Ruckus Reader launches Cyberchase Interactive Storybook Apps for iPad

August 7th, 2012

Ruckus Reader has launched the worldwide English language release of three digital interactive storybooks – iReaders – based on the popular PBS KIDS television series Cyberchase through the iTunes App Store for Apple’s iPad.

Designed for children 5 and up, the three new mobile applications reflect the show’s mission to inspire all children to approach math with confidence and a “can-do” attitude. The young heroes of the stories – Inez, Matt and Jackie – also show how useful math is and model good reasoning and problem-solving skills. In addition, Ruckus iReaders empower parents with a digital report card providing direct, actionable feedback on their child’s mobile reading.

This first Cyberchase Ruckus Reader bookshelf – featuring “The Hacker’s Challenge” (available for free download), “A Perfect Score” and “Unhappily Ever After” — is geared towards independent readers and helps kids with decoding and comprehension skills and enriching their vocabularies.

Each iReader includes video and integrated, age-appropriate learning activities and games within the context of the story to further the plot. Story-driven activities such as a word hunt, “what’s wrong with this picture,” “catch a falling object” activities and mazes help kids learn word recognition and reading comprehension.

Powered by the Ruckus Reader, the Cyberchase iReaders are designed to match age-appropriate standards determined by the Common Core State Standards for language arts and reinforce national educational standards for preschool through second grade. As children enjoy content from one of the biggest names in entertainment, parents receive weekly Reader Meter reports that assess their child’s in-app reading skills, such as phonics and word recognition, print and phonological awareness, fluency, sequencing and story comprehension in real time.

Families can download the free Ruckus iReader Cyberchase bookshelf from the iTunes App Store.

PBS KIDS GO! Web Series Oh Noah! Offers New Videos and Games

May 3rd, 2012

Oh Noah!, the PBS KIDS GO! web series formerly known as Noah Comprende, is rolling out a line-up of new animated interactive videos and games that introduce kids to Spanish. Games embedded in the videos, together with other interactive challenges and adventures on the website, provide children ages six to eight with an engaging introduction to Spanish vocabulary and common phrases.

The videos star nine-year-old Noah, who is staying with his grandmother in a community where everyone speaks Spanish. A series of misunderstandings launch comic misadventures for Noah, as he tries to communicate with others who don’t speak English. In Noah’s new adventures, language misunderstandings take him to the Arctic in a madcap search for a mama polar bear, to a dude ranch, where he lands on the back of a bucking bronco, and to the circus, where he finds himself part of a daring trapeze act.  Somehow Noah always manages to solve the problems he’s created, learning Spanish in the process.

Releases of new interactive videos will begin on May 3. In each of the short episodes, kids have the opportunity to move their cursors over objects on the screen to hear the names in Spanish and play a series of arcade-style games that reinforce learning.  Additionally, the Oh Noah! website will feature two new character-driven games that encourage replay and retention.

The May 3 launch will feature “Curtain Up!,” an open-ended introduction to digital storytelling in which the player creates a whimsical stage narrative by choosing sets, props, actors, music, and a title. “Noah’s Adventure,” which uses board game conventions as a springboard for a journey to places Noah visits in the videos, will debut later in May, along with another new interactive video. Games and videos will continue rolling out in June and throughout fall 2012.  Online games featured already on the site will be refreshed with new sets of thematically linked vocabulary words associated with each new video.  “Match It,” “You Catch It,” and “Word Race,” incorporate leveling and racing against the clock to encourage replay and repeated vocabulary exposure. “How Do You Say…?” helps kids learn common expressions in Spanish by matching illustrations to the appropriate phrase.

Each new Oh Noah! installment will offer dynamic hands-on activities for parents/caregivers and lesson plans for teachers that further explore the vocabulary introduced in the videos and games, and extend the learning.  Printables connected to the activities will be downloadable on the website.

Oh Noah! is produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET, and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Sandra Sheppard, director of THIRTEEN’S Children’s and Educational Media, and Jill Peters, director of creative development, serve as executive producers of Oh Noah!. Michelle Chen is producer, Marj Kleinman is senior web producer, and Corey Nascenzi is outreach manager.  David Matthew Feldman and Louise Gikow are the series writers. Mariana Swick is the educational advisor.  Renegade Animation produces the Oh Noah! animation and Bluemarker LLC is the website and game developer.

Mission US: Flight to Freedom Launches Today

January 24th, 2012

THIRTEEN announces the launch of Mission US: Flight to Freedom, the second in a series of innovative role-playing games developed to transform the way middle school students learn U.S. history. Timed to support curriculum activities connected to Black History Month in February 2012, Flight to Freedom immerses learners in the experiences of a runaway slave in the years before the Civil War. Educators and students can access the game via streaming and download through any Internet-connected computer, making it accessible in the classroom, the library, school technology lab and at home.

In Flight to Freedom players take on the role of Lucy King, a fictional 14-year-old enslaved in Kentucky in 1848. As they navigate her escape and journey to Ohio via the Underground Railroad, they discover that life in the “free” North is dangerous and difficult. Players encounter a diverse group of people – from abolitionists to slave owners – and make decisions that affect the game’s outcome. Flight to Freedom helps students learn how enslaved people’s choices – from small, everyday acts of resistance to action that sought an end to slavery – affected the lives of individuals, and ultimately the nation.

As students play Flight to Freedom, they build knowledge of the history of slavery and the abolitionist movement. Their understanding and critical perception of the historical context deepens through the accompanying curriculum of activities and by examining a robust collection of primary sources such as maps, posters, runaway ads, slave narratives and other materials. Students also interact with the game’s embedded “Smartwords” to build vocabulary and historical literacy skills.

Flight to Freedom, like all Mission US games, includes a comprehensive collection of resources and materials for educators. These materials include document-based questions, a rich collection of primary sources, activities for individual, small group, and whole class implementation, vocabulary builders, standards alignments, writing prompts and visual aids. Teachers can project content from the game using a variety of technology tools such as interactive whiteboards. The game and supporting materials are free and downloadable for use in classrooms, libraries and homes.

Mission US launched in September of 2010 with its first mission, For Crown or Colony? The next two installments of this ongoing series are planned for release in 2013 and 2014. In Mission 3, The Race for the Golden Spike, players will take on the role of workers helping to build the transcontinental railroad. In Mission 4, The Sidewalks of New York, players will explore early 20th century New York as a muckraking journalist.

Mission US is produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) with additional support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Sandra Sheppard, THIRTEEN’s director of Children’s and Educational Programming, is the executive-in-charge. Jill Peters serves as executive producer, with Michelle Chen, coordinating producer.

Cyberchase Launches Multi-Media Math Site for 8 to 11-year-olds

October 25th, 2011

Great news for parents and teachers looking to enhance their children’s math skills. THIRTEEN has redesigned the Cyberchase website with all-new features and hundreds of videos, math games and hands-on activities in support of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning.

The online experience captures the fun and adventure of the series while strategically engaging children in standards-based math concepts across different types of media. Produced with funding from The National Science Foundation (NSF), the site will take its place as one of the largest math resources on the web for kids.

The website brings together in one place all of Cyberchase’s rich multi-media content – 94 episodes, hundreds of videos, including videos in Spanish, and 100+ math games and activities – and is a culmination of nine years’ research which demonstrates the power of Cyberchase to improve children’s problem-solving and math skills, and increase positive attitudes toward math. The site is restructured for kids, parents and educators to make their favorite experiences more thematically and mathematically linked, and easier to find.

Central to the redesign are new recommended content paths — prompts designed to keep kids moving through math experiences across a single theme. When users select their favorite Cyberchase games or episodes to play, they automatically can choose from other media selections related to the same math topic or character. With the all-new Find It! page, users can browse through content organized by popular topics such as fractions, science & engineering and geometry.

Visitors to the Cyberchase site will now discover:

  • An exciting new look and feel that immerses users in the world of Cyberchase and engages them in character- and math-driven adventures across a vast media offering
  • A Find It! section that allows users to navigate collections of content by math topic or themes like Holidays and Money
  • A video player on which kids can watch all of Cyberchase’s 94 full episodes plus hundreds of short videos
  • Videos En Español and videos with embedded games
  • A math games area that features rotating recommendations for nearly 50 interactive games, including four immersive Quests
  • An activities area that makes it easy to select fun, hands-on printables kids can do alone or with others both in and out of school

Targeted for kids 8 to 11, the redesigned Cyberchase site will also serve older and younger kids, along with parents and educators looking to bolster math learning with engaging – and entertaining – math content. It was developed and designed by Smashing Ideas, an interactive agency known for creating break-through, entertaining experiences for kids, tweens, teens and families across all screens.

Games for Change 2011: Public Media and Games

June 24th, 2011

At a time when public and educational media budgets are skimpy, yet under attack by a variety of sources, major governmental agencies have been speaking out in support of gaming as a major engagement force and artistic medium–and this was only at a day and an hour into Games for Change 2011. Yesterday, former US VP, Al Gore claimed that “Games have arrived as a mass-medium” and today, at a panel on Public Media & Games, speakers from NEA, NEH and PBS KIDS offered their 2 cents in a series of short presentations.

Matt Locke, of Storythings (formerly Head of Multiplatform Commissioning, Channel 4) moderated a panel of key leaders. Here are some highlights: Alyce Myatt, Director, Media Arts at the National Endowment for the Arts recently introduced a new Arts in Media funding stream, which includes “All available media platforms such as the Internet, interactive and mobile technologies, digital games, arts content delivered via satellite, as well as on radio and television.” The NEA is looking for projects with strong artistic merit and excellence, although the definition of “games as art” still needs to be defined. Alyce stated that “The fact that we don’t respect art in this country is “quite frightening” and that perhaps gaming can end the marginalization of art in American schools. I’m sure most developers will join me in thanking Alyce and the NEA for steering us down this exciting road (she also gave me my first job in kids’ TV and is a fellow Emerson College alumna, so I’m just a tad biased). Note that only non-profs are eligible; unfortunately they are not accepting submissions from independent artists or fiscal agents.

Matthew Meschery, Director of Digital Initiatives at ITVS, spoke about the misconceptions of funding for public media. He noted that the public need to know that public media dollars are not funding Grand Theft Auto. “Games can tell the story in a more immersive way that films can’t,” Matthew shared, as evidenced in recent ITVS games like Fatworld, World Without Oil and the Garbage Dreams game, which expands the experience in the award-winning documentary and transmedia project. ITVS is also funding a social game for Facebook on Half the Sky as part of their Women & Girls Lead transmedia/doc engagement project. This is how ITVS is thinking about cross-media for this initiative. Women/Girl power seems to be popping up a lot this year, which is fantastic, but that’s for a different post.

Michael Shirley, Senior Program Officer at the National Endowment for the Humanities is looking to platforms that reach diverse audiences and feels that games play a strong role in that approach. He cited recent social studies projects that are successfully engaging youth, including Thirteen/WNET’s Mission US (thanks for the shout-out) and Past Present.

Last, but certainly not least, Silvia Lovato of PBS KIDS GO! spoke about giving kids more control over their content by offering tools for content creation that will also engage them in the narrative with characters they love. Expanding on existing mash-up tools, their new product Cartoon Studio invites children into a more game-like experience around story and content creation.

Matt Locke ended the panel with: “Be first, cause trouble, inspire change” — great words, Matt. To all you inspiring media-makers out there, go do that!

Marj Kleinman is the Senior Interactive Producer in Children’s & Educational Media at Thirteen/WNET, collaborating on PBS KIDS GO!’s Cyberchase and Noah Comprende, as well as Thirteen’s Mission US and other projects. She has been producing kids’ TV and emerging media for more than 18 years and was previously Director of Digital Media at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

*This post originally appeared on the Games for Change blog on June 22, 2011.

Noah Comprende Launches April 11 on PBS KIDS

April 8th, 2011

On April 11, PBSKIDSGO.org will premiere Noah Comprende, a new web-only series produced by THIRTEEN for WNET that introduces children 6-8 years old to Spanish through animated videos with embedded  games.

The series is about a nine-year-old boy visiting his grandmother in a community where nobody speaks English. As Noah tries to learn Spanish from a precocious five-year-old neighbor named Coco, he sometimes gets it wrong. Each misunderstanding launches a new comic misadventure for him and his pet mouse, Pequeño. With Pequeño’s help, Noah always manages to solve the problems he’s created, learning Spanish in the process.

Each three-minute video features opportunities for kids to roll their cursors over objects on the screen to hear the Spanish translations. Three different vocabulary-driven, arcade-style games reinforce learning.  Another game on the website, How Do You Say…?, helps kids learn common expressions in Spanish.

The bilingual dialogue of Noah Comprende introduces Spanish to English speakers and English to Spanish speakers. The goal of Noah Comprende is to help youngsters get the benefits of learning a language at an early age. According to the Center for Applied Linguistics, they include:

  • Improving a child’s understanding of his or her native language.
  • Having a positive effect on intellectual growth
  • Enriching and enhancing a child’s mental development
  • Promoting more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and a better ear for  listening.

Noah Comprende introduces kids to collections of vocabulary words that are accessible and of interest to the target age group. The videos also teach common phrases, with visuals providing the context needed for viewers to make sense of the language.

Noah Comprende is a production of THIRTEEN for WNET and is funded by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Jill Peters and Sandra Sheppard are executive  producers, Michelle Chen is the producer, and David Matthew Feldman and Louise A. Gikow are writers and associate producers.

Watch Noah Comprende – Out on a Limb:

Children Will Listen: Q&A With Sandra Sheppard, Director of Children’s and Educational Media at WNET

March 7th, 2011

Sandra Sheppard

At THIRTEEN, we’re dedicated to creating programs that spark children’s imaginations and fuel learning — with no commercial agenda. Our commitment to this goal grows stronger every year. As Sandra Sheppard, Director of Children’s and Educational Media at WNET and Executive Producer of Cyberchase, says, “Our goal as a public media producer is to make sure that children’s screen time is valuable.”

Sheppard spoke with THIRTEEN about creating content that educates, entertains, and has lasting value.

Q: Education has been at the core of our mission since our founding. Fifty years later, why is it still important?

A: Our mission has always been to harness the power of television and other media to positively impact the life of our public. We’ve always had a stake in improving the lives of children and their families, and serving the needs of the underserved. Today, that goal is more critical than ever. When you look at the educational progress reports, it’s clear that we as a country need to do better.

Q: What are the educational goals of our children’s programs?

A: Our goal is to create programs that tap into children’s natural curiosity to motivate them, challenge them, and help them develop intellectual skills and life skills. We do that by embedding content in character-rich stories that are playful, entertaining, and addictive in the most positive sense of the word – from the math in Cyberchase and the performing arts in Angelina Ballerina, to the history in our brand-new Mission U.S. video games. We also work hard to make sure the programs we create are child-centric, and are very careful about modeling characters who think and learn from experience, and who make mistakes but get up again and go out into the world and solve problems. We do a lot of research to get it right. The ultimate question is: have we made a difference in that child’s life? Do they know more having watched our series or consumed our online content than they did before? And we’re tough. We ask those questions because at the end of the day if they haven’t learned more, we haven’t done our job. So we’re very rigorous in our research and evaluation.

Q: How do you measure the impact of our programs on viewers?

A: We have a core group of advisors and educators who evaluate understanding of content by youngsters both before and after they watch our programs. The National Science Foundation, which has supported Cyberchase since its inception, funded a landmark study examining the impact of television, online, and hands-on learning, using Cyberchase as the model. Results showed that kids would learn math skills from the television show and apply them online, which is very exciting. It affirms that the work we’re doing is making a real difference, and that a smartly designed on-air and online package can have real impact.

Q: What are the benefits of producing non-commercial children’s programs – and the challenges?

A: The benefit is that we have a very captive audience and they’re consuming content on many different platforms at a record pace. At the same time, it’s a hugely competitive landscape, so we need to be as creative as possible to make sure our content, which is grounded in education, is highly entertaining. We have to capture children’s attention and keep them coming back again and again, which can be challenging to do these days. Twenty years ago, there weren’t 24-hour cable channels dedicated to kids programming. So we’ve got to be better at our game. The wonderful thing about public media is that we can develop a show like Cyberchase, which is aimed at improving kids’ math skills, and watch it evolve and expand its audience with each successive season. Now we’re in our eighth season. That wouldn’t happen in commercial television. Our commercial counterparts aren’t going to introduce science or the performing arts or engineering or history to this generation. So we have to keep producing these types of programs – and we have to do it really well.

Q: How do you develop ideas for new programs? Do you work closely with teachers and education consultants?

A: Our ideas are grounded in curriculum. We look carefully at national standards and are very thoughtful about working with educators to make sure the material is meaningful, age-appropriate, and connects to lessons kids are learning in school and in life. Ideas come from everywhere. They come from characters and books, video games, and the many brainstorming sessions I have with my team. Interestingly, Cyberchase came out of brainstorming meeting where we were talking about Star Wars and how we would love to do a show in which the problems were mathematical and there would be good guys and bad guys, but the path to victory would be mind over muscle. In other words — may the mathematical force be with you!

Q: How long does it take to develop an idea for broadcast?

A: The gestation period varies from project to project, but to get it right, it takes time. You need a really strong development team and you need to allow adequate time for a project to fully develop. If you’re working with an original idea, as opposed to a book-based idea, it can take anywhere from six months to a year to create a bible, a series of stories, some designs, and to really get the ethos of the project. In children’s media, we usually need to find co-production partners and often look to the international community for partnerships and funding. Given those factors, two or three years can pass from the time we have an initial idea to the time it hits air and the web, so we’re constantly in development. We’re constantly putting new ideas into the pipeline because our projects have long gestation periods. There are certainly benefits to that because you can tweak and massage and make sure it’s right before it hits air.  I always say it takes passion and patience.

Q: What are some of the new programs we’ll see in 2011?

A: I’m super excited about Noah Comprende, the first foreign language broadband series public media has created for young children. It introduces kids ages 5-8 to Spanish and premieres in April. In February, we launched Get the Math, a reality-style TV show and website introducing tweens and teens to algebra. Later in the year, we’re also releasing a new edition of Mission US, our interactive, online American history series for teens. And we recently launched our first Cyberchase app ever — and it hit the top of the kids chart the first week. Check it out at the iTunes store!

Q:What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

A: Working with smart people who are passionate about what they do is incredibly rewarding. But there’s nothing like hearing from fans. An elementary school student wrote to tell us that because of Cyberchase, he no longer needs a math tutor. A little girl said she feels less alone when she watches because she could relate to Jackie, an African-American character. To hear that kind of story, and to know we’ve had a profound impact on a child’s life, is extremely gratifying. It’s a window into the world of what we do.

Learn more about our award-winning kids programming at kids.thirteen.org

Get the Math Premieres February 20 on THIRTEEN

February 16th, 2011

Hip-hop duo DobleFlo, season two Project Runway winner Chloe Dao, and Julia Detar, developer of popular video games played on Facebook, inspire teens to solve real-world problems using algebra in Get the Math, a new multimedia project from THIRTEEN and the team behind the hit PBS series Cyberchase.

Premiering February 20 on THIRTEEN from 11:30 AM-noon and airing nationwide on public television (check local listings), Get the Math combines entertaining reality-style TV and online challenges to help middle and high school students see the relevance of math in exciting careers and develop algebraic thinking skills.  The website features streaming video, interactive challenges, and materials for educators.

Get the Math is divided into three segments:

FASHION: Chloe Dao, Vietnamese refugee and FIT graduate who became a household name in 2006, and whose designs have been featured at the Smithsonian, has parlayed her Project Runway win into successful high-end and mass-market fashion collections.  Chloe challenges the teams of teens to use both proportional reasoning and their sense of style to modify a design in order to get the retail price below a target of thirty-five dollars.

VIDEO GAMES: Julia Detar, a videogame developer at the New York City-based company Arkadium, uses math when she develops online and Facebook games, such as Mahjongg Dimensions.  Julia presents a challenge around a simplified “Asteroids”-type game that introduces basic concepts behind programming. Students use coordinate graphing and linear equations to plot the path of a spaceship and avoid a collision with an oncoming asteroid.

MUSIC: Manny Dominguez and Luis Lopez, who perform as the hip-hop duo DobleFlo, write and produce music in collaboration with The Brooklyn Label, an independent music label. Independent Media Magazine says of the Brooklyn-based duo, “If you’re looking for some substance, style, and originality you might want to look into DobleFlo. They display a passion and grittiness in their voice and vocals that the rap game is sorely missing.”   Manny and Luis draw on their math skills regularly, particularly when using music production software.  They ask the students to calculate the tempo of an instrumental sample so they can adjust the tempo of an
electronic drum track to match it.

Learn more about the segments and math challenges featured in Get the Math:

Get the Math, a production of  THIRTEEN in association with WNET,  is funded by the Moody’s Foundation and distributed to public television stations nationwide by American Public Television.   Jill Peters is executive producer, Michelle Chen is producer,  and  Sandra Sheppard is the project executive. Keith Devlin, Ph.D., and Deborah L. Ives, Ed.D., are advisors.

Video: President Obama salutes Sesame Street's 40th anniversary

January 29th, 2010

As public television celebrates the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street this year, Barack Obama delivered a special message about the impact of Sesame Street on all our lives. “There are many adults who could stand to learn again the lessons that Sesame Street offers: lessons of compassion, and kindness and respect for our differences. The world is a better place for the world you create on Sesame Street — a world that enriches our children’s minds and hearts each and every day,” he said. Watch the full speech below, and watch Sesame Street every week from Sunday – Friday at 7am on THIRTEEN.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1mw5iyNQf8&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

Video: Sesame Street Turns 40

November 10th, 2009

Forty years ago, Sesame Street premiered on New York television. In celebration of November 10, 1969, check out this clip from that very first episode, featuring the appearances by Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Gordon, Susan, Bob, and Mr. Hooper.

After several decades of advancement in Muppet and video technologies, the Sesame Street cast and crew still inspire and educate millions of children all around the world.

Got a favorite Sesame Street character? We’re sharing the 13 characters we love the most — now tell us your faves!

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