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Playful City USA 3.0: Plugged in for Outdoor Play?

Science & Tech  (tags: activists, americans, children, culture, ethics, family, society, safety, rights, usa, technology, tech, safety, internet, Gizmos, health )

- 2200 days ago -
As several Playful City USA communities have found, play time doesn't have to compete with screen time.These communities are using mobile apps, QR codes, and social media to drive citizen engagement around their parks, playgrounds, and other outdoor publ


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JL A (281)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 2:38 pm

Playful City USA 3.0: Plugged in for outdoor play?

Posted by Daniel McNulty on March 1, 2013

Many of us frown upon the parents who stand on the playground sidelines, fiddling with their smart phones. But what if that parent were using her smart phone to report an overflowing trash bin? To learn about upcoming park events? To get other families to the playground?

As several Playful City USA communities have found, play time doesn’t have to compete with screen time. These communities are using mobile apps, QR codes, and social media to drive citizen engagement around their parks, playgrounds, and other outdoor public spaces.

Mobile apps to get things fixed

As a case in point, Playful City USA communities Houston, Texas; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Tucson, Arizona are taking advantage of the crowdsourcing website and mobile app SeeClickFix to help citizens report maintenance issues in their public spaces. Of course, no one wants to bring their kids to a playground littered with trash or covered in graffiti. Using SeeClickFix, residents can report problems at their playgrounds and parks, or other areas in their neighborhoods, and then connect with neighbors, local government, or civic groups to get them fixed.

According to Christy Cornell, Sr. Staff Analyst with Raleigh’s Parks Maintenance Division, since 2010 the Division has worked with the city to address and close 436 unique requests that were identified through SeeClickFix. Reports have ranged from downed trees to illegal dumping, and staff have worked to make requests a priority, providing updates to the City Manager on a regular basis.

QR codes to inform and engage

As QR codes become more widespread, two 2012 Playful City designees plan to incorporate the technology to keep residents informed and engaged. The Parks and Recreation Department of Geneva, New York intends to place the code, which can be scanned via Smartphone, on brochures to provide up-to-date information on program activities without creating unneeded paper waste. North Liberty, Iowa will feature the codes on laminated signs as part of their annual scavenger hunt. Participants will scan the code, pulling up a webpage where they will then fill in information that verifies the completion of a task. North Liberty also plans to incorporate QR codes as part of their Historic House Walk, providing walkers with information on each home via their mobile device.

Social media to connect in the real world

Social media platforms provide yet another avenue for engaging residents. In Coventry, CT, the Parks and Recreation Department has created pinboards that visually share information about the playful happenings around town, as well as health and wellness tips, arts and craft ideas, and seasonal activities. In Providence, Rhode Island, the Playful Providence Planning Committee has embraced Twitter to bring the play-minded together. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to use designated hashtags on their feeds, inviting others to join them at one of the city’s many recreational locations.

From the KaBOOM! Map of Play to our do-it-yourself fundraising platform, Our Dream Playground, we have long embraced the use of technology to increase and enhance play opportunities. Though we lament the rise in screen time amongst our nation’s youth, it’s important to remember that screens are not inherently “the enemy.” The potential problems—and opportunities—lie in how much, and in what context, screens are used.

Kit B (276)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 5:31 pm

I guess it depends on how much time is spend with an app and how much time is spend playing with the children. I was not a side line watcher, I loved playing with the children, probably because I never grew-up.
Though I can see the upside of having a quick way to report problems. One thing that really irks me is seeing a family at a restaurant and everyone at the table is texting or playing a game, no one is talking family talk.

Süheyla C (234)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 5:35 pm
Thank you

JL A (281)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 5:40 pm
The length of time it should take to report something should be tiny compared to time at a park I would hope Kit. And a single place to find family fun options in a community also sounds good. As long as it doesn't move into other screen activity like you see as restaurants...
You are welcome Suheyla.
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Jerry B (128)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 9:23 pm
Noted..thanks JL.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday March 10, 2013, 9:51 pm
There's at least 2 sides to every story. This app use for public services smells a bit like "lean management", meaning staff lay offs, job losses etc. to save HR and money. Hope I'm wrong. Thx JL

Robert O (12)
Monday March 11, 2013, 1:20 am
Thank you.

Kerrie G (116)
Monday March 11, 2013, 5:43 am
Noted, thanks.

JL A (281)
Monday March 11, 2013, 8:07 am
You are welcome Jerry, Angelika, Robert and Kerrie.
Hope you are, too, Angelika. Sometimes it means adding something new without extra cost, too.
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