Happy New Year from the Cooney Center

michael_levineOn behalf of our team at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, I wanted to simply say thanks for your wonderful support during 2013.  The Center’s fifth anniversary year has been one of new accomplishments and challenges in the children’s digital media space—from record sales this holiday season in the tech toy sector, to research identifying critical, enduring equity gaps in children’s opportunities to learn, and new mobile technologies that have exploded on the early learning landscape.

We continue to be struck by the remarkable untapped opportunities that exist to accelerate children’s learning and healthy development with the benefit of well-deployed digital supports.  We are renewing our energies to meet the needs of those families who can benefit most from innovations, but whom our nation is currently failing to reach with our standard approaches.

You may recall that earlier this year we launched a series of new projects that are gaining national attention and which will hopefully drive research inquiry, practice, and policies in new directions in 2014.  In 2013, the Center launched new efforts with many partners and generous supporters, including the Games and Learning Publishing Council, the Families and Media Project, the Literacy by Ten Campaign, and the Aprendiendo Juntos (Learning Together) Council.  We are especially grateful to our partners at Sesame Workshop for their most generous support and guidance.  And we want to also thank the National Center for Families Learning, New America, the LIFE Center, Northwestern University, Rutgers University, Harvard University, and E Line Media, with whom we have special collaborative relationships in various aspects of our work.

I wanted to give you a heads-up on two new resources that will become available in the first month of the New Year.  Coming up on January 24 will be the Center’s fourth Breakthrough Learning Forum, which will be held at the McGraw Hill Building in Mid-Town NYC.  At this year’s forum we will be featuring a comprehensive survey on the types of learning with educational media that young children and their parents are engaged in at home.  The survey of some 1600 parents of children ages 2-10, including approximately 1000 parents of Hispanic and African-American children, was developed by Vicky Rideout and the Cooney Center team. The findings build on other strong work by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Common Sense Media, Pew, and others, while offering distinctive and surprising analyses of the ways in which children are learning at home. We will lay out the types of content that are engaging today’s youngsters, their preferences across platforms, the emerging transition from television to other platforms, parental reactions to (and practices with) new digital reading platforms, and the growing equity concerns that now face too many young children who are growing up with a blizzard of digital content choices.  We have a superb group of leaders lined up to respond to the report, led by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who will consider practical action steps to improve the quality, access, deployment, and future priorities for investment in educational media.  The event is made possible with the generous support of the Bezos Family Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, AARP, and McGraw-Hill Education.

In February, we will launch a new website, www.gamesandlearning.org which we are pleased to share in advance with our readers. The site is a joint production of the Cooney Center and the Games and Learning Publishing Council (with generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) and is the first initiative to map and track the evolving games-based learning field from a perspective of both supply and demand.  We are especially eager to engage developers, creators and investors in understanding the unique possibilities that games-based approaches may provide in supporting children’s learning potential.  Likewise, as is the Center’s custom, the site intends to make vital connections across sectors, giving voice to practitioners’ concerns, and providing new tools for applying inventive approaches to real-life settings.  We are eager to hear your feedback before the site goes live!

At the dawn of a new year, please accept our heartfelt thanks for your role in building the Joan Ganz Cooney Center.  Over the past five years we have been lucky enough to have the resources from generous benefactors, including Pete Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney, that have made it possible to provide all of our research and field-building tools freely and openly.  That is a gift that we treasure.  But even more important to all of us is the remarkable and generous collegial support we receive from the hundreds of leaders who have enabled the Center to grow in capacity and influence since our founding.  Warmest wishes from our family to yours for a healthy, happy, and productive 2014.   We hope to see you soon!