leenas blog


Microsoft goes kindergarten

Filed under: English — lsimon @ 4:58 pm

I just visited a german kindergarten that has a concept to educate young children in computer skills.
On the one hand I was very happy to see how both, boys and girls, learn how to work with computers and are tutored by women (which is good for the gender aspect). On the other hand I watched these children work with Microsoft software and being instructed how to work with Windows.
Sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Families and in cooperation with the Cornelsen Verlag, a big publishing house for schoolbooks, Microsoft places its software called Schlaumäuse directly into german kindergartens.
The kindergarten teachers are very happy about this program because it really gives them a good peace of software that they can easily work with. (I have to confess: in comparison to other Microsoft products it is really good.) The program comes for free (only for kindergartens, of course) with a good manual and a monthly magazine and there is also merch available like stickers and stuffed animals.
It is good work of advertisement and it is no wonder, that kindergarten teachers appreciate the offer. Especially since they are not aware, that there are already free alternatives available.
Still the Schlaumäuse are quite good work. They are orientated towards linguistic support and autonomy without overburdening the children. A lot of different games have been put together in one environment and if you earned enough cheese-points within the learning-games your award is to play the most fun game (basically an easier version of pacman).
The kindergarten teacher I spoke to was very pleased with the program. But she was also very interested in Free Software and in my objection that this is very early advertisement on the most subtle level. Still I was not able to recommend her an equivalent free alternative.
I’ve already tried some software like Kturtle and Sugar and other small applications but non of those offered such a fully-fledged learning platform like Schlaumäuse.
We definitely need something that offers a full learning platform and comes with a good handbook and leaflets etc.
Otherwise Microsoft will succeed advertising its products in the very early years of our children.
Our challenge is now to compete with this and to bring our alternative to the kindergartens and primary schools.
I would do the latter, who is in for the first?


  1. Try Juxlala and contact Ms. Stalder to arrange some cooperation or more funding for that project.

    I’m on the train right now so can’t dig for links, but projects like that and gcompris have been going for years. If we had the kind of funding Microsoft can pump into a non-free product like Schlaumäuse, I’m sure gcompris would already be far superior.

    Comment by Ramon Cahenzli — 27/10/2009 @ 7:10 pm

  2. Do you know GCompris? – Well, it probably needs more help, but it’s a start…
    Note: the version for windows only has limited support.

    Comment by akf — 27/10/2009 @ 8:34 pm

  3. Hallo Lena.

    Vielen Dank für Deinen Bericht!

    Ich versuche eine Übersicht zu gewinnen[0].
    Die privatwirtschaftliche Einflußnahme auf die Lehrmittel/Medien (Computer und Bücher) unserer Heranwachsenden in Erziehung und Bildung ist erschreckend tief ausgeprägt.

    Sie hat die öffentlichen Organisationen und Institutionen und etablierten Parteien durchwachsen, die Fördermöglichkeiten im Griff, und weiß, freiwilliges bürgerliches Angagement und Gemeinnützigkeit zu verwerten und medial aus-zu-schlachten.
    Unter dem Deckmäntelchen der Großherzigkeit und christlicher Nächstenliebe in rosa Kostümchen.

    Außergewöhnlich ist der Umfang eines anderen Beispiels aus dem vorschulischen Bereich:
    “More than 30,000 units installed worldwide: 7,500 child-care centers, serving more than 2.6 million children in 60 countries.”[1]

    [BITS21] Geschäftspartner http://www.ibm.com/ IBM ist zuständig für
    Technologie, Hosting und Konnektivität, Webserverauslastung, Inhaltsmanagement, Übersetzungsservices und Konsultationen. IBM e-business Services, IBM Global Services und IBM Global Translation Center sind nur einige Unternehmensbereiche der IBM, die an diesem Probjekt mitarbeiten.

    Für die Erarbeitung und Verwaltung des IBM KidSmart-Lernprogramms für Vorschulkinder sowie der KidSmart-Website zeichnet die Gruppe IBM Corporate Community Relations verantwortlich.

    “Die KidSmart-Website verwendet IBM HotMedia für Multimedia, Java und JavaScript. Die Site wird den Nutzern des World Wide Web von einer “Serverfarm” von IBM Global Services Delivery in Southbury, Connecticut, bereitgestellt. Die Infrastruktur der Farm basiert auf der IBM Plattform AIX und bietet eine sichere, skalierbare und flexible Umgebung, die mehrere Millionen Aufrufe der KidSmart-Website pro Tag unterstützt.”

    Alles Gute und bis bald
    maxen, Christian

    [0] http://wiki.skolelinux.de/ChristianMaxen/Schule
    [1] http://www.ibm.com/ibm/ibmgives/grant/education/programs/kidsmart.shtml

    Comment by maxen, Christian — 27/10/2009 @ 8:49 pm

  4. Freie Möglichkeiten, Nachtrag

    GCompris ist die freie Lern- und Spielsoftware für das Vorschulische- und das Grundschulalter[0]. GCompris kann unter proprietärem Windows probiert werden, entfaltet seine ganze Vielfalt jedoch erst auf freien Systemen, etwa Debian GNU/Linux.

    Das Debian Edu-Team arbeitet derzeit daran, die OneLaptopPerChild-OLPC-Oberfäche Sugar, bei Skolelinux als zusätzliches Installationsoption auf der InstallationsDVD zu integrieren (AlphaStadium).

    GCompris kann einfach von der Juxala-LiveCD probiert und auf Festplatte oder USB-Stick übertragen werden[1]:

    Download: http://www.jux-net.info/juxlala/juxlala2_dld.html

    Alles Gute und bis bald
    maxen, Christian

    [0] http://wiki.skolelinux.de/LernSoftware/Gcompris
    [1] http://www.jux-net.info/juxlala/index.html
    [Download] http://www.jux-net.info/juxlala/juxlala2_dld.html

    Comment by maxen, Christian — 27/10/2009 @ 9:20 pm

  5. I think one major problem while developing education software (especially for such young children) is that the help of people who are experienced in teaching techniques is needed for the design of the contents. Creating useful (games that actually teach something..) content for this audience is difficult in my opinion.

    Maybe some kind of multimedia-authoring-software would be useful, so that the designers could directly implement their ideas without much technical hassle.

    Comment by Ruben — 27/10/2009 @ 10:46 pm

  6. Do you know GComprise (http://gcompris.net)? I don’t know “Schlaumäuse” and I have tried GComprise only a few years ago for a really short time but I think it’s a nice program suite for young children.

    Comment by Björn — 28/10/2009 @ 11:34 am

  7. [...] sometime in the next decade”). Lena from the Free Software Foundation Europe has just published the following testimonial from German kindergartens, not just schools (it’s aptly titled “Microsoft goes kindergarten”): Sponsored by the German [...]

    Pingback by Some Perceive Toddlers as Emerging Markets, a Business | Boycott Novell — 29/10/2009 @ 3:50 am

  8. I believe the kindergarten should be a computer-free zone. Of course it is bad when Microsoft pushes its own software into the brains of our children, but it would be almost as bad to push every other software into them.

    Media researcher Rainer Patzlaff says that you do not learn “media competence” with the medium, but without, sometimes even against the particular medium. To develop your intelligence you need physical activities, but most of the senses do not get stimulated in front of a computer.

    I am a student of computer science myself and my interests for computers developed early, when I was 13 or 14 years old. But this is obviously not considered “early” anymore, if children in their kindergarten age are already sitting in front of a screen. I propose that they learn absolutely nothing of importance in the age of 3-7 which they cannot learn in the age of 12-15 regarding computers. But the things they will not learn in the age of 3-7 – playing with other children, using their hands, painting, singing, using their fantasy while listening to stories elders read to them – these are the things they are going to miss when they are grown-up.

    My children will not visit a kindergarten that has computers available to children. I want them to be healthy and have a fantasy of their own.

    Comment by Alexander — 05/12/2009 @ 2:16 pm

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