WFSU’s Speedy Delivery

Moments of validation in life are sometimes few and far between, and even more rarely come in packages stamped with the words “SPEEDY DELIVERY”.

Meeting Mr. McFeely, Mister Rogers’ beloved postman friend, was a big deal for 6-year-old me.  Then a proud member of Pensacola’s WSRE Kids Club, I was starstuck, as you can witness in this photo my mom snapped in the moment:

Fast-forward eighteen years…

and I’m now working for WFSU / PBS KIDS as a professional PBS KID / education specialist, a position that is providing me many opportunities to learn, grow, and embrace my foundational love and loyalty to the organization. One such experience was at the 2017 Florida PBS Learning Media conference in Orlando. There I met other passionate people from the world of PBS including WSRE’s Director of Education Content & Services, the very same woman who provided the miracle of my sixth year on Earth: Jill Hubbs!

After laughing together about how life-changing my meeting Mr. McFeely had been so many years ago and realizing the serendipity of our coming to meet each other in the professional world, Jill wrote about our reconnection on Facebook, tagging friend David Newell and I in the post.

The excitement ensued…

My NEW FRIEND MR. MCFEELY and I continued chatting into the wee hours discussing Fred Rogers’ wife’s attendance at Florida State, and the influence his show had on several generations of my family. I shared the photo of our meeting at the Kids Club event so many years ago, and he even offered to send an autographed photo home to mom!

A few weeks later, I checked my mailbox at the station to find this:

And returned to our department meeting to open the package with my team of fellow lovers of all things Fred Rogers. Enclosed we found a copy of Rogers’ illustrated children’s book, “Good Weather or Not”, “dear Mister Rogers, does it ever rain in your neighborhood?”, “Mister Rogers’ Playbook”, and a letter and autographed photo of Mr. McFeely himself.

This year, a moment of validation from my childhood came full circle by making itself known in my post-grad professional life, and giving me a reassuring smile and a nod. To people like Jill Hubbs and David Newell, the heroes of this blog post and so much more, I couldn’t say it better than the man himself:

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
― Fred Rogers

 

Hannah Power, Education & Outreach Specialist

Staff Picks: Favorite Books

Tasha

How I love Winter Break!! We moved around a lot when I was growing up… and no matter where we ended up, I always pulled out some of my favorite books that took me to places that I felt right at home. One of the first books that I will share is:

Alexander and the Magical Mouse by Martha Sanders.                                   In this wonderful tale:

1700210“The Old Lady, her Magical Mouse, a Brindle London Squatting Cat, a Yak, and Alexander, the smiling alligator, lived together on a hill without any friends until the thirty-day rain endangered the town below them.”

You will have to read it to find out what happens! The illustrations by Philippe Fix are beautiful as are all of the unlikely animal friends. I still read that one to this day, especially when it’s cold and rainy!

Another one of my all-time favorites is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and illustrations by Jules Feiffer. It just really doesn’t get much better than this splendid story:

For Milo, everything’s a 51gbhsui1jl-_sx334_bo1204203200_bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams. . . .

This book is so clever, fabulous and inspiring – I hope you will all run to library to check it out!

I could go on and on about favorite books… but will just share one more for this last 2016 blog post! I would be absolutely remiss to not tell you about Tasha Tudor. She is, actually, my name mother (I had the absolute delight of meeting her on two occasions and she told me herself that she was my “name mother”! Love!) Tasha Tudor was an extraordinary artist illustrator, and her life itself took on a magical quality as she aged. Her book: Take Joy! The Tasha Tudor Christmas Book is an annual must for me to pull out and immerse myself in her drawings and lifestyle. She has oodles of special books, and some specifically about Christmas time, but no matter what holiday celebration you choose the idea of taking joy is what it is all about!

Megan

The Lottery Rose by Irene Hunt was always my favorite book to read if I was feeling blue or needed a good cry. I recently got my childhood copy back in a big box of books from my mom. Here is the synopsis:

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“Abused by his mother and her boyfriend, Georgie Burgess learns to hide his hurt. Hewithdraws into a safe and secret world of beautiful gardens filled with roses—just li ke those in the library book he treasures. When Georgie wins a small rosebush in a grocery store lottery he gives it all the love and caring he’s never had. Georgie’s life begins to open up for him when the courts send him to a home for boys where he will be safe. Slowly, and not without pain, Georgie learns to give—and to receive—love…”

I will probably read it over the holidays now that I have been talking about it.

61sjhumx6-l-_sx258_bo1204203200_Crazy Hair by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean, was introduced to me by my husband. He is a huge Gaiman fan and I was fascinated to learn of all the great children’s books he’s authored (another excellent one is called Blueberry Girl, which I can only assume is even better if you are the mom to a daughter)!

“Bonnie tries to tame her father’s hair, but to no avail, as birds and beasts of every type jostle for space amongst the curls and tresses of this hirsute book. A warm and funny conversational text combine beautifully with Dave McKean’s edgy and dramatic illustrations to make this another perfect picture book by Gaiman and McKean.”

This book is SO FUN!! I pluck it from the bookshelf and spend 15 minutes looking at the amazing illustrations ALL the time!

Hannah

a2a7611503fa3c388a97eebedb2dc07e2Every year since before I can remember my ma and sister and I read e. e. cumming’s little tree in our living room by our tinsel-covered tree on Christmas Eve, or after we finish hanging our ornaments. It’s the sweetest poem written to a Christmas tree, about how much it is loved and how beautiful it will be with a ring on every finger, and how proud it will feel sitting in the window! cummings is a favorite poet of mine thanks in part to his important contribution to my family’s holiday tradition.

51pbl1rjdkl-_sx258_bo1204203200_Tales from Old Ireland is a beautifully illustrated collection of Irish folklore, which is also close to my heart, being first generation Irish-American! The stories include The Children of Lir,  Fair, Brown and Trembling, The Twelve Wild Geese, Lusmore and the Fairies, Son of an Otter, Son of a Wolf, The Soul Cages, and Oisin in Tir na nOg. Some of these are traditional tales passed down thanks to the country’s centuries-old oral tradition, and some are a bit more original, but all are enjoyable for all ages and magical and whimsical and take place in one of my favorite places – the Emerald Isle.

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From all of us at your WFSU Public Media, PBS Kids station, we wish you and yours much joy, happiness, and warmth this holiday season!

Howling Wind…

Rain hurtling sideways. Crashing tree limbs. Rising water.
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And, of course, the dreaded power outage. Hurricane Hermine brought damage and inconvenience for those of us accustomed to climate-controlled homes, hot coffee, running water and cable TV. Even worse, some folks are dealing with the aftermath of flooding and major damage to their homes or businesses.

But, what about the upside of the storm? Did any good come out of such a ferocious visitor to the Big Bend? There are certainly plenty of heart-warming stories, and hopefully, we’ll be hearing lots of them as we recover from Hermine’s rude visit. Here are just a few positives from the top of our heads:

  • An occasion to help neighbors we hardly ever see.
  • Due to no cable TV service, my 84-year old mother has rediscovered the treasure of Public Radio.
  • Opportunities for extended conversation with loved ones instead of the typical messages truncated to fit into TV commercial breaks.
  • A chance for much-needed exercise as a by-product of picking up storm debris
  • More wood is now available for the fire pit

And, finally, we think it’s safe to say we all have a spirit of thankfulness that the damage and our inconvenience could have been much, much worse!

~ Diane Kroeger, Curriculum Specialist

Article Feature: “3 Knows for Pokémon Go”

“Tech Ethicist” David Polgar wrote a recent article for the Family Online Safety Institute about the phenomenon that has been sweeping the globe and resulting in crazy data usage bills for citizens of all walks of life, including Olympic athletes. As someone who devotes much of his work to finding  ways to “humanize the web and improve online culture”, he talks here about some key points for parents to be aware of when deciding, as he phrases it, “Should I stay or should I Pokémon Go now?”:

3 Knows for Pokémon Go

You have most likely read and heard a lot in recent weeks about Pokémon Go. Millions of people across the United States, and now globe, have become part of the Pokémon Go phenomenon traipsing through the streets and parks to capture Pokémon characters that magically appear superimposed on one’s real surroundings as seen through a smartphone camera.

Pokémon Go is a mobile game that can be downloading for free, and utilizes what is referred to as augmented reality--where digital images and features can augment one’s reality. The game works by utilizing your map feature, GPS, internal gyroscope, and camera to have Pokémon characters “appear” in the real world. Players capture the characters by throwing Pokéballs at them; there are also visits to Pokémon Gyms and Poké Stops.

Sounds like fun, right? Millions of people of all ages have agreed, and have downloaded the Pokémon Go app and started playing. At the same time, there have been ample “Pokémon Go gone bad” stories in the media where players have been injured with distracted playing or potentially directed towards unsavory locations. There has also been a minor uproar over privacy concerns. So what do you, as a parent, need to know when deciding if and how to use Pokémon Go?

Here are the 3 Knows of Pokémon Go:

1. Know what information you are giving away

It should come as no surprise to say that most people do not thoroughly read contractual language. It is very easy to just click your way through the download process and agree to terms that you, later on, are uncomfortable with. Every app will walk you through a set of permission requests by the app company, and then have you agree to its Terms of Service. There is often a wide disparity in how easy the language is to understand (legalese versus plain English), the depth of information you are allowing access to, and the limitations of any possible recourse. (The website Terms of Service: Didn’t Read does a nice job of clearly explaining the legal language behind some of most popular apps and social networks.)

 

Pokémon Go is geared towards all ages (rated for Everyone); the app will collect a player’s age, locations, websites visited, and email address. Of particular interest for parents is when your child is under the age of 13. In the United States, apps and social networks that allow users under the age of 13 are bound to the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), that tries to ensure adequate parental consent has been given and has certain restrictions in regards to advertising. Because of this, many popular apps and social networks adhere to a 13+ age requirement (Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook).

Pokémon Go popularity is based on its unique blending of real world with virtual characters; in order to make this possible, the game utilizes location features on smartphone. Families should discuss their comfort level with giving out this information. The game allow requires access to a smartphone’s camera in order to overlay the virtual characters on top of the real world.

 

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2. Know that free apps are not free

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Likewise, there is no such thing as a free app (or social network). In recent years a popular business model for tech companies entails the monetization of data collection and/or offering premium services (think of your LinkedIn) for heavy and dedicated users.

Pokémon Go is based on the freemium model where access is free, but there are advantages gained in the game by making in-app purchases. These in-app purchases utilize app-specific currency (Pokécoins), which cost the player (or their parent) real money. This is a major change from parents who grew up playing video games where every player paid the same price to buy the game, and game play could not be influenced by paying more money. What this means is that playing Pokémon Go may cost you nothing, or it could cost you hundreds of dollars if a player makes frequent in-app purchases.

 

 

In Pokémon Go, players will often purchase additional Poké Balls that are used to hurl at characters. While a player doesn’t technically have to purchase Poké Balls (they can gather them throughout their travels), buying them offers a large advantage to move through the game quickly.

We should understand that Pokémon Go, like most mobile games today, is not free–it just monetizing players differently from traditional video games. Given that the cost of play can completely run the gamut, it behooves parents to be engaged with their children on in-app purchases.

3. Know your surroundings

Pokémon Go is unique in that playing the game entails walking throughout your neighborhood, down streets, and through parks.  Players visit Pokémon Gyms and Pokéstops that are usually set up in popular locations in the community (there is also the potential for growing commercialization where popular locations have brand tie-ins, such as McDonald’s).

So before you (or your family members) Pokémon Go, stop and look around. While this advice seems painfully obvious, the fact that playing the game entails walking while looking at a screen creates a particular concern for distracted walking (and, unfortunately, driving while playing).

 

Pokémon Go is unique and that it is taking the typically sedentary activity of mobile game playing and taking it outside. There are some incredible upsides to this trend, as it may be a way to get kids, teens, and adults to get up off the coach and outside. There is also a pretty remarkable learning component to Pokémon Go as players discover (or rediscover) their surroundings and some of the rich and forgotten history that was right in front of them all of this time. The digital world can complement the physical world, adding an additional layer of information and intrigue.

Walking while distracted, however, is dangerous. Here is what can be emphasized for players: you may be mentally inside the world of Pokémon Go, but you are still physically in the real world. It is augmented reality, not virtual reality. Players should be mindful of their surrounding when playing to avoid injury, and not travel to locations and at times that would be deemed inappropriate given one’s age and background.

If you are now deciding, “Should I stay or should I Pokémon Go now?” the choice is up to you. The remarkable success of Pokémon Go will likely trigger a glut of augmented reality games, so it is good to be aware of what this means for you and your family.

Deciding on your family tech use shouldn’t about the No’s, but instead the Knows. Now you know.

 

Photos and article by David Ryan Polgar for the Family Online Safety Institute

Thoughts on Books

There are few things in life that allow us the chance to reconnect with our childhood in an organic and meaningful way. Books are one of such things.

Earlier this summer, our lovely little Education Department, located in the depths of the WFSU Station, was re-organized to make room for summer camp materials. During the tedious process of moving materials into one room, building shelving to install in the other, and then planning our strategy for configuring our new and improved abyss of stickers, conductor hats, puzzles, workbooks, and pool noodles, I made a discovery…

I found my mom’s favorite book.
Okay, so it may not still be her favorite book.
In fact, I realized, it may not have ever really been her favorite book, but I know she loved it a whole lot.
I’ll give you a hint.

When I saw the cover of this book peeking out at me from beneath a pile of other books, I remembered for the first time in years that this was my mother’s favorite. I remembered reading it with her before bed and after uprooting our lives to replace the Snowy Day climate of Philadelphia with the beach days of Pensacola. I thought about how difficult that transition must have been for her, and how young I was to understand. I thought about how few books I remember from my early childhood that featured African American children without addressing the fact that they were African American kids rather than just kids. I thought about how something so simple as a story about the wonder of winter in a child’s mind can take us back to times when things felt easier and a quiet moment in the bathtub was all we needed to re-center ourselves after a day of excitement.

If my “hints” haven’t given you the name of the book yet, that’s okay, because the title of the book isn’t the point, nor is the fact that it’s somewhat seasonally irrelevant for a blog post in the dredges of a hot Tallahassee summer. The point is that the books that stick with us will always be relevant. The point is that the imagery and language and themes that we find within our favorite books and our mother’s favorite books will always remain a constant in our lives, and can and will continue to move us in ways that we never expected.

What books have you used to create memories and moments of reflection with your kids, grandkids, or students?