Blue's Clues - Still The Best Show For Young Children
Forbes magazine has called Blue's clues "one of the most successful, critically acclaimed, and ground-breaking preschool television series of all time". What made it and still makes it so successful? the short answer is that it was created using concepts learned from child development and early-childhood education research, it truly captured preschool aged children's attention, and it used a narrative format which structured every episode the exact same way. This was new to children's television.
Its innovative use of research and technology as well as its interactive format has now influenced the way television is made for preschoolers and even influenced how the ever popular Sesame Street is made currently. It became the highest-rated show for preschoolers on commercial television, and received nine Emmy awards.
How Blue's Clues Got Started
And why it was so successful
In the summer of 1994, producers Todd Kessler, Angela Santomero and Traci Paige Johnson met at the Nickelodeon studios to develop Blue's Clues. Their goal was to invent a children's television program that would "empower preschoolers to learn through active participation in activities that are grounded in their everyday lives, to redefine the approach to problem-solving for preschoolers in an engaging manner."
Artist Dave Palmer joined the team and developed what was at that time a new technology-scanned images of simple materials like fabric, paper or pipe-cleaners were then animated in a computer. In this manner, they could be animated without redrawing them like in traditional animation. This resulted in something new and different looking from anything else on television at the time.
Something else that was innovative about this show was the field testing and research. Each show was tested three times before putting it on air, as compared to Sesame Street, which tested only a third of its episodes once, after they were completed. In addition, the casting of characters was excellent, voices sounded like the parts they played - Johnson was cast as Blues voice as she sounded most like a dog. Actor/performer Steve Burns was cast as the shows host. Steve Burns, who became a 'superstar' among viewers and their parents is credited by many to be one of the biggest reasons for the success of the show.
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Format For Blue's Clues
The format of each episode of Blue's Clues is the same. (source Winkepedia.com)
Steve, the host, presents the audience with a puzzle involving Blue, the animated dog ... To help the audience unlock the puzzle, Blue leaves behind a series of clues, which are objects marked with one of her paw prints. In between the discovery of the clues, Steve plays a series of games-mini-puzzles-with the audience that are thematically related to the overall puzzle ... As the show unfolds, Steve and Blue move from one animated set to another, jumping through magical doorways, leading viewers on a journey of discovery, until, at the end of the story, Steve returns to the living room. There, at the climax of the show, he sits down in a comfortable chair to think-a chair known, of course, in the literal world of Blue's Clues, as the Thinking Chair. He puzzles over Blue's three clues and attempts to come up with the answer.
At first, each episode was aired and repeated each day for a week. The show's creators encouraged participation with their use of repetition. Just as parents of preschoolers know, preschoolers want to read and reread and reread again their favorite books. They thrive on repetition and Blue's clues fit the bill. This repetition allowed for the attention and comprehension of young viewers to increase with each repeated viewing.
Evidence For Blue's Clues Efficacy As A Learning Tool
Research shows that television could be a powerful educational agent (for children over the age of 3) due to the fact that tells stories through pictures and presents information from multiple presepctives in real world contexts. The creators of Blue's clues wanted to place problem solving tasks in the context of televisions story telling techniques by slowley increasing the difficulty of the tasks and inviting the direct involvement from the children viewing the program. Ultimately they were successful.
NIckelodeon and the University of Alabama funded four studies in 2000 that researched the impact of Blue's clues on preschoolers. When children viewed the same episodes over and over, they showed increased comprehension and improved use of problem solving strategies. Children also showed improvement in their ability to solve riddles, creative thinking and non verbal and verbal skills, according to this research.
Increased interaction by children with other television programs was also shown to be a result of regular viewing of Blue's clues.
A two-year longitudinal study of the impact of viewing Blue's Clues was conducted; its result was that viewers of the show were more proficient in flexible thinking than their non-watching peers.
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