Inventor and artist. A genius of “hip.” These have been some of the words used to describe Steve Jobs – a 21st-century visionary and innovator whom the world lost on the heels of National Arts and Humanities Month. His iPods, iPads, iTunes, Macs, and apps unleashed exciting new ways of communicating and learning for millions of students, who find history lessons coming to life in the palm of their hands, discover their fingertips as virtual paintbrushes, and create musical compositions at the touch of a screen.
The Arts Education Partnership (AEP), along with many others, is asking the questions: “Who will be the next Steve Jobs?” “What will be the next breakthrough to revolutionize our lives?” That’s because at the heart of AEP’s purpose is this question: “How do we harness the potential in every child and nurture a Jobs-like spirit of ‘curiosity seeker’ in each of them?” With this purpose in mind, AEP galvanizes the power of partners across many sectors to promote the essential role the arts play in helping all students succeed in school, life, and work. Unfortunately, as much as arts are a part of a complete and well-rounded education, their place in America’s P-12 education system is still threatened by narrowed curricula, conflicting policies, and budget shortfalls.
The research is clear: Children who are not able to read by third grade and who are not prepared with foundational math skills are at a significant risk to fall behind and not graduate from high school. Recognizing the importance of early learning, the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund made it a competitive priority in its first round of 49 grants in 2010. As the Department’s “Education and the Economy” Back-to-School Bus Tour stopped in Wisconsin, i3 grantee the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee reported on the first-year progress of the Milwaukee Community Literacy Project, a three-prong – school, community, and family – effort to ensure that students are reading by grade three. An “innovation roundtable” was held at the Brown Street Academy Elementary School, one of seven Milwaukee elementary schools participating in the early literacy project.
A recent evaluation report on the Ready to Learn (RTL) program reveals that young children's learning is enhanced by educational media, particularly when it is used in combination, such as educational television supplemented by complementary media like websites, games, or even print. As a result, RTL, in its latest round of grants, is pursuing the idea of combining media even further by supporting "transmedia" strategies, a term borrowed from digital media theorist Henry Jenkins to describe narrative storytelling that uses different media platforms to advance the story and to create ever-larger fictional worlds of characters and events.
From its beginnings, the Ready to Learn (RTL) Program in the Office of Innovation and Improvement has both served America's youngest learners and been a learner itself – of the fast-evolving world of digital communications technology that, in 1995, consisted of television and a nascent World Wide Web. In fact, when initially author