A Cooney Center Fellow’s Confession: I Came for the Muppets

by Becky Herr Stephenson, PhD
March 28, 2011

Editor’s Note: Want to join the Joan Ganz Cooney Center team? Apply to be the 2016-2017 Cooney Center Fellow! We are accepting fellowship applications now through April 4, 2016.

I’ll be honest—I applied for the Cooney Center Fellowship for the Muppets. As a lifelong fan of Sesame Street, the idea of working in an environment that valued Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, and Grover as much as I do was extremely appealing. Upon learning more about the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, however, I discovered that the Muppets were just the beginning of what makes it special. I feel fortunate to work with supportive colleagues who are as committed as I am to supporting young children’s learning, to understanding how digital media is used by families and educators, and to thinking about creative solutions to access and achievement gaps.

During my fellowship so far, I have been involved in a number of projects, ranging from helping orchestrate a workshop about joint media engagement (what we at the Center are calling the new coviewing), assisting at a meeting of our Digital Age Teacher Preparation Council, to participating in field research on collaboration at a Boys and Girls Club in East Harlem. Although diverse, each of these projects have allowed me to refine my research, writing, and professional communication skills and have put me in contact with others working in the area of digital media and learning.

These days, I do most of my work for the Center from California, where I’m busily planning an event designed to bring together media and technology producers, educators, researchers, policymakers, and funders to think about possibilities and challenges of further incorporating digital media into kids’ learning ecologies—home, school, and expanded learning spaces like after school programs. I’m developing a research project related to the event, designed to capture and analyze the ideas that emerge. Juggling both of these tasks, along with participating in other research projects going on at the Center, keeps me busy with engaging and challenging work.

During my six months at the Center, I’ve learned that Fellows need to be flexible and willing to jump in on projects as they develop. By doing so, I have had opportunities to learn more about digital media in middle childhood, to work with amazing colleagues and partners, and to develop new research skills and techniques. I may have come for the Muppets, but have stayed for the unique opportunities and challenges the Center offers for Fellows.


Learn more about the Cooney Center Fellows Program and download a PDF with more information about the 2011-2012 program, including qualifications, terms of the fellowship, and application timeline.


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