HOW MUCH: $7.99 per month (monthly); $5.99 per month (quarterly); $4.99 per month (annually).
FOR MORE INFORMATION: puterbugs.com.
Her annual teaching contract arrived in the spring. Julia Patterson looked at it, but did not sign. Instead she turned in a letter of resignation.
The superintendent asked her to reconsider. Friends questioned her sanity. Leave teaching for … technology?
"This is 1991," Patterson said last Wednesday morning, sitting in a booth at the Ridge Diner in Park Ridge. "I didn't believe technology was a fad."
Twenty years after her decision to jettison her tenured job in the River Vale school district, Patterson's dream is set to take its biggest leap. Her invention – a teach-technology-to-kids computer program named Puterbugs – gets a new platform, officially launching on home laptops and desktops. A new partnership with Discovery Communications extends the reach of a concept that Patterson said has been used more than 4 million times by kids in classroom settings.
"My husband is very technical," Patterson said. "And he invited me one Sunday to go with him to New York City to a multimedia computer show. It was the first time I saw animations and color graphics. And my first thought was, 'Wow, the kids would love this technology.' And then my second thought was … 'What a powerful tool for learning technology was.' "
When those seeds finally pushed through the soil, Patterson had a way to reach hundreds of kids, then thousands of kids, and now – hopefully – millions of kids. The focus was on technology, but also on literacy, numbers, letters, shapes and other age-appropriate subject matter.
For years, Patterson ran these programs in brick-and-mortar locations. Now parents can punch a password into a website (puterbugs.com) and the lessons arrive at home. The lessons are designed for kids 8 and under.
With some help from Mr. Scott (Scott St. John), the program's host and Patterson's son-in-law, students are directed through a series of missions. In one simulation, "The Case of the Boppin Bus," students must use the mouse to steer a bus, tap on the space bar to knock on a door and hit the home keys to play musical instruments.
Patterson said the program connects kids to the three main learning senses – sight, hearing and touch.