Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why We're So Excited About the Technology in SALTBUSH

Be honest: is handing an iPad over to your kid a desperate measure reserved for long trips or waiting rooms? We don't blame you. It feels like when we talk about kids and technology, an unsavory image comes to mind, of kids wrapped up in a game of Angry Birds and ignoring the real world (and the books, and the nature, and the people) around them. There are lots of virtues to consider, though, when it comes to the interest that kids have in high-tech tools.

By definition, technology is innovative, and allowing kids to experiment with new, changing things shouldn't be so scary. Yes, there is always the risk of too much time spent wrapped up in a device and not enough time playing, experimenting and learning in the good ol' ways. But if kids are already excited about gadgets, we ought to support that fascination and harness it, rather than immediately writing off all "screen time" as bad. After all, think about all of the Silicon Valley-types who got started with engineering by taking apart and putting back together their first PC! If we support kids' interest in tech in the right ways, they will be prepared to investigate and develop as adults.

Just this year, we've noticed a boom in how educators and storytellers are using computerized technology in their work. One theater company we've had our eye on for a while is Compagnia TPO. The team at Compagnia TPO, out of Prato, Italy dreams up inspiring, interactive theater for children. Their work makes use of technological tools in incredibly innovative ways and their collaboration with Australian company Insite Arts resulted in the "Cheering Carpet" of Saltbush, which arrives at our theater on May 30.

Through a unique use of projection and touch-sensitive technology, children can sit on this carpet and interact with the scenery of the show. Children kick off their shoes, step onto the projection area and are transported to the Australian outback. The experience mirrors the narrative of the play, which follows a pair of friends travelling across Australia and discovering Aboriginal sights and sounds along the way. Discovery is the theme of the story, but also the theme of the experience, and we hope that Saltbush is one of many positive moments our audiences have with technology in our theater.



What's particularly exciting for us about Saltbush is that it's a beautiful example of integration of these tools into the arts. Rather than keeping "technology" locked away in the STEM fields, it's seamlessly put to use in the theater and our minds are immediately set racing with ideas of what sort of innovation could be next. It's possible that pretty soon we'll forget how we produced theater without these kind of tools in place!

If you're curious to see more examples of how technology is being positively harnessed to inspire and engage kids rather than turn them into passive consumers of digital content, take a look at Osmo. This recently launched and makes gaming highly interactive, but also incorporates engineering and problem-solving skills.

We're also enamored by this interactive sandbox, which reacts to touch and reflects topographical patterns in nature. If a child builds a mountain in the sand, the area turns to green, while the valley fills with a blue color to represent how rivers are formed in nature-- wow!

These are just some of the ways technology can be engaging, thoughtful and active for your son or daughter and we hope you're as excited as we are by the possibilities of what innovation could come next!

1 comment:

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