Arlington, VA, (October 19, 2006)–In a recent evaluation of the educational effectiveness of cell phone video streaming technology, parents reported an increase in their children’s knowledge of the alphabet, and in their own initiation of literacy-related activities with their children, suggesting a promising new tool to increase early literacy skills. The PBS KIDS Ready To Learn Cell Phone Study: Learning Letters with Elmo found the video content and delivery pairing made the most impact among those participating households at or below the poverty level, compared with those living above the poverty line.
From May to July 2006, eighty parents with three and four-year-old children living in Fresno, Oakland and Los Angeles, California were provided a video-capable Sprint phone and were asked to listen to literacy tips and stream letter video clips for their children to watch at least three times each week for eight weeks. The evaluation was designed to assess the level of acceptance of cell phones as a medium for delivering educational content to parents of preschool children and to assess any effects and differences between participants living in households at or below the poverty line and those living above the poverty line. Developed in partnership with Sesame Workshop, Sprint, WestEd and GoTV Networks, the study was part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready To Learn-funded literacy initiative, in partnership with PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).
“The results of this study provide us with extremely important information about how parents and children respond to our educationally-based content through a new medium,” said Lesli Rotenberg, SVP, PBS KIDS Next Generation Media Initiative. “We are committed to using new delivery platforms to achieve maximum impact on children’s literacy and other developmental skills. This is a major part of our ongoing work with teachers, parents and partners to help prepare children for success in school and in life.”
The original video content from Sesame Street featured literacy tips for parents hosted by Sesame Street’s Maria, and for children, classic Sesame Street clips that were focused on letters, introduced by Elmo. Each letter of the alphabet was included in the study and presented in alphabetical order, with three to four letters introduced with a new video clip each week. Once a letter had been introduced, the clip was stored in a “letter library,” for the remainder of the study, and parents could access this “letter library” at any time for their children to watch.
According to participants in both groups, their children’s knowledge of the alphabet increased during the study. Among participants living at or below the poverty level, more than three-fourths reported that the letter video clips affected their children’s letter knowledge to a good or great extent. Among participants living above the poverty line, approximately half reported so. All participants indicated improvement in children’s knowledge of the ABC Alphabet song as well as letters of the alphabet; at the end of the study every child knew some of the letters, which was not the case in the beginning.
In addition to affecting children’s letter knowledge directly, one of the major goals of this project was to provide parents and caregivers with tools for working with their children on literacy skills in their everyday lives. Significantly, participants in both groups were more likely to initiate activities related to letter recognition with their children after participating in this study than before, and participants living at or below the poverty level were more likely to initiate activities related to letter sounds as well.
Most participants were enthusiastic about the technology and mode of information delivery; they genuinely wanted to be involved in their children’s early literacy development and viewed this model as an effective means to support their efforts and their children’s development. Respondents reported that because they always had their cell phones with them, they found it extremely easy to fit literacy activities into their daily routine; and they appreciated the transportability and accessibility.
The participants found value in handing their cell phone to their children and knowing their child was occupied with an educational activity. Nearly all participants reported their children quickly learned how to view the letter video clips without assistance. This allowed children to view the clips repeatedly, serving the dual purposes of occupying the children and utilizing repetition to help the children learn letters and songs.
“We are encouraged with the improvement in children’s knowledge of letters, and especially with parents’ increased engagement in literacy activities with their children,” said Dr. Lewis Bernstein, Executive Vice President, Education and Research , Sesame Workshop. “Since one of our challenges has been communicating effectively with parents about the rich opportunities they have and the important role they can play in their children’s literacy development, it is gratifying to see that both children and parents responded positively to the Sesame Street content delivered on their cell phones.
While participants in the study found the intervention to be a positive experience for themselves and especially for their children, some issues remain. There are technological drawbacks such as the time it takes to stream the letter video clips and the resulting power drain on a cell phone battery. Parents also remain somewhat concerned about their children using their cellular phone.
PBS is a private, nonprofit media enterprise that serves the nation’s 348 public noncommercial television stations, reaching nearly 90 million people each week. Bringing diverse viewpoints to television and the Internet, PBS provides high-quality documentary and dramatic entertainment, and consistently dominates the most prestigious award competitions. PBS is the leading provider of educational materials for K-12 teachers, and offers a broad array of educational services for adult learners. PBS’ premier kids’ TV programming and Web site, PBS KIDS Online (pbskids.org), continue to be parents’ and teachers’ most trusted learning environments for children. More information about PBS is available at pbs.org, the leading dot-org Web site on the Internet. PBS is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.
CPB, a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1000 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television, and related on-line services. Sesame Workshop is a nonprofit educational organization making a meaningful difference in the lives of children around the world. Founded in 1968, the Workshop changed television forever with the legendary Sesame Street. Today, the Workshop continues to innovate on behalf of children in 120 countries, using its proprietary research methodology to ensure its programs and products are engaging and enriching. Sesame Workshop is behind award-winning programs like Dragon Tales, Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat, Pinky Dinky Doo and groundbreaking multimedia productions in South Africa, Egypt and Russia. As a nonprofit, Sesame Workshop puts the proceeds it receives from sales of Sesame Street, Dragon Tales, Sagwa, and Pinky products back into its educational projects for children around the world. Find the Workshop online at www.sesameworkshop.org.
About GoTV Networks
GoTV Networks (www.gotvnetworks.com) is the first made-for-mobile television network and studio group. The company produces the mobile television industry’s widest range of original programming for on-demand delivery direct to mobile phones via a family of subscription-based channels. GoTV Networks provides news, sports, music, entertainment, and other essential content customized specifically for mobile users. The GoTV Networks team of Emmy Award-winning producers, experienced studio executives, and mobile technology innovators creates constantly updated programming optimized for both low–bandwidth and 3G handsets, as well as other mobile devices. GoTV Networks also collaborates with traditional media companies, including ABC News, ABC Entertainment, Univision, Sony BMG Entertainment, and ESPN. GoTV Networks programming is available on the Sprint Nextel, Cingular, and Boost Mobile wireless networks.