Introducing the Cooney Center/Annenberg Innovation Lab Collaboration

Rebecca Herr StephensonYou’ve likely heard the saying “two heads are better than one” used in support of collaboration. Besides the increase in brainpower, the availability of different perspectives and experiences also contributes to the value of working together. On Sesame Street, this adage is embodied by the Two-Headed Monster, who literally puts his heads together to solve problems and explore the world:




While we at the Cooney Center fancy ourselves a bit more civilized than the Two-Headed Monster, we also recognize the value of multiple heads when trying to understand and address problems. Especially when thinking about the uses and possibilities of digital media in education, sharing the load with many other smart, dedicated people and organizations working in this area seems like a wise choice. Throughout its existence, the Center has consistently partnered with universities, not-for-profit, and industry groups: In late 2011, we began a new collaborative relationship with the Annenberg Innovation Lab, housed at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California—and I am just lucky enough to be one of the heads involved in this partnership.

The Annenberg Innovation Lab is involved in a number of different projects related to innovation in media technology and communication practices. Among the numerous research and design tracks supported by the Lab is Children, Youth, and Media (CYM), which focuses on understanding participatory practices and transmedia storytelling in relation to learning. CYM is also dedicated to designing tools (ranging from high- to no-tech) for extending such practices and learning opportunities to youth in different settings, including both formal and informal educational spaces. The Children, Youth, and Media research-design track, supervised by Principle Investigator Henry Jenkins and Research/Creative Director Erin Reilly, continues research conducted through Project New Media Literacies at MIT.

As a Research Associate for the Children, Youth, and Media research-design track, I am currently working on two projects that blend the research interests of the Cooney Center and the Innovation Lab. Both of these projects are linked to current and completed research from the Center and Children, Youth, and Media. I’ll dig into the projects in more detail in future posts. For now, here are short summaries of each project:

PLAY! (Participatory Learning and You!) for Elementary: This project aims to understand how concepts of participatory teaching and learning operate in elementary education. The elementary level project is an offshoot of a larger research initiative that has been under way at the Lab since summer 2011. In this research, I’ll be working with elementary school teachers to design and test out “challenges” (participatory activities) created specifically for elementary school teachers and students.

Transmedia Storytelling and the World Wide Telescope: This pilot study aims to understand how principles of transmedia storytelling can support elementary school students’ learning about science. The study will utilize the World Wide Telescope, tool developed by Microsoft Research to engage students in telling and sharing stories about space.

As mentioned, more information on both of these projects will be coming in future posts. In the meantime, if you’re an elementary school educator in the Los Angeles area and want to get involved, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!