Wolf Trap Teaching Artist Amanda Layton Whiteman leads a preschool class in movement as part of the Early STEM/Arts Program. (Photo by Scott Suchman, courtesy of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.)
When Wolf Trap Teaching Artist Amanda Layton Whiteman arrives at the preschool classroom, all the children are excited that it’s time for dance — and for math. The teacher is amazed at how much the children love math, she tells Whiteman. She’s astonished that certain children who once showed little interest in school are absorbed and attentive during the classroom residency sessions. What’s happening in this Fairfax, Va., classroom to spark such a change?
Working side by side with the teacher in the classroom twice a week for approximately eight weeks to introduce the children to early math concepts through dance, Whiteman’s challenge is to “put math in their bodies.” How, she’s asked herself, can she use dance to help them make connections to math concepts?
Whiteman leads the young learners in the dance experiences they love to do, knowing they’re making important discoveries in the process. When she asks them to make a curvy or angular shape with their arms, they’re grasping the earliest concepts of geometry, while also learning to regulate their own bodies. When she asks them to alternate making high shapes and low shapes, they gain the vital math skill of pattern recognition as well as learning to create a dance phrase.
Children pilot the “At the Beach” Pocoyo PlaySet at Kingsbridge Community Center in the Bronx, N.Y. (Photo courtesy of HITN’s Early Learning Collaborative)
The Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network’s (HITN) Early Learning Collaborative (ELC) is piloting tablet-based “playsets” designed to provide fun and engaging learning experiences for young children as they develop English language, reading, and math skills. The playsets, which are available as apps for iPads, use a combination of activities, including interactive games and storybooks, sing-along songs, and a word machine, to help close the achievement gap between economically advantaged and disadvantaged children.
The playsets feature Pocoyo, an internationally recognized preschool character created by Zinkia Entertainment, a partner of HITN in the development of the playset applications. Research during the pilot phase will assess the educational efficacy of these digital products before their commercial release, expected in late 2013. The Michael Cohen Group (MCG) is conducting ongoing formative research during the piloting phase as well as large-scale summative studies of the playsets. The development of the Pocoyo PlaySets will be also be guided by feedback from more than 25 pilot sites in New York, Alabama, Maine, Florida, and California.
The pilot phase launch occurred on March 20, 2013, at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The HITN producers demonstrated the playsets in front of an audience of education stakeholders and media. Several audience members had an opportunity to try them out. Following the demonstration, the Early Learning Collaborative hosted a panel discussion among experts in early childhood development and digital media. The panelists included Barbara Bowman, founder of the Erikson Institute and former special advisor on early childhood education to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Warren Buckleitner, founder/editor of Children’s Technology Review; Yolanda Garcia, director of the WestEd E3 Institute; and Roberto Rodriguez, White House special assistant for education policy.
Panelists Yolanda Garcia, Barbara Bowman, Warren Buckleitner, Robert Rodrigeuz, and moderator Ed Greene discuss early learning and digital media. (Photo courtesy of HITN’s Early Learning Collaborative)
HITN’s Early Learning Collaborative is funded through a $30 million U.S. Department of Education Ready to Learn (RTL) grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement. The RTL program encourages and supports the development and use of video and digital programming to promote early learning and school readiness for young children and their families, as well as the dissemination of educational outreach programs and materials to promote school readiness. The HITN Early Learning Collaborative is one of three recipients of the grant, awarded in 2010.
Click here to view a video that highlights the Pocoyo PlaySets.
Digital learning games based on “Curious George” and “The Cat in the Hat” can boost preschoolers’ math knowledge and skills, making them better prepared for entry into kindergarten. That’s the finding of a new research study from WestEd that engaged low-income parents and their preschool children with online games and at-home activities from PBS KIDS. The study, along with other support for PBS KIDS, was made possible by a grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Ready to Learn Television (RTL) program.
“They’ve successfully hidden the peas in the mashed potatoes.” That’s how Andy Ackerman of the Manhattan Children’s Museum describes the creative way that UMIGO—yoUMake It GO—successfully combines entertaining media with the concepts and practices of math for elementary-aged children. Parliament Funkadelic music legend Bootsy Collins joined children and their parents on Oct. 4, at the Manhattan Children’s Museum to introduce this first-of-its-kind transmedia (using multiple media platforms to advance a fictional story with characters and events) venture and to announce its national outreach launch in 10 cities.
The Parents as Teachers National Center’s BabyFace project, an i3 Validation grantee, will be featured in a Rural Schools Innovations Webinar series hosted by the Rural School and Community Trust on June 13, 2012. The i3 project is using the home-based services of the successful Family and Child Education (FACE) program in 22 Bureau of Indian Education schools to serve high-needs American Indian families and children ages prenatal to three years. The goal is to narrow the achievement gap between American Indian and non-American Indian children at kindergarten and to improve student achievement in reading and math through third grade. For news and information on the Department of Education’s rural education outreach and resources, click here.
The five communities receiving 2011 Promise Neighborhoods (PN) implementation grants represent well America’s geographic diversity, stretching from the hills of Appalachia to the shores of the San Francisco Bay. Among the core elements they have in common is a strong commitment to early learning as a key ingredient for achieving their cradle-to-career goals.
In addition, 14 of the 15 PN planning grants announced by OII’s Assistant Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton on behalf of the Obama Administration are also embracing the focused commitment to early learning. “Education is the one true path to opportunity and the American Dream,” Shelton noted following the December 19th announcement in Minneapolis, and “the tremendous interest in early learning among Promise Neighborhoods is a testament to the recognition that the path begins in a student’s earliest years.”
Inventor and artist. A genius of “hip.” These have been some of the words used to describe Steve Jobs – a 21st-century visionary and innovator whom the world lost on the heels of National Arts and Humanities Month. His iPods, iPads, iTunes, Macs, and apps unleashed exciting new ways of communicating and learning for millions of students, who find history lessons coming to life in the palm of their hands, discover their fingertips as virtual paintbrushes, and create musical compositions at the touch of a screen.
The Arts Education Partnership (AEP), along with many others, is asking the questions: “Who will be the next Steve Jobs?” “What will be the next breakthrough to revolutionize our lives?” That’s because at the heart of AEP’s purpose is this question: “How do we harness the potential in every child and nurture a Jobs-like spirit of ‘curiosity seeker’ in each of them?” With this purpose in mind, AEP galvanizes the power of partners across many sectors to promote the essential role the arts play in helping all students succeed in school, life, and work. Unfortunately, as much as arts are a part of a complete and well-rounded education, their place in America’s P-12 education system is still threatened by narrowed curricula, conflicting policies, and budget shortfalls.
The research is clear: Children who are not able to read by third grade and who are not prepared with foundational math skills are at a significant risk to fall behind and not graduate from high school. Recognizing the importance of early learning, the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund made it a competitive priority in its first round of 49 grants in 2010. As the Department’s “Education and the Economy” Back-to-School Bus Tour stopped in Wisconsin, i3 grantee the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee reported on the first-year progress of the Milwaukee Community Literacy Project, a three-prong – school, community, and family – effort to ensure that students are reading by grade three. An “innovation roundtable” was held at the Brown Street Academy Elementary School, one of seven Milwaukee elementary schools participating in the early literacy project.
A recent evaluation report on the Ready to Learn (RTL) program reveals that young children’s learning is enhanced by educational media, particularly when it is used in combination, such as educational television supplemented by complementary media like websites, games, or even print. As a result, RTL, in its latest round of grants, is pursuing the idea of combining media even further by supporting “transmedia” strategies, a term borrowed from digital media theorist Henry Jenkins to describe narrative storytelling that uses different media platforms to advance the story and to create ever-larger fictional worlds of characters and events.
From its beginnings, the Ready to Learn (RTL) Program in the Office of Innovation and Improvement has both served America’s youngest learners and been a learner itself – of the fast-evolving world of digital communications technology that, in 1995, consisted of television and a nascent World Wide Web.