Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

The Electric Company Website

The Electric Company Website

Fall 2011 Website
Ages: 6 - 9 yrs.
Contributions From: Miles Ludwig
Producer: Andrea Palumbos
Producer: Erica Branch Ridley
Producer: Emily Friend-Roberts
Publisher: Sesame Workshop

Based on the acclaimed PBS television show from the 1970s The Electric Company, this delightfully educational website ties in nicely as the online supplement to the reinvented PBS-Sesame Workshop series by the same name. Like the TV show, the site is geared to helping youngsters aged 6-9, learn literacy skills-vocabulary, phonics and reading comprehension-using cool characters, creativity, videos, animation, humor and music. Playing off the TV episodes which feature the hip New York-based, Electric Company kids and the up-to-no-good neighborhood group called the Pranksters, the website provides a companion level of fun and engaging interactivity the TV show can’t provide by itself. At the center of all this hustle and activity is wordplay--the playful use of language to solve problems, be funny, do the right thing, build teamwork, etc.

What’s nice is that this fast-paced website is totally high tech, including its video streaming that lets kids catch up on the TV episodes, view dozens of music videos, and play any of the many video clips—all of which are designed to strengthen word use. One music video we watched was Electric Company characters Shock and UT performing the song “Take Your Time’ as related words appeared on the sidewalk steps and across the screen. Another, “Once Upon a Story” features humorous story telling clips that emphasize literary lessons but never in a boring way.

Through the Profile feature that registered players can create on this moderated site, kids get lots of hands-on leeway to save clips, manage favorite videos, use cuts from videos to create their own videos, create their own stories, and expand their vocabulary. Plus, the Electric Company characters all have their own Profiles here.

And there are games, about a dozen impressively creative and fun games that relate to themes from the show and to literary strategies and goals. By playing the games, kids earn points to enhance their own Profile pages or add to their favorite characters’ Profiles that are tallied on the site’s Leader Board.

Among the best games is Manny's Word Mangler, for instance, is a fun, think-fast word-building game in which players piece together parts of words that Manny has trashed into new and different words. Shock's Beatbox lets kids record their own beatbox tracks while emphasizing phonics and choice of word sounds. Great Escapes is a complete-this-sentence game in which players compete against the clock to fill in blanks in a sentence from a list of words. And What's the Story is great for encouraging kids to make up their own stories or TV commercials or new reports, then watch the recorded final version on the site.

Positive and upbeat, The Electric Company website makes a multimedia art out of studying language arts. And the lesson is wordplay is fun, reading is cool.

Don Oldenburg   ©2011 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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