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Website Spotlights Programs Using Technology to Support Early Literacy

students-ipad.jpgIn Arizona, the Great Reading Adventure aims to fight summer literacy loss through an engaging online platform that provides e-books, a tracker that monitors reading minutes, and literacy activities. In Kansas, Oregon, and Texas, a program calls PALS (Play and Learning Strategies) uses Internet-based modules to train parents in how to provide warm support and language-rich interaction to their babies. 

Both of these programs and more are profiled on a new website, Integrating Technology in Early Literacy, a joint project of the Washington-based think tank New America and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at the Sesame Workshop. Cooney was one of the co-creators of Sesame Street. 

The map is intended to to show policymakers, investors, and others interested in early-education projects how technology is being used with young children and their families and the programs' "evidence of impact." More than 30 projects around the country are listed.  

Michael H. Levine, the founding director of the Cooney Center, said the map was born out of a partnership with New America's Lisa Guernsey, who directs the think tank's Learning Technologies Project. This year, Levine and Guernsey co-authored the book Tap, Click, Read, which explores how literacy instruction can be enhanced through technology. Levine said that he and Guernsey were learning about interesting projects, but realized there was no central place that could allow interested parties to understand the scope of the early-learning technology landscape. 

The conversation around technology appears to be shifting away from banning usage to understanding how it can be used to support parents and children, Levine said.

"Most children are consuming a certain amount of media every day," Levine said. "The early-childhood field has been, understandably, reluctant about using some of these new technology and media forms, because they're so focused on building relationships [between adults and children.]" But, he added, "we're seeing the reframing and rethinking of technology as a human relationships driver." 

The map was unveiled at an early-education and technology forum in December at the Erikson Institute, a graduate school in child development based in Chicago. Chip Donahue, the director of the Technology in Early Childhood center at Erikson, said that educators have been looking for professional development related to technology use.

"The demand we're hearing from the educators is,'help me use this, help me use this well,' Donahue said.

Photo: First grade teacher Robin Young works on a iPad with students Olivia McNall, 6, center, and Brody Killion, 6, at Brooks School Elementary in Fishers, Ind.—Michael Conroy/AP


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