New America and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center will conduct two sets of activities to map and link early language and literacy and parent engagement and support initiatives:
- Design a methodology for categorizing initiatives underway in the field of early language and literacy and parent engagement and support
- Create an interactive map of those initiatives, highlighting not only the geographic reach, but also what features they have in common
- Write a paper explaining the map and the principles behind it
- Publish the map and paper for researchers, policymakers, and the early childhood community
- Spotlight initiatives coupled with research endeavors and evaluations to build an evidence base for what works
- Connect leaders, researchers, and other experts
- Conduct convenings with the Alliance for Early Success
The partner organizations are known nationally for their expertise in examining the intersection of technology and early education. New America is a non-profit and non-partisan public policy institute focused on work that is responsive to the changing conditions and problems of the 21st century information-age economy. This particular project would be undertaken by the Early Education Initiative and the Learning Technologies Project, part of the organization's Education Policy Program. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop is an independent research and innovation lab that focuses on the challenges of educating children in a rapidly changing media landscape.
The Alliance for Early Success is an alliance of state, national, and funding partners whose goal is to advance state policies that lead to improved health, learning, and economic outcomes for young children, birth through age eight. The Pritzker Children's Initiative funds innovative research and programs for children in underserved communities. Both organizations will provide funding and expertise in engaging researchers, practitioners, and policy leaders in conversations on how to enable innovation with evidence of positive impact.
- Sept 2014 - Nov 2014: Gather information on initiatives announced at CGI America in June; create framework for information gathering; put out calls for information and conduct interviews to capture news of additional initiatives underway
- Dec 2014 - Jan 2015: Analyze information gathered to date and begin a process of categorizing and mapping
- Spring 2015: Work with data visualization expert to create interactive map; Work with Alliance for Early Success to share pre-published data and build periodic convenings and conversations with state and local early childhood leaders
- June - Sept 2015: Publish map, paper, and any accompanying frameworks for gathering data and evidence of effectiveness
The arrival of digital technologies brings new opportunities and challenges to early childhood development and learning. Many early learning programs are well aware of the concerns about technology being used inappropriately with young children, yet they also see potential in experimenting with text messaging, apps, and other new tools that could be harnessed to spark and strengthen communication between and among early educators, language experts, parents, and their children. For example, several new technologies and approaches are being considered by home visiting, family support, and parent-outreach organizations to address the 'word gap', which are the disparities in language development that research has documented between high-income and low-income families. In other examples, libraries and literacy organizations are developing mobile tools and building new networks for parents and educators. In still others, preschools and kindergarten classrooms are experimenting in personalized technology initiatives in which tablets and other mobile devices are deployed in digital learning centers, and to ease communication between home and school.
With so many experiments and initiatives proliferating around the country, there is a need for maps, guideposts, and information-sharing that can help the early childhood field see connections and differences between different approaches. The partners see a need to share information and new research findings between initiatives to help these initiatives systematically gather information on effectiveness and build new research-based programs and models that can 'grow-to-scale.' Further, the partners see a desire among leaders at the local, state, and federal level for information on how or whether these programs are connected to broader government funded initiatives or assisted by current policies. The partners aim to fill that gap through their Map, Link, and Rethink project.
To help launch a 2016 Innovation Institute on Early Learning, Parent Success, and New Technologies, New America and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center are seeking additional funding to support travel and scholarships. The Institute has grown out of a mapping project -- an interactive online "wall map" that depicts how many early education initiatives are underway across the country that are experimenting with new technologies to support early literacy and parenting success.