It has helped me become a better teacher.

Melisa Perez is an incredible teacher. From her, we’ve learned so much. She and her classroom children (along with 52 other teachers and over 300 additional children) worked with us to create the Early Math with Gracie & Friends apps and curriculum.

In our work with teachers like Melisa, we ask them to stretch beyond what they typically teach, and we support teachers by providing rich professional development and resources like our Teacher’s Guide. We also listen closely to teachers like Melisa so we can design our materials (including our apps and teacher support materials) in a way that real teachers find useful in real classrooms.

Many of the teaching strategies and words that Melisa used in her classroom are now part of the delicate scaffolding and audio feedback in the Early Math with Gracie & Friends apps. Many of her approaches with our hands-on activities helped shape the curriculum. We have been blessed to have her as part of the team!

To our delight, Melisa shared with us a little insight into how the Gracie & Friends apps and curriculum have also helped her.

That’s true partnership. That’s public media at its heart. That’s what makes First 8 Studios at WGBH.

iPads in the Classroom

iPads are increasingly becoming a staple in classrooms, a fact which has some parents and educators excited and others concerned. In her conversation with Shayne Evans of the University of Chicago Charter School and Daniel Willingham of the University of Virginia, Meghna Chakrabarti of NPR’s On Point discusses some of the questions that we’ve heard raised about having the tablets play a prominent role in the school day. Their conclusion is that iPads and other 1-to-1 technology platforms can and should be the way of the future, but like with any new education initiative, professional development and training should be provided to teachers — and, Evans argues, parents — long before the technology makes its way into the hands of the students.

This notion has been in the forefront of our minds as we begin to build out the teacher’s guide that will serve as the backbone for implementing NGPM. The guide will include a whole section for professional development where preschool teachers can brush up on the math and pedagogy behind our games and watch videos that will illuminate best practices for teaching math using technology in preschool. We want this to feel authentic and meaningful to teachers, so over the next year, we’re working with our incredible preschool partners to capture video of highly-skilled teachers integrating digital math materials into their classroom repertoire.

Here’s a sneak preview of our teacher’s guide:

As you can see, teachers will be able to see their students’ progress for each game! Note: This is a very early wireframe!

Stay tuned for more about the teacher’s guide as we build it out in the next few months. In the meantime, check out to the full On Point conversation about iPads in schools here!

Technology in classroom: games have positive impact

Concordia University professor Richard Schmid co-authored a study (published in the Review of Educational Research journal) to answer the question: “Does computer technology have a positive overall effect on learning in the classroom?”

The study showed, in short, that often there were positive impacts but that sometimes there were negative impacts. The study’s authors are now performing a follow-up study, looking into under what circumstances the technology’s effects are positive.

Schmid states, “Where technology does have a positive impact is when it actively engages students, when it’s used as a communication tool, when it’s used for things like simulations or games that enable students to actively manipulate the environment.”

Looks like NGPM is off to a good start. Looking forward to more research and to the research results on the games and manipulatives from NGPM.

Pre-K STEM Technology Curriculum (Featuring Denise)

Our own NGPM teacher partner, Denise Nelson, is taking the reigns on STEM learning in her classroom! Great work, Denise!

In the Boston.com article, “Looking ahead, preschools add tech to the curriculum,” preschools are focusing more on STEM learning as curriculum for Pre-K students is becoming more formalized.The government is taking action to place greater emphasis on STEM education and millions of dollars are being invested in priming children for careers–or at least knowledge in STEM fields.

The appropriate and most effective ratio of formal STEM curriculum and technology to traditional preschool play is still under debate and research, which makes the NGPM project perfectly timed to be a voice in the debate!