I spent a valuable hour yesterday with Larry Hitchcock, the CEO of the new children's web 2.0 site, "kidthing". We discussed Internet sites for kids, safe spaces and how kidthing gives children both. I had spent time exploring the free application/player that downloads from the site and plays all the media you buy or get in demo/free versions. I had not quite understood the mix area, and the stand alone power of kidthing.
Think of it as an itunes type of service for your children with ad-free lists of books, pictures, educational games and videos. A parent can drag a game, some family pictures from the computer, a book, some more pictures and a coloring activity to the mix bar and create a multi-media activity session. Parents or teachers can set a time limit on the mix and then let children play. You could think of these as "playlists" that can be saved, used again and shared. If you send me a mix, you have the option to share it, which means it is off your computer accessibility until you return it - just like borrowing a real book, or you can give me the option to purchase the items I don't have in my archive to add on - then you still have the book and game you shared accessibile to you. My son and I could build a mix with his favorite games and books mixed with family pictures and video and share that mix with his cousin in Illinois. They can share and swap mixes.
The company is developing a relationship with various publishing companies that, talking to Larry, sounds like a "Who's Who" in children's publishing. They are also working hard on a recordable application so a grandma can buy Hop on Pop , record herself reading the book and then send it to the grandchild to have on their book list to read anytime. Larry also pointed out that to record and save your child reading a favorite book at 6, 7 and 8 years of age would be a priceless memory later on.
Larry said they have been working on a cooperative program with the "Read Across America" program, to take the selected titles and feature one a month for a download that coincides with the program that is promoted in schools across the country. He shared that the publishers are allowing kidthing to give away these free downloads for a limited time to support literacy. I am sure that this also helps them promote their titles. This is a great way to get some free books to kids that need them in an online download instead of shipping heavy boxes of books around the country to schools and homes.
I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to sit with Larry on the phone, have my kidthing player up on my computer and have him personally walk me through the resources. I would encourage you to go to "kidthing", download the player and then do the same. Go to my Blog Talk Radio player and play the interview archive or link to it here. While you are listening, have the player up and explore. If you are a teacher or a parent - trust me - you will be thrilled with the potential of this new tool.
All the best to you!