Technology + Online + Industry + Partnerships

Digital Media Benefits Primary Prep

Research reveals that exposing preschool children to educational videos and games helps them move on to K-12 with better literacy skills.

Technology + Online + Industry + PartnershipsA new study shows that educational videos and interactive games can have a positive impact on preschooler literacy when incorporated into the curriculum in a classroom setting. According to the study, children whose teachers brought digital media into the classroom as part of the Ready to Learn program came out more with more advanced literacy skills and better prepared for kindergarten than those who were not exposed to such a program.

The new study, "Summative Evaluation of the Ready to Learn Initiative," was conducted by Education Development Center (EDC) and SRI International on behalf of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). It focused on economically disadvantaged children in schools participating in Ready to Learn programs in New York City and San Francisco. Ready to Learn is an initiative funded in part by the US Department of Education and is operated by CPB, PBS, and the Ready to Learn Partnership. It is designed to help improve literacy in students ages 2 to 8 using a variety of media tools and curriculum resources.

About 400 children in 80 classes from 47 different preschool centers participated in the study. Teachers were randomly assigned a 10-week curriculum-- either literacy or science-- with those using the science curriculum serving as the comparison group. Literacy teachers were given training and support and were asked to engage in "media-rich" activities with their students during the study period, which ran between January and June earlier this year. Activities ranged from viewing PBS shows such as Super Why!, Sesame Street, and Between the Lions to playing web-based computer games and participating in hands-on activities.

At the end of the 10-week period, children who participated in the literacy curriculum had more competent literacy skills than those in the comparison group, outscoring them in a statistically significant way in four out of five measures: naming letters; knowing letter sounds; recognizing letters in the student's own name; and knowledge of "story and print concepts," including reading left to right, identifying the title of a book, identifying the author, orienting the book correctly, and recalling its major story points.

"Many studies have shown that computer technologies can improve learning for students in kindergarten through grade 12, but using digital media in preschool has been controversial," said lead researcher Shelley Pasnik, director of EDC's Center for Children & Technology, in a statement released to coincide with the report. "To make these kinds of gains after preschoolers and their teachers use technology, we think is especially significant."

An executive summary of the research and a complete copy of the report-- including methodology and further explanation of other aspects of the research-- can be accessed online from EDC's site here. To find this article in its entirety, along with a video about the Ready to Learn initiative, visit here.

Green Spot


Technology + Online + Industry + PartnershipsThrough its new Save-a-Tree campaign, education publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt plans to give new trees to thousands of schools across the nation. To have the chance to win a tree to plant on school grounds, educators simply need to register for the company's Virtual Sampling service, an eco-friendly alternative to traditional material sampling. The service allows educators to evaluate thousands of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's products online instead of ordering printed samples of the educational materials. Winning schools will receive a geographically appropriate tree in a 100-percent recyclable container.

The company is kicking off the campaign this fall by selecting 1,000 educators who have signed up for Virtual Sampling to receive a tree for their schools, and plans to give away more than 5,000 additional trees by spring 2010. Over the next few years, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt hopes to provide 20,000 trees to schools through the Save-a-Tree campaign. For more information, visit here.

:: Industry News

NEW WEBSITE PROMOTES STEM CAREERS FOR GIRLS. The nonprofit Education Development Center has announced the launch of a new, web-based STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) resource called Girls Communicating Career Connections (GC3). The online resource was created by middle school girls and is dedicated to sharing information about science and engineering careers with other middle school girls. The website features a video series and activities that share career information, encourage 21st-century skill development, and discuss the positive impact of science and engineering careers. There are also companion resources for educators.

NETTREKKER RANKS SCHOOLS FOR ONLINE SAFETY. NetTrekker recently released its annual Safe Search Awards Index to recognize school districts that kept student internet searches safe during the 2008-2009 school year. The districts were broken down by size and ranked according to the number of safe searches their students performed on the company's educational search tool, NetTrekker d.i. For the third year in a row, Forsyth County Schools in Georgia was ranked the top large district, with more than 7.3 million safe searches. Tangipahoa Parish School System in Amite, LA, led the midsize districts with 1,875,328 safe searches, while Minnesota's Austin Public Schools led all smaller districts with 675,485 safe searches. The winning districts received a prize package of NetTrekker items and services worth $5,000. Visit the NetTrekker website for more information, including a complete listing of schools on the 2008-2009 Safe Search Awards Index.

:: Awards and Contests

Technology + Online + Industry + PartnershipsDIMITROV NAMED AMERICA'S TOP YOUNG SCIENTIST. Discovery Education and3M has honored Marina Dimitrov from Sacajawea Middle School in Bozeman, MT, with the title of America's Top Young Scientist. Dimitrov received the honor as the winner of the 2009 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, an annual science competition that encourages middle school students to explore scientific concepts and communicate their findings. Dimitrov was one of 10 finalists chosen from hundreds of students across the US to compete in a series of live science challenges at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City. As the grand-prize winner, she will receive $50,000 in US savings bonds and a trip to 3M's global headquarters to meet with some of the world's top scientists. For more details about the contest and this year's results, visit here.

DREAMBOX LAUNCHES VIDEO CONTEST. Educational software company DreamBox Learning has kicked off its Dream Big video contest for families and classrooms. The contest asks children to use their imagination to create a video about what they want to be when they grow up. Entries can be submitted individually or by classroom on the DreamBox website until Nov. 30. The videos will be posted on the website and on YouTube to allow the public to vote for their favorites. A panel of judges will review the most popular submissions and choose the top videos based on content and creativity; winners will be announced on Dec. 15. All entrants will receive a free one-month trial of DreamBox Learning's online math adventure program, K-2 Math. Five entries will be awarded six-month subscriptions to the program, three entries will win a DreamBox Math Classroom license for the entire 2009-2010 school year, and one grand-prize winner will receive $1,000 cash. To view and vote for video entries, and read submission guidelines and rules for the Dream Big contest, visit here.

Technology + Online + Industry + PartnershipsLOUISIANA SCHOOL HONORED FOR LAPTOP PROGRAM. The Lausanne Laptop Institute of Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, TN, has presented its eighth annual Spotlight School award to St. Joseph's Academy in Baton Rouge, LA. The annual award recognizes K-12 schools whose laptop/tablet programs serve as international models of innovation. St. Joseph's, an all-girls private high school, was chosen for seamlessly integrating cutting-edge technology into the learning environment and using it to support the teaching of higher-order thinking skills. The school is among the first high schools in the country to implement a 1-to-1 program that is fully supported by a student-run help desk. You can read more about the school's 1-to-1 program in the March 2008 issue of T.H.E. Journal ("A Do-it- Yourself 1-to-1 Plan").

This article originally appeared in the November-December 2009 issue of THE Journal.