The TEC Center at Erikson Institute, the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at Saint Vincent College, The Ounce of Prevention Fund, the Public Broadcasting Service, and Sesame Workshop will develop a plan of action for a consortium to promote innovation and quality in early learning through technology and digital media. The consortium's goal will be to significantly advance awareness, research, new product development, and the human and capital infrastructure for using current and emerging digital media tools to empower economically vulnerable U.S. families. Consortium planning will focus on parent education and engagement around critical competency areas for school readiness and success such as early literacy; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM); social-emotional development; dual language learning; and digital media literacy. Over the nine months of this commitment, the five organizations will identify priorities and resources (research, media products, parent programs and networks, social marketing and information campaigns, technology infrastructure and access, policy and advocacy, funding) among their own and potentially additional organizations that will make up the 'innovation consortium.' The plan for the innovation consortium will be presented for submission as a five-year commitment at the 2013 CGI America convening.
Consortium planning will be unified around core strategies, some of which will be initiated during the nine-month planning period and are expected to include an information campaign using social media and in-person issues briefings; professional development; 'digital innovation clusters' to connect early childhood educators, parents, researchers, and media developers for the incentivizing and creation of new digital learning tools to support parents as teachers; and the curating and delivery of quality digital media resources for families and educators. Each of the five organizations will contribute its unique strengths and resources to consortium planning overall and to the design and execution of the core strategies.
Four in-person, consortium-planning meetings will be held-on September 19, 2012, at Sesame Workshop in New York; in November 2012, potentially in Atlanta, at the annual conference of the National Association for the Education of Young Children; in January 2013, at PBS in Washington, DC; and in March 2013, in Chicago, to coincide with the annual Digital Media and Learning conference of the MacArthur Foundation.
All five organizations in this CGI America commitment share leadership for developing and carrying forward the planning agendas for the four meetings; additional individuals and organizations will be invited to attend depending on the meeting focus. The meetings and the core strategies to be conducted over the nine months of the current commitment will produce a co-sponsored position paper and action plan describing the need and the potential for early learning innovation through technology and digital media; the consortium vision for innovation to address the unique needs of at-risk families and children; the fully articulated core strategies, resources, and implementation timeline for the consortium; and the names and contributions of additional prospective partners.
As James Heckman observes in his article, 'The Economics of Inequality,' at-risk children overwhelmingly come to school the least prepared to learn and engage in the classroom environment (American Educator, Spring 2011). In his recent article in The New York Times Magazine, Paul Tough notes that findings from neuroscience and developmental psychology point to the negative effects on executive function and school success for young children living in poverty (The New York Times Magazine, August 16, 2012). In significant numbers, these children are being raised in single-parent households, and their parents' time is therefore spread especially thin. For too many economically vulnerable families and their children, deep, meaningful learning in the home often falls by the wayside. However, with the help of new technology and digital media tools that incorporate developmentally appropriate practice for early learning and development, that are research-based, and that take into account both the quality of content and the optimal technology access points for families most in need of support, the five organizations in this CGI America commitment believe that a way can be found to reach these parents and deeply affect their children's early developmental and educational needs, thus reducing the gap in school readiness that currently exists among the income levels.
Planning for the innovation consortium will include reaching out to additional organizations with demonstrated interests in the opportunities for early learning presented by technology and digital media. The long-term success of the consortium will depend upon a wide range of partners including research institutions; national organizations for early childhood education, parent engagement, professional development, and advocacy; media producers; technology companies and entrepreneurs; social marketers and traditional and new media organizations; education and technology policymakers; and mission-driven funders.
The innovation consortium planning group is open to exploring partnerships with other CGI commitment makers, especially those with Commitments to Action in the areas of early childhood education, parent engagement, STEM education, and entrepreneurship.