Monday, March 11, 2013

PBS Kids

I've made no secret of my admiration for Mister Rogers. I assert that his long-running program, Mister Roger's Neighborhood, is the greatest thing the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) has ever produced. Indeed, in some ways it was one of the greatest television programs ever produced, period. This man, with simple, consistent, straight-forward sincerity and a deep love and understanding of young children demonstrated what good educational television can do; that it can reach very young viewers at their level. There were other children's programs, many of them very good, but none has ever been as child-focused or as concerned with educating the whole child as this program.

When I was first approached by PBS Kids to take part in their new "It All Adds Up" awareness program designed "to support the development of early math and literacy skills in children ages 2-8 from low income families," however, I hesitated. As I've written before, I'm not a fan of television for young children and, in general, am skeptical of the value of other types of screen time and this initiative includes over 100 games and apps that have been created by PBS Kids to help build math and literacy skills.

As you can imagine I spent several days in a kind of low-level anguish, weighing on the one hand Mister Rogers' legacy and on the other this collection of games and apps. I finally came down on the side of Mister Rogers, concluding as he did, that children and their parents are going to be looking at those screens whether I like it or not, so it behooves me to do what I can, if given the opportunity, to shape what little part on which they let me put my hands. I've agreed to take part as one of a group of five Math Mentors (you'll have to scroll down to the second post), "a team of early childhood educators and bloggers who will provide parents tips and ideas on how to help children ages 2-8 learn early math concepts and integrate math activities into their daily lives." We will write math-oriented posts and host monthly social media chats to engage directly with parents. And in the interest of full disclosure, I am receiving a small fee for this.

The two things that tipped the scales in PBS Kids' favor were the list of my fellow "Math Mentors," a couple of whom I already know and respect through my blogging endeavors, and the fact that funding comes from the US Department of Education, an entity I've long been at odds with over their approach to public education. Maybe someone there will hear me.

I'm assuming that the folks at PBS Kids have taken a look at this blog and know about our whole play-based approach to early years learning, math included. I'm assuming that I've been hired to represent this point of view on PBS Kids. And I'm quite excited to bring this perspective to a wider audience. I won't likely be writing about the games and apps, focusing instead on how young children are already "math ready," how when they're given the opportunity to play in a rich environment, they will be laying the foundation for a lifetime of exploration and experimentation.

I'll keep you informed about how it's going and hope to see many of you there!

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Christian said...

That's very exciting news! We need teachers like you representing us in the media and I hope you can keep the focus of the group on developmentally-appropriate activities. Thank you for fighting the good fight.

Anonymous said...

A well-deserved honour!

Scott said...

Very exciting, Tom! I can't wait to see what will happen.

Heather {LocalFunforKids} said...

I'm glad you accepted and I think Mister Rogers would be proud! Congratulations!