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meaningful play 2012 travel

Session Information

TitleToddlers and Technology
Senior Director, Child Research, Fisher-Price

As Senior Director of the Child Research Department, Kathleen Alfano provides child development expertise and formative evaluation for Fisher-Price toys, products and interactive media, including the content of learning toys, books, CD ROMs, videos and DVDs. In addition to directing the Fisher-Price Play Laboratory, Alfano supplies childhood development consultative services for organizations like the Toy Industry Association and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Alfano joined Fisher-Price in 1979 as a Child Research Department educator and researcher. In her tenure, she has evolved the Play Laboratory, founded in 1961, into the toy industry's most respected --and often-emulated -- research center on childhood development and play.

As a global ambassador of play, Alfano has traveled around the world -- from Japan and Russia to the Far East -- to study learning, play and different cultures, and to speak about her child development research. As a published expert, she has been invited to keynote at a variety of international conferences where she has discussed an array of topics including the importance of play in a child's development, how to make toys for a global market, how play builds brainpower and how toys boost intelligence.

Alfano holds bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in elementary education from Buffalo-area universities, as well as a master's degree in business administration from Niagara University. As an active member of the early childhood learning community, Alfano holds professional affiliations with the International Toy Researchers Association; the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society; the National Association for the Education of Young Children; the Association for Childhood Education International; the Association for Supervision; and the Curriculum Development, International Reading Association. In addition, Alfano is a published author on the topic of early childhood development and play, writing numerous articles and columns for publications around the world, as well as books.

Alfano is an avid rower and 10-year member of Buffalo, New York's West Side Rowing Club. She currently lives in Amherst, New York.
TimeThursday, October 18, 11:00a-12:00p
DescriptionAs today's children are practically born digital, it comes as no surprise that this generation is the most tech-savvy yet. Now, with more than half of all children in the US now having access to a mobile device- such as a smartphone, video iPod, or tablet, these gadgets are bridging the gap between entertainment and learning and between adult and child.

In its Play Lab, led by Dr. Kathleen Alfano, Fisher-Price found six-month-olds batting at iPhone screens, nine-month-olds swiping, and 12-month-olds pointing out objects and recognizing the location and function of the home button. Even though most babies do not comprehend object permanence (i.e., the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, heard or touched), when the home button was covered the babies knew where it should be and pressed that location in the hopes of stimulating an action on the screen. These observations, among others, were passed along to Fisher-Price toy producers and industrial designers and informed the development of Fisher-Price's Apptivity line of toys and apps-- starting with the Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case in 2011 and most recently, the Laugh & Learn Apptivity Monkey, which will be on shelves this August.

Kathleen will discuss how young children engage with technology, the link between play and learning, why it is important to observe children's interactions with technology, and how to make game-play purposeful and safe.

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