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Can children’s TV characters boost STEM learning?

Can relationships formed with media characters like Dora the Explorer or Elmo help young children learn science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) skills? A team of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, Northwestern University and Georgetown University hopes to answer that question in a five-year project funded by a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, UCR Today reports. UCR’s share of the grant is $885,745. “Many people are involved in designing educational games, and there is a lot of interest in creating high-quality and interactive media,” explained Rebekah Richert, associate professor of psychology at UC Riverside and principal investigator on the research project. “On the surface they seem likely to help children learn. But there can be big gaps between what technology offers and what children really learn.”

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