Disney Jr. Announces Advisory Board Members to Guide Learning and Development Curriculum

Disney Junior has announced a newly formed council of academic advisors, comprised of experts in the fields of transmedia, storytelling, early education, language development, diversity, emotional learning, digital trends and literacy, to guide Disney Junior’s learning and development curriculum designed specifically for kids age 2-7. The announcement was made today by Nancy Kanter, Senior Vice President, Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide, in advance of the new Disney Junior 24-hour basic cable/satellite channel launching in the U.S. on Friday, March 23 (12:00 midnight, ET/PT).

Kanter said: “We are thrilled to have assembled this prominent group of leading academics, the best in their fields, who will share with us their research, innovation, trends and knowledge in childhood education. Storytelling and character engagement is the key component in Disney Junior programming, and emerging technological advancements allow us to extend the television experience and deepen our viewers’ engagement via a multitude of platforms. Our advisory board will offer valuable insight into how we can best translate our series from television to online, games, apps and other extension experiences.”

The brand Disney Junior, which debuted as a programming block on Disney Channel and online at DisneyJunior.com, invites mom and dad to join their child in the Disney experience of magical, musical and heartfelt stories and characters, both classic and new, while incorporating specific learning and development themes for kids age 2-7.

The advisory board will provide counsel on expanding storytelling through off-air experiences, and will offer insight into both the historical role of storytelling and the use of digital advancements as learning tools. They will advise on key trends in early education and new learning initiatives used in the classroom and offer insight into bi-lingual language development, diversity, literacy and emotional learning.

The Disney Junior advisory board members are:

Kevin Clark, Ph.D., the Founder and Director of George Mason University’s Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity, will advise on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) research as it relates to preschoolers as well as innovations and trends in media technology and issues of diversity. Clark is currently an associate professor of Instructional Technology and conducts research on the role of video games and interactive media in education, particularly diverse and traditionally underserved populations. His recent scholarly activities focus on the use of video game design to increase interest in STEM careers.

Drew Davidson, Director of the Entertainment Technology Center — Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University and Editor of ETC Press, will consult on digital game development and design trends using storytelling attributes across media. His background spans academic, industry and professional worlds with a focus on stories across texts, comics, games and other media. He is the lead on several MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Initiative grants and has written and edited books, journals, articles and essays on narratives across media, serious games, analyzing gameplay, and cross-media communication.

Ines Dussell, Educational Director of Sangari Argentina, will advise on classroom trends as they relate to learning initiatives and media use, and will broaden the board’s perspective into Latino educational priorities. Dussell is also principal researcher at Flacso/Argentina, a center for research and graduate teaching in the social sciences. She’s currently researching the intersections between schooling, new media and visual culture, and is producing materials for classroom teaching.

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Director of the Infant Language Laboratory at Temple University, will advise on current trends in early education, specifically in language development, and consult on the opportunities to expand access to learning tools through community outreach. Hirsh-Pasek is currently the Stanley and Debra Lefkowitz Professor in the Department of Psychology at Temple University. Her research in the areas of early language development has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health and Human Development resulting in 11 books and over 100 publications.

Henry Jenkins, a leading expert in the field of transmedia, will advise on ways to expand storytelling through off-air experiences. Jenkins has served as Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts at USC since 2009 and previously spent a decade as the Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program.

Linda Labbo, Professor Emerita in the Department of Reading Education at the University of Georgia, will advise on fast-moving trends in digital literacy as a learning tool among young children and how they affect language learning. Labbo has served as a primary investigator on National Reading Research Center studies designed to investigate young children’s computer-related literacy development.

Robert L. Selman, Harvard Medical School’s Roy Edward Larsen Professor of Education and Human Development Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry Department, will advise on the development of emotional learning, especially as it relates to resilience and social skills in a group context. Selman also serves as senior associate at the Judge Baker Children’s Center and at the Department of Psychiatry at Children’s Hospital Boston. He has engaged in research and practice focused on how to help children develop social awareness and engagement competencies as a way to reduce risks to their health and to promote their social relationships as well as their academic performance. His current work on the promotion of children’s understanding of ways to get along with others from different backgrounds is conducted in the context of literacy and language arts curricula.

Catherine Snow, the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education, will advise on literacy development in young children. Snow is an expert on language and literacy development in children, focusing on how oral language skills are acquired and how they relate to literacy outcomes.

Maria Tatar, chair of Harvard University’s program in Folklore and Mythology, will advise on the historical context of the role of storytelling, fairytales and folklore as it relates to children’s experiences. Tatar is the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard, teaching courses in Folklore and Children’s literature.

Yuuko Uchikoshi, an expert in the field of bilingual education, language development and socialization and literacy development, will advise on bilingual language development and represent a non-western viewpoint on learning and skills acquisition among young children. Uchikoshi is an assistant professor at University of California at Davis, and his credentials include Harvard Graduate School of Education Action for Children’s Television Fellowship and the Harvard Graduate School of Education Advanced Doctoral Grant.

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