• Word Play

    With GoodieWords, NYC Dad Adam Gittlin Taps Into Preschool Curiosity With Digital Magic

    By Ally Hickson

    When it comes to teaching a toddler new vocabulary, most
    parents rely on games, flashcards, board books and their own know-how. But
    sometimes that’s not enough. Sure, teaching a three year old the meaning of
    “hand” is simple. Now, dig a little deeper, and try explaining what a
    fingerprint is. Not so easy, right?

    Last April, Adam Gittlin discovered this while putting his
    then two-and-a-half year-old son to bed. The lights were low; his son enjoyed
    milk while dad sang, but stopped sipping to query, “What’s a fingerprint?” And
    Gittlin had no idea how to illustrate the concept.

    “It was the kind of thing that we take for granted as
    adults,” says Gittlin.

    As his son quickly entered what he describes as a “what is
    this-what is that-what is everything” phase, Gittlin found more and more words
    his son didn’t understand, like “sweat” and “seed.” “I couldn’t in a real,
    concise way, explain what these more difficult words and concepts were.”

    Prior to the App, Gittlin had played around with the idea of
    making a children’s book and a formula to explain words to preschool children.
    But that changed during a business trip last April when Gittlin was introduced
    to the iPad. Suddenly, everything clicked and the idea for the GoodieWords App
    manifested.

    GoodieWords is an initially free application for the iPad,
    iPhone and iPod Touch. It combines narratives, music, sound effects, animation,
    games and characters to teach preschoolers and toddlers the meanings of words.
    The first download comes with three words (fingerprint, rainbow and balance)
    and three activities for your child. After that, an additional “GoodiePack”
    with new words like “shadow” and “electricity” is $1.99.

    “The beauty of this technology – whereas a book stops [with
    the definition] – is that you can then have that definition or explanation
    transform into an interactive activity that further explains how that word
    lives in our real world,” elaborates Gittlin.

    The app is all about multisensory learning. And to be sure
    that the educational epicenter was pitch perfect, Gittlin wrangled a team of
    top consultants: Brigid Barron, an Associate Professor of Education at Stanford
    University, and Michael Petillo, first grade teacher and learning consultant at
    The Dalton School in New York City for the last decade. Combined with the
    digital creative agency Commercial Pop, The GoodieWorld team has so far
    developed their hit application and four additional GoodiePacks for GoodieWords,
    all with different activities to engage children.

    Rather than simply showing a fingerprint, GoodieWords allows
    users to draw shapes with colorful fingerprints on their iPad while characters
    explain that no two people share the same print. In “balance,” a favorite of
    Gittlin’s son, children have to balance ice cream scoops by tilting their Apple
    product of choice.

    And the commitment is paying off. GoodieWords was nominated
    for a Webby Award for the Tablet Games category, a huge honor in the tech world.

    In the weeks ahead, more GoodieWords will be available. New
    products like GoodieShapes and GoodieLetters, both in development, are due out
    in a few months. The team is also in talks to license out the rights in other
    languages.

    Looking at the product two-fold, Gittlin recognizes that
    GoodieWords isn’t just a lesson in vocabulary, but it further teaches kids how
    to use high-tech gadgets that they’ll encounter down the road. But at home,
    books are still “a big priority” with Gittlin’s son, who he describes as “very
    verbal.”

    The Gittlin family loves their Upper West Side
    neighborhood. Treks through Riverside
    and Central Park or a visit to The Museum of Natural
    History on a rainy day are favorite New York
    excursions. “I just think the cultural aspect of New York
    City makes it worthwhile,” says Gittlin. In his
    opinion, New York kids have the
    advantage and “become a little bit worldlier, a little bit earlier on.”

    It is his belief in challenging children early on, however
    simple, which propels GoodieWorld towards developing new engaging material. As
    Gittlin says, “I’m not really interested in games, I’m interested in learning
    made fun.”

    For more information on GoodieWords, visit goodiewords.com.

    character2.jpg

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