Welcome 2017: The Center’s Tenth!

by Michael H. Levine, Ph.D.
January 4, 2017

Michael LevineWelcome 2017!  For the Joan Ganz Cooney Center team, this is a very special year.  In December, we will celebrate our tenth year as an organization dedicated to advancing learning for children in the digital age. For those who follow our work closely, you will recall our first report—an analysis of the rapidly evolving digital landscape of educational toys, software and games called D is for Digital which found that the marketplace was full of products that may have had good intentions, but fell short on evidence of impact.  Shortly thereafter in May 2008, we officially launched the Center’s operations at our first public forum with a report that channeled our founder Joan Ganz Cooney’s original process for planning Sesame Street. In 1966, she traversed the country speaking with academic experts, practitioners, and policy experts to seek new strategies to harness the power of television—the ubiquitous medium of the time—to help young children learn.

Our report, The Power of Pow Wham!: Children, Digital Media and Our Nation’s Future  focused on our own research review and the advice of over 50 of the digital media and learning field’s top experts. That blueprint urged the Center and the field to focus on three priorities: first, to build a coherent R&D effort that would focus on both the opportunities and risks attached to digital media in promoting the healthy development of children; second, to rethink what “literacy” means in the digital age; and third, to advance digital equity. Those priorities are still fresh and urgent today, and are reflected in our project mix—from ongoing initiatives zeroing in on technology, family engagement, and early literacy; a focus on early learning and STEM competencies; game-based and intergenerational learning—the Center has tried to keep its focus on both innovation and impact rather than chasing the “shiny new objects” that continue to dot the digital learning landscape.  In doing so, it has been our privilege to lift up the work of many pioneers in the field by opening up our research projects, forums, and communications work to new leaders.

Later this month, we will release the National Science Foundation-supported report STEM Starts Early, a research and action blueprint that makes the case for much more focused R&D and professional reforms that will allow children to gain critical pathways to essential knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math.  The report follows up on the first ever White House Symposium on Early Learning and STEM which took place last spring.

In the months ahead, we are preparing for an exciting new initiative on
learning across boundaries with partners at Stanford and NYU, and a communications research initiative on how best to engage public understanding of digital media and early learning with FrameWorks Institute.  We will also soon launch an ambitious national campaign, powered by creative leaders in Hollywood, that will study and deploy media to promote socio-emotional and conflict resolution skills, with colleagues at the Harvard Center on Media and Child Health. Stay tuned for details!

We remain dedicated to being a collaborative organization, and deeply appreciate the many contributions that we receive to this blog and our projects from both pioneers and emerging voices in the field.  Please let us know if you would like to contribute to our work, we always welcome suggestions!  Please send us your ideas.

We are grateful for your interest and active engagement with the Center’s work and look forward to a healthy, happy and productive New Year.

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