Michael Levine on A Research-Based Approach to Early Learning & Development

On this episode of the Getting Smart Podcast we’re talking with Michael Levine, Senior Vice President of Noggin, Nickelodeon’s direct-to-consumer interactive learning service for young people.

Michael spent time at Carnegie, Sesame Street, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and has been a leading advocate for the importance of research in early learning. He is also the author of Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers In a World of Screens. Let’s listen in as he and Tom discuss the role of digital media in early learning, the importance of learning sciences, and more.

Michael and Tom kick off the podcast talking about some of their serendipitous overlaps in the past — they both were circling the Gates Foundation at about the time they launched a program to rewire America’s libraries. “You don’t know when a study is going to be prescient.”

In 2007, Michael became Executive Director at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, the home of Sesame Street. Here Michael learned a lot about early learning and development. He was asked to form a new R&D Center at Sesame to answer the question “what is the new digital promise?” He spent a decade here, working to identify what’s coming next — what digital innovations are coming down the pipeline that will impact kids and, more specifically, early learning.

In his time at Sesame Workshop, Michael learned about the use of models and immersive medias/technologies, he also observed that many tech and curriculum companies weren’t basing developments on research: “People would park their kids without the scaffolding support necessary.”

About a year and half ago, Michael joined Noggin. Noggin takes the various Nickelodeon IP and arranges it in different kinds of educational sequences. “We wanted to create something that’s new and personalized.” The Noggin approach is big on background knowledge in order to better create interest and passion-driven learning. In order to make the Noggin content more accessible, they made it free, which enabled to grow 100% in the first 6 months.

Noggin has also launched Big Heart World, a campaign centered on social-emotional development and creators of color.

Michael has joined many powerful teams throughout his career, and the key questions that guide whether or not he will join a new team are:

  • Can I learn a lot
  • Do I like the team
  • Can you make a big difference in the world?

In the next decade, Michael hopes to see America expand its tech infrastructure, establish a system for universal access starting at age 3, develop and implement program models that work for all families and upgrade the human capital in the early education system.


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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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