Written by |Feb 05, 2016|0 comments
We all want our children to become good, successful and well-adjusted adults. We do our best to teach them the right values and skills to navigate the world. Today’s children live and grow up in a very culturally diverse landscape and they have to learn how to fit in a multicultural world. To help them succeed it is very important to teach them to avoid prejudice and stereotypical thinking, as it can oftentimes put unnecessary barriers in their development and the development of others. Studies have shown that children as young as six have already developed a certain type of bias and stereotype thinking, so the key to helping children break the barriers that stereotypes keep putting in front of them is to start young.
What can developers do?
As developers that create educational apps for preschool children, what we can do is build characters that are as diverse as possible and that children can relate to. At GazziliWorld we have used characters of diverse cultural heritage and of different genders to animate our apps. What we hoped to achieve through this was showing children that no matter what their cultural heritage or gender, they can learn everything that they want to. Our six characters : Mimi, Tyler, Kenji, Lily, Benito and Purple all have different backgrounds and are all included in each of the five apps. Of course, when it comes to diversity and making a product more inclusive, there will always be more than can be done and not everyone will be pleased with the outcome. One of the things we learn ever since our first app is that there will always be critics, but the important thing is to stay true to our values. In our efforts to make the content of our apps more inclusive, we decided to include pictures of different types of families to depict the word “family” in our vocabulary app GazziliWord. Behind that decision was the belief that children need to see and understand that families and people are different and that is OK. When the app went live on the app store, besides positive reviews we also received negative comments regarding our depiction of the world family. We received emails and messages from our users that believed we should take the word out of the app or just show an image of a mother, a father and a child for that particular word. Many tried to convince us that our depictions were inappropriate for children between 2 and 6 years of age (our target audience) and we probably lost some of those users by choosing to stick to our decision. Even so, we believe that the decision we made was the right one. As an educational apps developer, we try to help children learn and become successful grown-ups and part of that mission is helping them understand and navigate the world that they live in. We can only do so by showing them how the world really is and by helping them understand it.
In the end, children, being young and eager to absorb information, register and internalize the subtle messages that the entertainment or edutainment industries show them. Therefore it is our responsibility as developers of apps for children to strive to make our products as inclusive as possible and to champion messages of diversity.
Written by |Dec 14, 2015|0 comments
It’s December and we are all preparing to celebrate the winter holidays. While we are rushing to prepare our homes for the celebrations and visits that the end of the year brings, we might be so caught up in our own “way of doing things” that we do not think about people that do not celebrate as we do. Although our family may choose to celebrate one winter holiday over another because of religious beliefs or for cultural reasons, learning and speaking to children about different beliefs is important in a society as diverse as the one in which we live in today.
GazziliWorld is here to help with the explanations! We are focusing our efforts on a series of articles that explain what and why we celebrate in winter no matter how different our beliefs may be.
Explaining Hanukkah to Preschoolers
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that falls in December, frequently very near the dates of the Christian Christmas celebration, and may involve the exchange of gifts.
Story of Hanukkah
Long ago, there was a Syrian king named Antiochus that ruled Judea. He wanted all of the people in his kingdom to worship only Greek gods. The people under his rule became angry as not all of them wanted to pray to Greek gods, the Jews for example did not want to abandon their beliefs. A Jewish man named Judah Maccabee got people to fight against the king’s ruling and as more people agreed with him, they gathered together and soon formed an army.
They fought the king and his army for 3 years until eventually winning. One of their biggest victories was winning back the Temple of Jerusalem, as it was their place of worship. They removed all of the Greek symbols from the Temple and restored Jewish symbols. To celebrate, Judah and his followers lit a lamp, but they had very little oil so they believed that the lamp will not stay lit for long. Despite having very little oil to burn, this lamp stayed lit for eight days. To honor this extraordinary event, Jews today celebrate the Eight Days of Hanukkah and call it the “Festival of Lights.” They light a special eight-candle device called a menorah.
People today give each other gifts, make special foods, have special dinners, and remember their ancestors, who fought to take their temple back. As celebrations of many other cultures, Hanukkah is about family. It’s a joyous time of year when people gather together to share food, blessings and music, as the traditions are passed on through the ages.
Written by |Nov 26, 2015|0 comments
It is the 26th of November and while everyone is waiting for the Thanksgiving dinner to be ready and for the family to get together, they are also thinking about what they are thankful for. Over the decades, this holiday has been one of giving thanks, but who should we really be giving thanks to? Moreover, who should we teach our children to give thanks to?
The Pilgrim Thanksgiving Story
Although highly debated, the most popular version of the Thanksgiving story is that pilgrims and Native Americans held a feast and thanksgiving prompted by a good harvest at Plymouth, modern day Massachusetts. As the story goes, around 1620, the pilgrims sailed across the ocean to a new land called America. They boarded the boat called the Mayflower and sailed across the ocean. Here, they set foot on the shore of America at Plymouth and had to work right away building homes and finding food. While they were preoccupied with building their settlements, nature took its course, seasons have changed and so, the pilgrims found themselves at the start of winter. The winter weather was very cold and harsh and many pilgrims did not survive the blistering cold. Luckily Squanto, a Native American Wampanoag man, taught the newcomers how to survive the winter and how to harvest the land. The following year, given the help from Squanto, the harvest was plentiful and the pilgrims had enough food for the winter. As such, they decided to celebrate and a day of prayer and giving thanks was declared by the governor. The pilgrims invited the Native Americans and they celebrated together.
It’s Important to Tell the Whole Story
The historical accuracy of Thanksgiving has been the subject of many debates over the years, amongst many of the contestations that were brought to this story is also the fact that the “official” version does not include the Native American’s point of view. The truth is that for Native American tribes the story of Thanksgiving differs from the one that we all know. This should be an important talking point with our kids, it is important to teach children to see the whole picture and to understand that people might experience the same events in a different manner.
If the original story talks about the pilgrims’ arrival and makes it seem as if they were the first English speakers that have come in contact with the natives, the truth is that the local tribes have already had contact with Europeans before the Mayflower hit the Massachusetts shore. They had already experience European slave traders and as such they already knew how to speak English. This is how Squanto was able to help the newcomers; he had learned to speak their language from English slave traders that were kidnapping and selling Wampanoag people into slavery. Despite this, the Natives helped the white settlers as this was their way to give freely to those who had nothing. In many cultures, being able to give without holding back is a way of earning respect. This act prompted the Wampanoags and pilgrims to come to an agreement regarding the land necessary to build the town of Plymouth. And such, the first Thanksgiving represents a special camaraderie that existed between distinctly different people from equally different backgrounds.
While this is a harder story to tell, especially to children, the importance of voicing it comes not only from telling the truth. But also, in a time when differences seem to divide us even further, this inclusive Thanksgiving story can help us teach a lesson of understanding and compassion. It can teach us that even though we come from different backgrounds and we have different experiences we can live together and more importantly work and learn together; and this is something we should truly be thankful for.
For more information on the Thanksgiving story, try the following resources:
- Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgivingby Joseph Bruchac
- Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp
- The Story of Pilgrims by Katherine Ross and Carolyn Croll
- Thanksgiving Is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland and Sonja Lamut
Written by |Nov 12, 2015|0 comments
As children, there is little space in which we don’t fit play. Truly the only time we don’t play during childhood is when we are at school or when we are doing homework. What if it didn’t have to be so? Furthermore, what if the way we have been thinking about school as opposed to play was actually wrong? What if play and games can hold more or just as much educational value as what we consider “academic learning”?
As internet and mobile device usage becomes more widespread through students of all ages, educators must be prepared to adapt to the needs of the digital native generation. Games might just be the solution that teachers need. Games can provide a more engaging learning experience by allowing the child to discover and explore a new medium, rather than having all of the answers presented to them.
Games help children develop, in addition to cognitive skills, non-cognitive skills that are even more important when predicting future success in life. Games teach children patience, discipline and how to learn from their mistakes. Through not realizing the “seriousness” of the learning process that takes place in when playing a game, children are actually more inclined to try and retry.
Why should we use game based learning?
• Gets students more engaged. Students easily engaged to game activities due to their willingness in playing.
• Makes learning an enjoyable, fun activity. The use of games encourages students to keep learning and to erase the idea that learning is boring.
• Provides Quick and Specific feedback. Which enables students to figure out the right way (or a right way) to succeed
• Encouraging learning through trial and error. Using games enables children to understand the consequences of their choices. Students can learn through experiences. Games offer a safety environment to test and learn through mistakes so the information becomes meaningful when students understand its use.
The digital environment provides numerous opportunities for using game based learning. Fusing educational games and more traditional learning practices can improve classroom engagement and can provide a positive learning experience.
Written by |Nov 02, 2015|0 comments
Now that the trick-or-treating is over and everyone is counting their candies, we can take the time to actually reflect on the meaning of Halloween. Is this celebration really just about dressing up in scary costumes and going out to ask for candy or is there more to it?
Origins of Halloween
The origins of this holiday have long been disputed. While some hold the belief that the tradition of Halloween comes from Ireland and is mostly pagan, some claim that the celebration is a catholic one and is in close relation to the All Hallows Day and the All Souls Day. The truth is that both of these holidays have probably merged to create a new tradition.
In the celtic tradition, people dressed as evil spirits at the onset of winter. They were marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the “darker half” of the year. The celts also believed that the souls of the dead were returning to the living world on this particular night and that they must be welcomed and celebrated. People would also dress up and go around town singing and reciting verses in exchange for food, the belief was that they were winter spirits asking for rewards in exchange for good fortune.
Today’s Halloween traditions have likely been influenced by Christian beliefs. Halloween is the evening before the Christian celebrations of All Hallows’ Day on 1st of November and All Souls’ Day on 2nd of November. Because of this, the 31st of October holiday the name of All Hallows’ Eve which probably became Halloween over the years. During these days the Christians honor the saints and pray for the recently departed souls who did not yet reach heaven. Christians also exchanged food during this celebration in a custom known as “souling”. Christians would bake soul cakes and would gift them to poor people who would, in exchange, pray for the souls of the dead.
Halloween in America
In America, there is no indication of the fact that Halloween was widely celebrated until the 19th century. The Irish and Scottish immigration from the 19th century turned this day into one of major celebration.