One of Zane’s favorite learning “games” on the iPod is Monkey Preschool Lunchbox. First off there’s a monkey. Secondly, the monkey talks to you. So it’s a winner right off the bat! There’s also lively music, bright colors, and little challenges to solve: which fruit starts with C, can you find the smaller fruit, put the banana back together, and so forth. Correctly answered items spin into the lunchbox and the monkey does a backflip.
It’s all driven by the touch screen, no external buttons or keys. We have an old laptop that I put a letter and number program on, but even to this day Zane mostly whacks the keys (whacking the return key right off its mount). When you think about it from a fresh perspective like his, the keys and a mouse or trackpad are so far removed from the screen (physically and metaphorically) that they are almost like a separate toy. On the iPod (and soon the iPad) you interact directly. A button can show up anywhere and, just as importantly, not be there at all if there’s no need for it. Contrast that with even the learning devices/computers they make for kids where there’s physical buttons littered all over the place and the first part of learning is to actually teach the new interface rather than counting, or color, or letter. It makes me wonder if his generation will be a touch generation, where they just expect that anything they need to interact with will be direct and obvious.