Friday, May 09, 2008

The Sesame Symposium

Earlier today, Common Sense Media and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center (a.k.a. Sesame Workshop) held the First Annual Joan Ganz Cooney Center Symposium Focusing On The Impact Of Digital Media In Educating Children, an invitation-only symposium that was streamed live both online and within Second Life. Following on the heel's of the "D is for Digital" study the Center released earlier this year, which reported on the sorry state of "educational" tech toys for kids, today's symposium was geared towards harnessing the power (and pleasures) of digital technologies to create new learning opportunities, bridge digital divides, and encourage the private sector to commit to higher goals and standards when it comes to educational products. To give you an idea of the scope and tone of the event, here's an excerpt from the promotional description provided on the Global Kids website:
Michael Levine, the Center's Executive Director, said: "Today's children are growing up in an era of rapid change. Unprecedented learning tools are at their disposal: real breakthroughs and remarkable gains in education are possible. We can and we must harness these promising communication technologies for children now, especially those who are lagging behind. The early endorsement of partners like McGraw-Hill, EA, CPB and PBS reinforce the importance of our mission. The symposium is a timely opportunity to convene the critical sectors to advance innovation and mobilize change."

The agenda for the day-long event, comprised of panel discussions, children-led demonstrations of new technologies and a hands-on forum promoting two dozen of the best digital media initiatives in the nation, features a keynote address by EA's Chief Creative Officer, Bing Gordon, and one of the first demonstrations of BOOM BLOX, a new game for Nintendo Wii developed by EA in association with director Steven Spielberg. All panels will be streamed on the web by the Center's partner Global Kids.

While coverage of the event itself has yet to appear (I didn't get a chance to tune in myself, unfortunately), some initial coverage of the symposium's background documents (which you can access via ypulse) was provided by Gary Rusak in today's KidScreen Daily. Rusak focuses in on a new study conducted by Common Sense Media, and released to coincide with the symposium, which examines parents' thoughts about kids and digital media. The major conclusion of the study appears to be the finding that parents actually feel quite ambivalent about their kids' "digital media savvy" -- feeling that digital media skills are important (as beneficial as traditional skills such as reading and math), but also critical about the social aspects of (and social skills development associated with) new media technologies. As Rusak explains:
A full 67% of parents said they did not think the internet helped teach their kids to communicate more effectively; 87% of parents said they did not believe the internet helped their kids learn how to work with others; and 75% do not believe the web can teach kids to be responsible in their communities.

Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, says the findings indicate that parents are trying to catch up with the technological advances that their children more easily adapt to. "When it comes to digital media in kids' lives, it's a confusing time to be a parent," he explains. "Clearly, parents seem to understand that the wold has fundamentally changed and that kids need digital media to be successful...But, the results suggest that parents still have reservations about how their kids engage with each other using digital media."

Pretty obvious, I know, but I'm nonetheless quite pleased to see a study and some stats to support the common sense perception that parents are dealing with a pretty paradoxical assortment of feelings, information and expectations when it comes to kids and ICTs.

1 comment:

Michael Levine said...

We would be delighted to further discuss the research underway at the Cooney Center anytime you or your readers would like

I can be contacted at michael.levine@sesameworkshop.org