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12 Feb 2013
Topics: » Effective Practice, » Expanded Learning Time, » Families & Communities, » Parent Engagement, » Digital Learning

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This paper presents emerging practices by public media stations in implementing "transmedia" content in expanded learning settings across the United States.


With support from the United States Department of Education, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and Public Broadcasting System (PBS) are leading Ready To Learn, an initiative designed to develop and deploy dynamic new educational content to support math and literacy learning among children ages two to eight, especially those living in poverty. This approach, known as “transmedia storytelling,” or simply “transmedia,” utilizes the appeal of familiar characters and narratives across multiple platforms—including interactive games, television series, and websites—to create a coordinated and connected learning experience for children.

In 2012, CPB awarded funding to eleven PBS stations around the country to serve as transmedia “demonstration stations.”  Each demonstration station developed partnerships with schools and community-based out-of-school time programs to make Ready To Learn transmedia games and related resources available to children and their families during school and in “expanded learning settings” beyond the traditional school day.   

To support the work with out-of-school time programs, CPB engaged the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems (CBASS) and the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) as outreach advisors that would provide content expertise on best practices in after-school and summer programs.  In an effort to identify challenges and emerging practices in the use and integration of Ready To Learn transmedia in expanded learning settings, we made site visits, reviewed progress reports, and conducted interviews with staff and partners from the demonstration stations. As the Ready To Learn initiative progresses in the coming years, these observations of emerging practices can provide valuable guideposts for stations and community partners implementing transmedia storytelling to support early math and literacy learning.

Key implications
include the following:

1. Involving parents and caregivers is essential. Parental involvement gets kids excited about using the transmedia content and continuing to learn in the home setting. It is especially important to train caregivers on how to use digital content in ways that create meaningful learning experiences for children, both with and without high-tech equipment.

2. Strong community partnerships help ensure success and sustainability.
By partnering with organizations that have a stake in the community, accurate understanding of community needs, capacity for meeting those needs, and belief in the importance of Ready To Learn, stations can expand their own capacity for delivering dynamic new educational content to high-risk populations.
3. Partner organizations may lack adequate technology and equipment.
The purchase of technology and equipment that can support transmedia activities can be a large cost outlay for stations. Nonetheless, once they make the initial investment, stations can use the resources creatively to maximize access and educational benefit.
4. Teachers, informal educators, and community providers will use transmedia if it’s easy.
Making the resources accessible and offering straightforward curricula will facilitate their use in communities.