Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Social Media Game Elementary School Students Should Be Playing

I'm a student voice advocate. Fortunately, my employer supports this and as such, we have been incorporating the voice of students in the guidelines around social media (You can see the teen guidelines at schools.nyc.gov/socialmedia). Most recently I had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of elementary students about social media and which platforms they are using. Admittedly, I'm not much of a user of social media platforms for the under 13 set, so I knew I had a lot to learn. Interestingly, across the board, one platform rose to the top and I had never heard of it before.



The platform is called MovieStar Planet and it promises players "Fame, Fortune, and Friends." Interestingly, though not surprisingly, the first reaction from many of the adults about this game was negative. Online gaming? Social media? Fame, fortune, friends = narcissism. Blech. 

When I suggested this would be a great game to be reviewed on an education site, I was told, the site only reviews games that were educational. For some it seems if kids like it and it plays to their need for attention, it has to be bad.  

Not so.

Here is how MovieStar Planet describes their site:

"MovieStarPlanet is a social website where children and teenagers work together with their friends to create cartoons. MovieStarPlanet is a blend of Facebook and YouTube with a learning dimension added." 

Here's how it works:
In MovieStarPlanet you get a personal virtual MovieStar which is used in movies, chat rooms and games.

In the Movies and chat rooms a microphone can be used to record speechlines and voice chat - please see the "How to record sound" instruction movie for details about how to record sound.

Your MovieStar earns fame points and StarCoins (the virtual money in MovieStarPlanet) when you participate in the MovieStarPlanet virtual world.

StarCoins are earned when other users watch your published movies, when you watch and rate other movies, and when you play games in the chat rooms.

Fame points are earned when other users watch your published movies.

Your MovieStar starts at level 0, and when you earn fame points you rise in levels. New levels give access to new animations and access to chat rooms reserved for MovieStars at higher levels. 

So you might be reading this and be a bit freaked out that young people are being social online. What if someone says something mean? What if someone is not who they say they are?  

Real concerns indeed which is why it is important for adults to be in the online worlds of young people.  That said, when I talked to the students, they could have given a class on the topic. They definitely knew how to handle it.
-Tell the person nicely that you don't like what they are saying.
-If they continue block and report them.

That usually did the trick. If not, they say they'd get a parent or teacher that wouldn't "freak out and ban it" involved. And, that's a real concern for kids. Too often one negative thing happens and the response from adults is to ban and block (like this school did) rather than empower and prepare our youth who are growing up in a world where being savvy on social media in crucial.  

Think about it this way.  What better way for children to develop literacy skills then to chat with each and create movies for a real audience. And, bonus. The children have the opportunity to connect with others from around the world.  

Now check out who is behind the creation of MovieStar Planet:
The Danish Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation in cooperation with The Danish University of Education, and a number of elementary school teachers.In 2009-11 the development of MovieStarPlanet is part of the research and development project about the use of games in education called Serious Games on a Global Market Place

Here are the education objectives: 
The cartoons in MovieStarPlanet are small and very simple, focusing on using English in new and motivating ways. The cartoon medium is used to practice the written English skills of the children allowing them to:
·         read and write screenplays
·         watch their own and other children’s Movies so that they practice listening to and understanding/interpreting the English language

For the children, MovieStarPlanet is ideal for:
·         participating in ”language games” and role-plays
·         using digital media to create simple or more advanced texts
·         communicating with children in other grades and schools
·         understanding and performing simple or more advance language actions
·         using digital media for creative expression

Ready to get started? 

·         Teachers: Head on over to the teacher's center.   

·         Students: www.moviestarplanet.com is freely available on the internet and can be freely used in education or privately by anyone.

·         Parents: Read http://info.moviestarplanet.com/parents.aspx.


·         Everyone: Safety first. Read this: http://info.moviestarplanet.com/safety.aspx

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