The Knewton Blog

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Knewton Partners with Sesame Workshop

Posted in Adaptive Learning on July 22, 2014 by

Knewton is excited to announce our partnership with Sesame Workshop to create adaptive products for young learners. The nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street and other beloved educational children’s television programs, Sesame Workshop will integrate with Knewton to personalize multimedia content from The Electric Company. We will initially focus on reading and literacy for grades 2-3 and eventually expand to other topic areas and grade levels.

Knewton technology will guide students to the right piece of Electric Company content at each point in time, customizing content to maximize both engagement and mastery. For example, Knewton can show each student more content from the characters they respond to best, or present material that teaches using the most statistically effective pedagogical method for that particular child. Knewton analytics will empower both parents and teachers with critical information about each student’s progress and engagement, highlighting key areas where the student needs additional remediation.

As we talked with Sesame Workshop about their goals, we realized how well aligned our companies are. We both have a strong commitment to improving student outcomes, an interest in leveling gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students, and a data-driven, research-focused approach to assessing the effectiveness of what we do.

The partnership has special meaning to me. Almost 40 years ago, as a recent college graduate, my mother joined the research division at Children’s Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop), spending 3 years helping understand the impact of their educational programming. It is exciting to once again become part of the Sesame family.

Joan Ganz Cooney founded Sesame Workshop to answer a simple question: “Can television be used to teach young children?” 45 years, millions of students, and dozens of beloved characters later, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Today, thanks to differentiated instruction, digital devices provide an even greater opportunity to personalize instruction, engage children, and improve mastery of fundamental skills.

Early childhood is when differences in student ability first take root, growing into much larger problems later. The “Swiss cheese effect” leaves holes in student learning that only grow over time as students are pushed, lock-step, into more and more advanced material that assumes mastery of foundational skills in reading and math.

As Sesame Workshop’s commissioned research shows, students arrive in kindergarten and other early grades with wildly different ability levels. These differences correlate strongly with risk factors like being below the federal poverty line, coming from a single-parent household, having a mother without a high school diploma, or not speaking English in the household. Among students identified as high-risk, “the difference [in reading scores] at kindergarten entry is nearly as large as the gains an average child might make over his or her kindergarten year.” Similar issues develop for high-risk students in math and other topics. Sesame Workshop’s digital products aim to help reduce these gaps early on before they widen.

We’re also excited about the research potential of our partnership. Together, Knewton and Sesame Workshop will pioneer new methods for measuring student knowledge gains through digital products, games, and other engaging activities. We can quantitatively measure student outcomes, working together to continually refine and improve Sesame Workshop digital products over time.

For more details about the partnership, check out the full press release.