Transmedia Approach to Early Math Launches Outreach Phase

“They’ve successfully hidden the peas in the mashed potatoes.” That’s how Andy Ackerman of the Manhattan Children’s Museum describes the creative way that UMIGO—yoU Make It GO—successfully combines entertaining media with the concepts and practices of math for elementary-aged children. Parliament Funkadelic music legend Bootsy Collins joined children and their parents on Oct. 4, at the Manhattan Children’s Museum to introduce this first-of-its-kind transmedia (using multiple media platforms to advance a fictional story with characters and events) venture and to announce its national outreach launch in 10 cities.

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Panel Shows What’s Possible in Education Technology

Last Monday, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and committee member Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado co-sponsored a briefing on innovation in public education through the use of learning technologies. More than 50 Senate staff members came to hear from a panel I moderated that featured leaders in the ed tech field.

The panelists, Dr. Stephen Elliott (founding director of the Learning Sciences Institute at Arizona State University), Jennie Niles (founder of the DC-based E.L. Haynes Public Charter School), and Jeremy Roberts (director of technology for PBS Kids Interactive), all concurred that the promise of technology to transform education has fallen short of expectations for the past two to three decades. However, they also all agree that we are finally at a time where many factors are converging to overcome historic barriers: increasingly ubiquitous broadband, cheaper devices, digital content, cloud computing, big data, and generally higher levels of comfort with technology among the general population.   

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Feature: What Role Can Online COPs – Communities of Practice – Play in Achieving Teacher Excellence?

As 2012 unfolds, the Department of Education continues to pursue an important question for closing the achievement gap: How can online communities of practice (COPs) best address some of the most pressing challenges in P-12 education? For the past year, a multi-pronged effort by the Department’s Offices of Innovation and Improvement (OII) and Educational Technology (OET) has pursued several critical issues associated with that question.

Following the 2010 release of the National Education Technology Plan, “Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology,” the OET outlined best practices for managing online communities of practice in a report entitled “Connect and Inspire.” The report employed both research literature and observations of mature communities of practice to describe ways that online COPs can help educators access, share, and create knowledge, as well as build a professional identity that goes beyond what is possible face-to-face.

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Educational Assessment Technology Standards

Can you imagine if someone with a Yahoo email address couldn’t send a message to someone who used Gmail? It may sound crazy, but that is similar to the current situation in educational assessment. When new, improved, and more efficient products come out that better meets State and district needs, they struggle to take advantage of those innovations without losing access to past information and tools. Common educational assessment technology standards can help.

The State consortia building next-generation assessment systems under the Race to the Top Assessment program, the General Supervision Enhancement Grant program, and the Enhanced Assessment Grant program must:

  • Develop all assessment items to an industry-recognized open-licensed interoperability standard, without non-standard extensions or additions; and
  • Produce all student-level data in a manner consistent with an industry-recognized open-licensed interoperability standard.

Attached is a draft document detailing what that requires ― what kinds of common standards are needed so that States and districts can freely choose the best technology vendors based on their efficient, effective, economical, and innovative assessment platforms. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is asking for feedback on the attached proposed framework, which is based on the public feedback received last winter to a Request for Information on this topic.

Just to be clear ― all educational assessment technology interoperability standards and practice must be consistent with relevant privacy laws and regulations. No matter what solutions States, districts, and schools use, they must protect personally identifiable information.

ED wants your thoughts on whether this framework includes the appropriate areas for standardization to permit interoperability and spur innovation. We encourage all interested parties to submit opinions, ideas, suggestions, and comments pertaining to educational assessment interoperability by commenting below or emailing by November 7, 2011.

The fine print: Posts must be related to educational assessment interoperability, should be as specific as possible, and, as appropriate, be supported by data/relevant research. All opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments are considered informal input. ED will not respond to individual comments or emails, will publicly display all those that are appropriate, and may or may not reflect input provided in the policies and requirements of the Department. If you include a link to additional information in your post, please ensure that the linked-to information is accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. This is a moderated site. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. Additionally, please do not include links to advertisements or endorsements; we will delete all such links before posting your comment.

ED intends to post all responsive submissions in a timely manner. We reserve the right not to post comments that are unrelated to this request, are inconsistent with ED’s Web site policies, are advertisements or endorsements, or are otherwise inappropriate. To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. For more information, please be sure to read the “comments policy” details at

Again, thank you for your interest in this opportunity to expand educational assessment interoperability. We look forward to hearing from you.

Draft Document [PDF, 1.8MB]

Comments received [PDF, 2.76MB]

Keeping the Promise of a World-Class Education Through the Power of Technology

“We are rallying the full forces of the federal government, academia, entrepreneurs, the technology sector, and researchers … to fundamentally re-imagine learning,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, as he announced the launch of Digital Promise at the White House on September 16.   “There’s no silver bullet when it comes to education,” observed President Obama on the occasion of the launch, “but technology can be a powerful tool, and Digital Promise will help to make the most of it.”

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Why Use Transmedia in Early Learning?

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.

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Interoperable Assessment Technology Standards Public Responses

On December 20, 2010, the Department released a Request for Information (RFI) to gather technical expertise pertaining to assessment technology standards ( The RFI posed a series of questions related to interoperability and assessment technology standards, to which we invited interested members of the public to respond. The RFI noted the potential uses of the responses:

First of all, we expect to use this information to help determine the appropriate interoperability standards for assessments and related work developed under the Race to the Top Assessment (RTTA) program. Secondly, we expect to use this information to help us develop related standards-based programs. For example, we might, in the future, offer additional grants, contracts, or awards and some of those offerings may include similar interoperability requirements. This RFI may be used to help set the interoperability requirements for those offerings as well as the existing RTTA program.

We are pleased to publicly release the comments received. Please note that the Department does not endorse or recommend these responses; we are simply providing this information to the public for its use.

The following groups or organizations submitted responses:

A summary and analysis of these responses created by the Department can be found at

*NOTE: Some of these files are not yet posted due to problems making them fully accessible to the public, per requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As they are made accessible, they will be posted here.

From Sesame Street to Transmediaville: The Future of Ready to Learn

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. 

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