Three Weeks to the Hackathon!

Three weeks?!? That’s practically tomorrow!

As with any event planning, the to-do list seems to grow the more things we check off the list. Here’s what what’s on our minds this week:

Promotion, Promotion, Promotion

Participants are continuing to sign up, but we still need more! We want the pack the house with passionate parents, teachers, healthcare professionals, designers, and developers! So we’re ramping up our promotion efforts this week by going out to organizations we partner with on other projects to make presentations and personally invite members of the community.

Laying Out the Space

Sorting out the layout of the event space sounds easy—tables and chairs, done. Right? Not quite. We’re trying to tune in to how the arrangement of the space sets the tone for the hackathon and aids—or impedes—productivity.

Think about a typical classroom, for example. If the desks are arranged in rows and columns, what does that tell you about how students are expected to interact with each other? What if the desks are arranged in groups, or in a big circle facing the center?

We want our hackathon attendees to start collaborating from the get-go, so we’re leaning towards round tables spread out throughout the space—close enough for groups to see and hear what others are up to, but far enough that each group has space to spread out and think creatively. Round tables means everyone in the small groups can be seen and heard, and there’s plenty of space in the middle of the table for sketching all the great ideas that come up. We’re also planning to keep each table close to some solid wall space so that the great ideas can expand and later be shared.

And the Winner Is…

At our hackathon, a winning team will be chosen by a panel of judges following final pitches. We want to send the winning team home with special prizes (likely gift cards), but we also want to thank all of our participants with some kind of goodies. This week, we’re thinking through what sorts of goodies our attendees might like. Should it be something that all groups would like, or should we have different goodies for parents versus teachers versus designers/devs? Are t-shirts the way to go, or is there other swag that would be better? And how do we keep the costs in check?

Hacking the Hackathon

We’ve been on a hackathon attending-spree to see what others are doing and to get tips for our own hackathon. This week, two of our staff members are practicing their facilitation skills by facilitating groups at another fabulous organization’s hackathon!

Coming up next week, we’re getting into the nitty gritty details of the event: putting together the final presentation, finalizing the schedule, ordering supplies and preparing packets for our participants. Stay tuned!

SXSWedu, Here We Come!

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Looking for reasons to attend the upcoming SXSWedu – March 9-12, 2015? NGPM will be represented for the second year running! Since last year, this work has led to the Early Math with Gracie and FriendsTM suite of pre-k apps, one of two cornerstone projects of the brand new First 8 Studios.

WGBH’s Christine Zanchi, SRI’s Phil Vahey, and EDC’s Shelley Pasnik will present a panel: Building the Research Base for STEM Apps in PreK. We’re so excited to once again share our work and meet other presenters and attendees!

Lessons Learned at the Head Start Conference

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We’ve been reflecting on the experiences Christine Zanchi and Ashley Lewis-Presser had at Head Start’s 12th National Research Conference on Early Childhood!

Here are a few takeaways:

  • Many early childhood professionals appreciated the NGPM approach to integrating technology into preschool curricula:
    • Aim for technology activities to span 10-15 minute sessions,
    • Maintain a high ratio of traditional to tech-based activities, and
    • Focus on iPad uses that take advantage of the tablet’s unique capabilities.
  • An important element for technology developers to share with the community is a reflection on the design process that led, through many twisting turns, to the current technology and curriculum designs. The field of educational technology is evolving significantly. We all benefit from reflecting on the lessons learned throughout the process of designing new technologies and studying their use in classrooms.
  • So many interesting and connected questions come up!
    • How can our curriculum be adapted to work in different preschool settings, e.g. morning-only versus all-day programs?
    • What would a math curriculum look like, fully integrated with science or another topic? How would we preserve the richness of both domains?
  • The technology provides a tool, one which is perhaps unfamiliar to many teachers and which is certainly changing rapidly. For early educational technologies to be effective, teachers need to be well trained in developmentally appropriate uses of technology. Technology designers and other players in the education arena must make sure that high-quality, sustained opportunities for professional development exist to support teachers.

NGPM can’t wait for next year’s conference!

Nurtury Learning Lab plays NGPM games

It was definitely a day of celebration as some of the NGPM team visited the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Nurtury Learning Lab in Jamaica Plain, MA. Check out the video from the Boston Herald!

The Mayor of Boston also attended, stating, “All children should have access to the best learning and school readiness opportunities we can provide. The Nurtury Learning Lab at Bromley-Heath is a great example of a service that will greatly impact children’s lives and start them on a path for success.”

The NGPM team brought our subitizing and equipartitioning games so that children could play and learn in their new media room at the Nurtury. What an inspiring play time!

Children clapped at their subitizing successes!

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We got to watch children think and observe teachers doing what they do best!

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And we promised that we’d bring the iPads back the next time we came…

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It was a beautiful and symbolic day for our children’s education!

See more photos of the event from the Jamaica Plain News.

NGPM at Fred Forward

Last week NGPM Executive Producer Christine Zanchi attended the Fred Forward Conference, a national conference hosted by the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media in Pittsburgh, PA.

Invigorated by the conference, Christine says, “I think it’s awesome that the industry is turning its attention to research as a critical part in the development of children’s media — especially from where we stand as public media. We really care about true educational impact, and iterative design-based research gets us there.”

High-Quality Early Education Shows Lasting Benefits

Economist James Heckman has spent decades studying and documenting the lasting benefits of high-quality education for children in their earliest years. He is a strong advocate for investment in programs that foster early cognitive and social development as a means for reducing inequity and increasing productivity across the country. The link between the increase of high-quality education in early childhood and the reduction of inequality seems so clear that he calls it the Heckman Equation.

Just a few days ago, the prestigious journal Science published his research team’s latest findings. The work follows up on the Carolina Abecedarian Project (ABC), which was started over 40 years ago to explore the impact of high-quality early care and education. From infancy to age five, participants received high-quality, full-day care and education, including topics on health and nutrition. The study followed up at five later points in time spanning older childhood and early adulthood.

The results show significant positive differences in health-related behaviors and outcomes for those who attended the ABC program three decades later, as compared to age-mates also tracked by the study but who did not receive such education.

Many of us have few, if any, specific memories of our own formative years — the period of life during which the intervention took place. Yet, experiences between infancy and age five stuck with the children and continued to shape their health-related decisions as they entered kindergarten, grade-school, and adulthood, and beyond, resulting in lower risks for common diseases and therefore lower health-care needs. 

That’s the power of getting off to the right start!

The NGPM team also feels strongly about investing in high-quality early education for every child, and we’re happy to have the opportunity to research how to best do this in our technology-infused world!