ Ensure the message has value and interest to the targeted audience
§ Send the mail at an appropriate time of the day
§ One message per communication

Dissemination – Newsgroups
The Kindersite is a member of about 250 newsgroups

There are 1,000s of Internet newsgroups that allow engagement with committed individuals within a field.
Most newsgroups are for the members to discuss aspects of their profession.

Most newsgroups do not allow pure dissemination messages on a regular basis. If in doubt, send a respectful message to the moderator of the newsgroup with your message.

Dissemination - PR
Writing articles of interest to eMagazines and disseminating to them (Press Releases). Most journals and magazines now have a presence on the Internet. The most important provision is to ensure to edit your article or press release to suite each individual journal, a blanket article will not work.

§ Locate the publication
§ Understand their publication requirements
§ Tailor your article to fit the requirements of the publication (translate)
§ Send to the publication
§ Follow up
§ Thank

Analysis and feedback
Almost everything the Kindersite has achieved has been based on, an analysis of responses to our dissemination campaigns. The 3 ‘W’s:
§ Who – is visiting our resource
§ Why – the are visiting
§ Where – where they came from geographically and where they found the Kindersite

The Kindersite also receives 100s of messages every week. In every case that is called, we respond rapidly, respectfully and fully to feedback, whether good or bad.

We have then dynamically adjusted the Kindersite, and what we do, based on feedback – sometimes minor sometimes major.

Example – Autism Spectrum Disorders
The Kindersite received a few messages from Special Needs teachers that they were having success with Autism Spectrum Disorder children. Based on the feedback we decided to address this target group.

§ Located specialist newsgroups and wrote to them
§ Wrote articles for Autism sites/associations
§ Built up a database of Special Needs schools
§ Sent newsletters to special needs schools
§ Requested feedback from teachers/parents of ASD children
§ Respond immediately to feedback to the feedback
Today 1,000s of Autistic Children Use the Kindersite

The Kindersite has used the power of the Internet to send individualized, mass communications to 1,000s of our targeted groups.

These have included:
§ Hundreds of decision makers in education authorities around the globe
§ Tens of thousands of teachers and principals
§ Hundreds of directors of associations and their memberships

There is no guarantee that our messages and delivery methodology will be effective but I can tell you that today the Kindersite is being used as a resource for education, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week around the globe.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Kindersite Project

When do we introduce computers to young people?
2 years, 3 years, 6, 8 12, 15, never, when do we start the process of introducing children to computers? Educators, parents, even gray-haired and learned professors cannot agree. The second question that then arises is whether computer based content positively or negatively affects the learning process. I can hear the screams of protest and support in full interactive, multi-media; broadband enhanced detail even as I write.

Meanwhile millions of dollars are being spent to bring computers and the Internet to elementary schools around the globe.

The only area all agree on, well maybe, is that all students should be taught how to use computers and the Internet eventually. As all will need an understanding of technology to enjoy the products of technology and in many cases within the future work environment.

In this article I will try to summarize some of the arguments for and against technology in early education and finally to make a synopsis of how I believe we should address this vital issue.

Firstly lets take a look at the arguments for early introduction.

Future Needs - the use of computers and an understanding of how to use the Internet are already critical to modern society today in manifest directions. These include, the work environment, information gathering for work or pleasure, shopping, communications etc. and if true today, how much more tomorrow. The Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment predicts that the computer industry will continue to show the greatest growth of any industry in the USA.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than half of all workers used a computer on the job in September 2001. And nearly three-fourths of those workers connected to the Internet or used e-mail.

Source : Bureau of Labor Statistics USA

Early Skills Acquisition – As with all fundamental skills, the earlier the education system allows students to become familiar with technology the greater will be their depth of understanding and effectiveness in using it.

It is immaterial to argue that skills acquired today by a five year old will not be relevant later in life because technology will develop beyond comprehension. This is because skills acquired can focus on an understanding of what computers can do rather than just how to interact with today’s computers. In addition, once the initial groundwork has been obtained the potential for adaptation to a dynamic system can be incrementally updated in the same way as adults have to adapt to new technology.

Personalization - Computer based content allows a level of individual engagement and interactivity that comparative learning systems fail to deliver. By its nature learning with the computer is a one-on-one experience or at worst, small groups.

This alleviates the paradigm of large classes with minimal personal intervention.

Learning Levels - Computers allow users to individualize their speed of attainment to suite their personal needs and capabilities. The speedy are not held back and those that need greater repetition are not passed over. Additionally special groupings can be more easily and effectively catered for.

Wide Distribution of Quality Teaching - Computer based learning allows the maximum effectiveness and distribution of the best quality teaching and content.

A great teacher is not limited by the classroom but can reach out across the Internet to thousands either through building digital lessons or distance learning software and programs. Most distance learning systems today can be configured as live broadcasts with high levels of interactivity with the teacher.
Now, here are the equally strong arguments against.

Accessibility and Suitability - If an individual does not have access to a computer or does not understand the content through a language deficiency or cultural differences, they will be relegated to the digitally divided, 44 million at the last count just in the USA according to Professor Howard Besser, The Next Digital Divides.

Interfering with Natural Development - Young children should be utilizing their natural propensity for physically based activity rather than be ‘stuck’ in front of a computer.

They already spend damaging amounts of time glued to televisions, as researchers have discovered, that impairs development. Our children, the Surgeon General warns, are the most sedentary generation ever.

Lack of Depth - Computer based content is a long way from offering the depth, flexibility and tried and tested results that a trained, dedicated and experienced teacher can offer children. In addition, the interaction with a sophisticated adult allows critical advanced vocabulary and personalization skills.

Quality of Content – Most digital content is overly simplistic in its structure. For example, a sum can only be wrong or right. The content will not explain to the student why the sum was wrong.

A real teacher will mark a piece of work and offer the essential logic reasoning for the decision that will enable the student to gain a fundamental understanding of the system behind what constitutes correct/incorrect.

Health Hazards - Computers pose health hazards to children. The risks include repetitive stress injuries, eyestrain, obesity, social isolation, and, for some, long-term physical, emotional, or intellectual developmental damage.

Safety – Children must be protected from the dangers of the Internet, stalkers, adult content, hate and violence. Filtering software is notoriously inefficient.

By no means am I attempting to articulate all the arguments or cover them in real depth but just to raise some of the issues we all face.

In my opinion both the Pros and Cons are very strong arguments all of which need serious consideration and answers.

Now to put this in to an importance perspective. digital technology is invading virtually every aspect of modern society and its impact is becoming fundamental to how we work, play and learn. Technology within education also has a huge role to play but its’ effectiveness and impact has not been studied in the depth and breadth that such a fundamental development requires.

In the work environment, mistakes in the use of technology are paid for in monetary terms. How much less can we afford to make mistakes with introducing technology to our children, mistakes made here cost far more than damaged business, with education we are talking damaged lives.

At the moment we just seem to be ‘throwing’ computers and the Internet at teachers and children, as I state above, without any real understanding of what we are actually doing to the children or should I call them ‘guinea pigs’. The logic seems to be, at least on the governmental level, that we cannot afford for the coming generation not to be computer enabled, as this ability will be critical for a country to be economically competitive. In fact every country is being driven to ensure it’s digital competitiveness. At a governmental level this logic is difficult to fault but it is our job as educators and parents to ensure that the effectiveness of the headlong plunge is in the best interests of all the children.

My opinion is that large-scale research in to the issues needs to be carried out. Not on the scale of a few dozen subjects over weeks as many examples of current research do, but thousands or even tens of thousands of subjects over years.

These subjects need to be from 2 years to 8 years old. They need to be widely dispersed geographically. Come from all levels of the social and attainment spectrum. In fact technology and the Internet is a perfect platform to carry out this type of research. I founded the Internet based Kindersite Project to enable researchers to accomplish this type of wide-scale program.

I believe that only significant research that studies thousands of subject children over a long-term, years probably, will allow the educational community to really gain full and meaningful answers to the questions such as:

1. Does the early introduction of digital content positively or negatively affect young children?
2. What should be the parameters of the introduction (if any)?
3. What content types should be employed within the introductory process?
4. What constitutes 'good' or 'bad' content and why?
5. What parameters define 'good' or 'bad' content?

As a result of sustained and profound research, guidelines should be drawn. These guidelines should offer teachers and parents tried and tested parameters for the use of computers for their children at each age level. It should include areas such as; how long should a child use a computer over a period, maximum and minimum attainment levels to be expected for each age group based on set proficiency standards, how digital content should be integrated in to standard lesson plans in a similar way that other media is used.

Most importantly, set standards for educational content providers must be laid down that they must adhere to if they wish to produce educational content utilizable by educationalists. In addition all young children’s’ content, educational or leisure should be labeled with its appropriateness for each age group. These standards should be defined by the research.

In conclusion, it is fairly obvious that computer based educational content is becoming a feature of schools, whether we like it or not. In the home we see increasing evidence that even the smallest children are gaining access to computers either with parents or through watching older siblings. It is unreasonable to expect to turn back the clock and bar children below a certain age from computers, this is unenforceable and ineffective.

It is our duty to ensure that clear usage standards are set, content guidelines are drawn and sites rated at a governmental level so that children, parents, caregivers and educators have a clear and safe basis for using computers and the Internet with their charges. Anything less is an abrogation of all our responsibility.

About the author

Joel Josephson has been involved in consulting to high tech companies for 8 years. He founded two Internet companies. He is the father of 2 girls (2.5 and 4 years).

He is the founder and executive director of the non-profit Kindersite Project The Kindersite is involved in the innovative use of technology to address the introduction of technology to early learners.