Harvard Educational Review
  1. Orly's Draw-a-Story

    Broderbund Software, 1996. $19.95

    There is no shortage of computer games in America. A simple walk around your local computer, book, record, or toy store will easily confirm this. The daunting problem for most parents is finding a game that is both entertaining and educational for adult and child alike. These games do exist and have proliferated following the advent of relatively inexpensive personal computers and widely available CD-ROM technology. This new breed of computer game, which entertains and addresses specific learning objectives, has the general benefits of increasing a child's familiarity with computers, improving fine motor control, providing opportunities for immediate feedback, and generally allowing a variety of learning experiences. Orly's Draw-A-Story is a prime example of this new breed of computer game that incorporates all the traditional benefits of "edu-tainment" computer programs while adding outside resource books (including lesson plans) in order to engage parents and child in learning and play. This allows the child, with the help of the parent or teacher, to relate, interpret, and extend the game's virtual experiences into real ones.

    Orly's Draw-a-Story is meant for children aged five to ten. The interface is simple to use, colorful to look at, and fun to play. Orly is a young girl from Jamaica who, with a frog named Lancelot, guides the child through four stories, "Ugly Troll People," "The Strange Princess," "Lancelot: Bug-Eater," and "One Big Wish." As Orly tells the story, pictures and places scroll by. At various times during the storytelling, the child is asked to create a drawing using the computer. The child is given the choice of drawing freehand or using countless templates provided by the program. The drawing is then integrated into the narrative itself. Even though the technology is simple, drawing the pictures and then seeing the child's creation integrated seamlessly into the story is both fascinating and enjoyable. The child is engaged in a variety of ways by either drawing, listening, or otherwise interacting with the program. Orly and Lancelot are always there providing encouragement, guidance, and immediate positive feedback.

    The stories also reflect the changing landscape of educational programs. Orly's stories hit on themes that, while universal in children's literature, are presented within a Jamaican context, which may be unfamiliar to most U.S. children. Children learn about the culture of Jamaica through these folk tales by participating in educational stories that illustrate the importance of honesty, relationships, and love. They are learning how to operate a computer, as well as engaging in creative fun.

    The promise of computer aided learning lies in creativity, guidance, positive feedback, diverse learning experiences, independent learning, and parent-child interactions. It can provide many things that traditional books and experiential learning alone cannot. Orly's Draw-a-Story fulfills this promise and, hopefully, signals more to come.

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