As a preschooler, Angela Santomero was children's television pioneer Fred Rogers' biggest fan. As an adult, she is carrying on his legacy by creating engaging, entertaining, educational programming, such as Blue's Clues and Rogers-inspired Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. To Santomero (left, with Daniel Tiger), this marriage of education, child development, and media is the perfect way to promote social-emotional and cognitive learning to the largest audience possible.
“I thought if we could put the very best curriculum on television, we could move the needle with millions of kids at a time, instead of a classroom at a time," she says. "And we could complement the work that teachers are doing in the classroom, and complement the work that parents are doing at home.”
As a producer and a mother, Santomero is well aware of the concerns around screen time, and in her new book, Preschool Clues: Raising Smart, Inspired, and Engaged Kids in a Screen-Filled World, she meets those concerns head on. The problem is not the screen, she says, but the type of programming children may consume. "Not all content is created equal," she says, so parents need to be involved viewers. They need to evaluate the programs their children are watching and learn how to distiguish the good content from the not-so-good. One quality to look out for, says Santomero, is whether the show encourages children to be involved in their own learning with questions and pauses for their answers.
“When content is created with the intent to teach, and with the intent to empower kids, then we can move the needle,” she says.
In this edition of the Harvard EdCast, Santomero shares the inspirations behind her hit shows and talks about how parents can use television in smart and healthy ways.
About the Harvard EdCast
The Harvard EdCast is a weekly series of podcasts, available on the Harvard University iTunes U page, that features a 15-20 minute conversation with thought leaders in the field of education from across the country and around the world. Hosted by Matt Weber and co-produced by Jill Anderson, the Harvard EdCast is a space for educational discourse and openness, focusing on the myriad issues and current events related to the field.