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Multimedia Programs Reduce Summer Learning Loss

Summer programs that use multimedia may improve student literacy, numeracy, phonics skills, and math vocabulary, according to a study released by WestEd, a nonprofit education research organization.

The report examines the Electric Company's Summer Learning Program, which is sponsored by the Sesame Workshop, a nonprofit organization that produces "Sesame Street" and "The Electric Company," television series that air on PBS KIDS.

Children in 12 different, five- to six-week-long summer programs around the U.S. were assessed last summer using the curriculum and found to have a 41 percent gain in math vocabulary, 20 percent gain in numeracy, and 17 percent gain in phonics skills. The curriculum combines TV shows, hands-on activities, and online gaming, geared toward children aged 6 to 8. Teachers also reported improved student behavior and interest, in addition to their own improved motivation and confidence.

Given the positive results of the study, the summer program will be expanding to 25,000 in- and out-of-school classrooms this summer, supported through the workshop, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS, and Ready to Learn, a U.S. Department of Education grant program that supports innovative initiatives aimed at improving early learning and school readiness, particularly those for who are disadvantaged. The Education Department also funded the study.

"This study is important in that it shows that an innovative transmedia summer program can fit seamlessly into the summer school environment and support schools as they strive to engage and teach students from widely diverse backgrounds and ability levels," according to the report from WestEd. Further research is suggested for how the multimedia curriculum could be incorporated into other out-of-school time environments such as after-school programs.

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