Monday, July 24, 2006

Repeating Repeating Repeating

I'm reading this great book called "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell. A few months ago Lori gave me his latest book "Blink" which was really engaging, so when a co-worker offered to loan this book to me, I grabbed it in a heartbeat.

On page 126 (paperback version) there's some amazing stuff about the show Blue's Clues, a show Rachel watches. First, the same show is aired five days a week. This isn't because Nickelodeon is lazy, but it's by design. If a child watches the same show five times, they will learn something new every time. The first time they watch it they are critically trying to understand the clues, after repeated viewing they are not only able to completely keep up, but eventually they are anticipating what's coming next, they are actually helping Steve. With each repeated viewing they are faster and more confident in their answers to Steve and it feels good to them -- they feel like they're learning and getting smarter.

This also explains why they use really long pauses and lots of close-ups of Steve's face -- designed to make the children feel like Steve is really there with them and depending on their own help.

There's also a book mentioned in TTP called "Narratives from the Crypt" that I've asked Lori to pick up from the library. Years ago two university professors noticed that their two-year-old daughter would sit in her crib for hours after they turned out the lights, just talking. They started recording her "sessions" and then turning them over to linguists and others in the speech and brain professions to analyze what she was saying. It turned out from this that they learned that babies are far more capable of communication and thought than previously thought, and often they will be much more verbal and verbose in their conversations with themselves than they will with other people. And that best of all, it's all narrative. They are telling stories. Sometimes recapping events that have happened, sometimes talking about things they expect or hope will happen in the future.

And then one other little tidbit... young children cannot handle things having multiple names. They can understand what an apple is, and then accept red and round as attributes that describe the appple, or that oak is a kind of tree. But they cannot Big Bird being called "Roy" as happened in one episode where Big Bird realizes that his name describes who what he is while the others' names aren't descriptions. So during this episode he embarks on a quest to come up with a new name for himself and eventually settles on "Roy." It confused and frustrated the children who they tested this episode on.

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