Monday, September 15, 2008

First impressions at Kiddonet***

One post is all it takes.
A handful of words in one post decide the fate of the blog.
When I come across a new blog I haven't been looking for - or a new book - I read at random to see if something strikes a chord. It may be the content, the language, the layout, the information - anything that resonates within. Therefore it also follows that a lot depends on my state of mind at that particular time. And so, it all depends on one post whether or not I bookmark a blog...

There are a million blogs on the net now, and the number is growing by the minute. So what are the chances of your blog - of my blog being read? Unless you use techniques like SEO, and have a vast network of online friends already, unless you are brilliant and have something great to talk about, unless you are lucky - what chance that you will not give up in a month, a year, or two?

So why write? Why blog? Because -

"It’s not good enough to want to have done something, unless I am practicing now, and the goal for having done it is well into the future.

It’s not good enough to want to be a writer — unless I write. Or to be a painter, unless I consistently paint. The content isn’t as important as the process, the habit. One must practice the scales before interpreting the music.

Maybe I’m not good enough yet, but so what? I have whatever life I have, to practice. And as I do, I will continue to set and break my own records."

Because the reason to write is seldom as simple as money and fame. Because you want to. Because you need to. Because sometimes thinking is only possible with the discipline of marshalling thoughts to submit to others. Because it is good practice for living to think things out.

These inspirational work come from Barbara Hartsook's blog - Over coffee. She is an artist who paints in all kinds of traditional media as well as digital, and excels in each. Take a look. And, thank you Barb.

But first impressions can also be unreliable sometimes. If I had stumbled upon Kiddonet owned by Starnet interactive, ever on my own, I wouldn't have bothered to explore it for obviously it is for preteen girls, and the site's name a misnomer, and the layout insipid. But I happened to find one of the games on Kiddonet as a standalone link from another site, and that game was good, and educational, so I looked for the site - only to find this!

If you choose from the channels on the left, or the drop down menu above, you will be able to find Kiddonet junior, which has early learning games - one of which I had sampled. The quality is good but the small size of the game window is not very enticing.

Also useful from the drop down menu are K-animals and K-zoo for the slightly older children who want information. Art zone has some nice colouring/making games, which again are in small sizes. The comics are worth a look as well for say, early graders.

With all these drawbacks, why am I giving it three stars? Simply because the links I have, supplied by the team that built it, lead to large, full page versions of these games, and you don't need to go through the site at all. In fact, you can't even if you tried! Given below are screenshots from the bear's cookbook, counting numbers and alphabet games -

And here are the links to all the games, quoting from the email I received from them -

"...We no longer provide support or maintenance for our KiddoNet site, but do not have the heart to remove it. However, here's what you can do: the following are direct links to each of the games on the KiddoNet JR. section of Add each one as a favorite link, since they do not link to each other or to the main KiddoNet JR. menu. Each of the Flash-based activities will appear as full screen when you maximize the IE window you open the link in.
The Letter Sounds game will automatically bring you back to the menu of letters as each letter is completed correctly. We hope this won't be too frustrating.
The Alphabet Animals, on the other hand, does offer you a link back to the puzzle menu, but this game does not come in a full-screen size.
The Read-Along Bear Cookbook can be seen in full-screen.
The Count and Color game can be played full screen and has 'back' and 'next' options for progressing through the pictures.
The same goes for the Dot to Dot game.
These games also work in the same way.
The Find It game does not have a 'return to menu' option, but is full screen.
Same for the Concentration game.
The Singing Cats game can also be played full screen. It has 3 level options, but you'd need to reload the game each time to return to the menu to choose a new level.
The Rock Band game is a little bit like the game SIMON, and also has a little keyboard that can be played anytime.
The Word-A-Cross game, when opened in a separate window, allows you to return back to the menu using the BACK arrow on your browser. If your preschooler can read/write a little, then they might find this game fun.

I thought it very decent of them to reply so promptly and with so much information when they were no longer providing support for the site. I do wish that if ever they do decide to do away with these, they would first allow free downloads for those who might want them!

P.S. I was using Firefox 2 - not 3, and three of these games crashed my browser. In contrast, IE (not the latest) was able to run them so do take care when opening.

P.P.S. The font colour formatting at blogger is driving me insane! Why it sometimes obeys orders and sometimes doesn't is beyond me. Just bear with me folks! :)

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