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September 25, 2013

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The Story Behind Sesame Street’s Family Play App

By J Milligan


J Milligan is the Creative Director of Sesame Workshop’s Innovation Lab.

A couple of years ago I heard a woman named Margaret Robertson give an amazing talk at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. She worked for a design studio called Hide & Seek with offices in London and New York that was chiefly interested in the concept play. They seemed really cool and I started following them, thinking that someday we might find a way to work with them on something.

This past spring, Hide & Seek launched a Kickstarter campaign for a project called Tiny Games. It was for: “An app that gets you playing the perfect game with your friends: wherever you are, whoever you’re with, whatever you’re doing.” The games took place in the real world, the iPhone just told you how to play. Get some cutlery and play a form of rock/paper/scissors with the forks, spoons and knives. That sort of thing. I loved how they used the phone to generate games that you played with friends and things wherever you were, not on the screen. I thought we could do something like that for parents to play with their kids. And when Hide & Seek posted that they were considering a “Kids” section of the app, I knew I had to act quickly. Read More

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April 10, 2013

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The ABCs and 123s of Preschool Apps

By Michelle Newman


Michelle Newman is a Senior Curriculum Specialist at Sesame Workshop.

Touch screen devices have dramatically changed the way young children interact with technology. Preschoolers no longer have to struggle with a mouse or a laptop touch pad – they can now use their fingers to tap, drag, and trace items directly on the screen. When we started to develop one of our first robust iPad apps in 2010, we were extremely optimistic about all of the affordances of this new technology. What surprised us was the number of new challenges we needed to overcome to create a quality developmentally appropriate learning experience for young children. Read More

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February 22, 2013

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2005 Doesn’t Seem Like That Long Ago…

By Jason Milligan


Jason Milligan is the Creative Director of Sesame Workshop’s Innovation Lab.

“Kids won’t know what that is!”

It wasn’t the first time I heard Sesame Workshop Curriculum Specialist Sue Scheiner say that, but this time it threw me a bit. We were reviewing Elmo’s World episodes to include in Season 2 of Kinect Sesame Street TV. Sue was referring to a camera. The camera was an old fashioned black box with a huge flashbulb attached. And one old fashioned camera in Mr. Noodle’s hands wouldn’t have mattered so much if any of the cameras in the piece looked and worked like current cameras do. But they didn’t. They were clunky film cameras and video cameras with tapes. There was a scene in which a kid takes film to a store to have it “developed.”

Not one person in the entire episode took a picture with a phone, or was able to immediately show Elmo his image on the back. The way today’s kids experience digital photography (often on smart phones) is completely, utterly, totally different than it was only a few years ago, apparently when this episode of Elmo’s World was made in 2005. Seriously. I checked the air date. It freaked me out a little. The same way it freaked me out when my niece pointed to a phone booth in a video and asked my sister what it was. Or when I explained to my kids how television used to show programs at certain times of day and you couldn’t pause or rewind or even decide which show you wanted to watch right now. Sue is right. Kids don’t know what those things are. Some Sesame content will always be relevant. Ernie will always be able to sing about the joys of bathing with his Duckie. C will always be for Cookie. But not this.

We couldn’t use Elmo’s World: Cameras. It was simply out of date.

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January 22, 2013

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‘An App Just for Me’: Denise Albert on Sesame’s New Divorce App

By Denise Albert


Ed. Note: Denise Albert is the Co-Founder of the lifestyle brand,  The MOMS. She and her partner, Melissa Gerstein are contributors to HLN’s upcoming parenting show, Raising America. Denise contributes to The Huffington Post Parents and Divorce.

As a mom addicted to my iPhone and to technology I often struggle with how much time to allow my kids to use their iTouches. Truth be told, I wouldn’t have given them the devices at their young ages of 4 ½ and 8. However, their dad receives new phones from his place of business so our kids are the beneficiaries of hand me downs. Who would say no to that! Read More

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January 09, 2013

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Sesame Workshop and Qualcomm Announce Mobile Technology Collaboration

By Graydon Gordian



It began with television. Sesame Workshop co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney looked at the television and realized we could be utilizing this powerful, evolving form of technology to educate children. 43 years later a willingness to use technology in groundbreaking ways remains a major reason why Sesame Workshop is an effective educational organization.

With that legacy of innovation in mind, we are proud to announce a new collaboration with Qualcomm centered on researching and developing new ways to educate children using mobile devices and applications. By bringing together Qualcomm’s cutting-edge mobile technologies and Sesame Workshop’s expertise in educating young children, Qualcomm and Sesame hope once again to revolutionize early childhood education. Read More

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January 08, 2013

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Sesame Workshop and CA Technologies Partner to Support STEM Education

By Graydon Gordian


CA Technologies Chief Marketing Officer Andrew Wittman and Super Grover 2.0

Students in the United States are falling behind their peers globally in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM. That is why Sesame Workshop and CA Technologies, a leading IT management solutions company, have partnered to encourage young children to focus on STEM learning even before they reach kindergarten. Read More

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December 17, 2012

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Sesame’s Best Practices Guide for Children’s App Development

By Mindy Brooks


Touch screen technology is revolutionizing interactive digital experiences for children. No longer do our little ones need to wait to learn to navigate a mouse or press keyboard keys in order to access a host of interactive content designed for them. Instead, we see toddlers and preschoolers confidently navigating their parents’ iPhones, iPads, and other touch screen devices with astonishing agility and purpose. The explosion of apps for young children is not surprising; there is high demand and high appeal.

Sesame Workshop, whose mission is to help children reach their highest potential, is learning as much as we can about these media platforms so that we can use them to best meet children’s educational and developmental needs. We scour academic journals and policy-based reports; we consult experts in the field, and we also spend as much time as we can with children and parents observing and talking to them while they use touch screen devices. Read More

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November 28, 2012

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Kinect TV and Sesame Workshop’s Commitment to Innovation

By Graydon Gordian


J Milligan, the creative director of the Content Innovation Lab at Sesame Workshop, spoke at this year’s PSFK Conference in London. In his presentation J explains how Sesame Street Kinect TV, the Workshop’s newest interactive educational platform, is just the latest step in a decades long exploration of how technology can enhance early education.

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October 16, 2012

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From Paper to iPad: The Evolution of the Great Cookie Thief

By Susan Tofte


Ed. Note: Susan Tofte is Sesame Workshop’s archivist.

How would you update a classic? Take a treasured story from one era and spruce it up for a new century’s readers?

Sesame Workshop has produced over 1200 books in a variety of formats since the early 1970s. Part of the philosophy of our publishing group is the willingness to tell stories in whatever formats will attract and reach preschoolers. Animated book apps and e-books are the most recent formats in which Sesame Street characters have come to life. For the Workshop, an eagerness to create books in emerging digital formats is tempered by the need to balance innovation with our mission of education. It is a delicate balancing act, but one that the Workshop’s publishing group has pulled off time and time again. Read More

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The Evolution of a Sesame Street iPad App

By Graydon Gordian


Thorough research provides the foundation of everything Sesame Workshop produces. Whether it’s a book, a game or an episode of our flagship program Sesame Street, our early childhood education experts spend hours working with parents and young children to ensure that all of our educational material, no matter what medium it comes in, is both fun and effective. That policy hasn’t changed as new technologies have allowed us to bring our educational efforts to new venues, such as applications for tablets and smart phones. In fact, the simple nature of updating apps has allowed us to continue scrutinizing the effectiveness of our educational material even after it’s been published.

Take the recently updated version of our first book app for iPad, The Monster at the End of This Book, based on the classic book of the same name. Although the app, made in collaboration with Callaway Digital Arts, was tested before release to ensure that it was educational, navigable and entertaining, we received feedback suggesting some parents and children were not fully utilizing the app’s user interface. Even little hiccups can hamper the effectiveness of an app’s educational aims, so our research team went back and took another look at it. They found there were ways to make the app even more user-friendly.

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