Old and new forms of media education meet in Q Wunder’s digital learning program. With content based on principles of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Q Wunder’s app aims to help even the youngest children grow in self-knowledge and social awareness. In Q’s World, Sofia invites her viewer friends to join her and an animated monkey named Q on adventures to learn skills such as manners and empathy. The show alternates between Q’s tree house and real-world sites like school and home, and directly addresses concerns and difficulties that young viewers might have. Sofia converses with viewers and calls on them to participate in activities. Every episode focuses on a particular skill, and consists of Q Time, Do Time, and You Time. In Q Time, Q (a genius inventor with no social acumen) learns a particular social skill. Do Time gives viewers an opportunity to practice that skill through questions and answers, and You Time shows children modeling real-life situations and features fun activities viewers can do at home. A music video turns each social skill into a hip-hop jam, and the refrain is repeated throughout the episode.
I found both the content and pedagogical method of Q Wunder to be practical and relevant. Social-emotional learning can sound abstract, but the examples offered in the show couldn’t be more concrete. For example, a whole episode focuses on how making eye contact shows others that you care and are listening. Memory games test viewers’ listening skills, and the illustrations of children struggling to make eye contact when meeting new people or when saying thank you for a gift were empathy-inducing and apt. Games like a listening version of Simon Says seemed repeatable and fun, with a music video featuring a catchy refrain and easy-to-learn hand motions. I enjoyed watching, and admire the game’s effort to promote learning by doing through a video platform. I was also impressed by Q Wunder’s Parents’ Corner, filled with articles, videos, and podcasts offering practical advice about how to support kids’ social-emotional learning.
While the iPad app contained one playable game per episode, Q Wunder could develop more interactive digital content. For example, in the question-and-answer activities, the app could require the user to select an answer instead of having a voice track of children shout it out. Q Wunder does sell a board game that challenges players to respond to concrete situations, but the digital app lacks such interaction. The settings of the music videos and real-life scenarios were also culturally narrow, featuring mostly affluent suburban areas. The skills Q Wunder teaches seem crucial regardless of socio-economic class, but the glamorous setting of the recordings could make the content seem less relevant to certain populations.
Q Wunder offers children the opportunity to learn social-emotional skills in a fun, practical way.Image: by Oldiefan via Pixabay