Monday, March 21, 2005

What About the Children?

This catchy question has been seriously abused by politicians who use it to justify all sorts of power and money grabs for pet programs. I would like to make an effort to redeem it, however, and put it to what I consider to be a better use. I want to talk about things to have on your Tablet to keep the kids (the ones beside you, though they may apply to the ones inside you, too) from wriggling around too much when they need to sit quietly and still for any length of time. Not everyone agrees that this is a good way to handle kids in church and if you are one who doesn't, I encourage you to skip this post.

I trained in early childhood education in college (KU, class of 1980) and really love young children. I have a couple of kids at church who are very dear to me and vice versa. They enjoy sitting with us on Sunday morning, although sitting hasn't always been the right word. They did at least occasionally occupy the seat beside me during the time they were there, though.

During one fidget session, I pulled out my Tablet and showed them ArtRage, a really fabulous, award-winning painting program for Tablet PCs. That kept them quiet and constructively entertained for the whole time they were there. ArtRage is an oil painting emulation, though it also allows you to "use" crayons, pencils, and a couple of other tools. Rather than being a high-end "graphics processing" tool, it is essentially the digital equivalent of a blank canvas and a palette. There has been some terrific work done with it, some of which you can see at the ArtRage web site.

ArtRage did the trick for many months, and I got a few really nice pieces of art out of the deal. However, the "new" eventually wore off and the kids were looking for other things to do. One of them quickly discovered that I had games installed on my Tablet and they wanted to see what was available.

The first game to capture their attention--and hold it during the "boring" parts of the service--was Dots. Most of us probably played this game as kids. Draw a grid of dots on a piece of paper and take turns connecting lines. Whoever connects the line that encloses a box claims the box and gets to draw another line. Microsoft has released a number of PowerToys for the Tablet PC, and one of these is a version of this game. You can find it, along with the other PowerToys for the Tablet PC, here. Players compete against the computer, so the kids have to take turns.

Another game that has recently gained popularity is InkBall, a game that comes with the Tablet PC Operating System. In InkBall, colored balls bounce around the playing area. The user must draw lines to block and redirect the balls, directing them into identically colored sockets. The angle of the line relative to the motion of the ball determines where the ball bounces. Once a line is hit by the ball, it disappears.

I suspect that the kids will lose interest in these games, too. They are actually starting to get old enough that they soon will be expected to be more involved with the service anyway. Still, I'm keeping my eyes open for other kinds of distractions, preferable constructive ones like ArtRage. I would love to hear from anyone who finds any.


Anonymous freshjuice said...

It was always cheerios in a plastic bag and scripture comic books for me when I was a kid. I wonder if you could download scripture stories the tha tablet, or at least coloring book pictures to art rage?

9:03 AM  
Blogger Mark Payton said...

If you want coloring book style pages, you could create the line drawings in some program (I tested with Journal itself) and print them to the Journal note writer. Then you can load the pages and color them. The steps are probably a bit complicated for a very young child, the it does seem workable if you are there to assist.

MS has released a free Word add-in that will allow you to export any Word document as an MS Reader file. You might be able to make your own that way. You could also print to a pdf file (I use PrimoPDF, but there are lots of free PDF printers) and let them read there. You could always scan books in and save them as PDF files, too. This would be good for picture books, I suspect.

I don't think there is an electronic substitute for Cheerios, though...

10:13 AM  

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