Thursday, February 9, 2012

Keeping Research on Digital Learning and Children's Digital Literature Alive

Back in the summer, dotMomming featured a series of interviews with Patrick Cox of the Childhood Studies Program at Rutgers University. Patrick was teaching classes on learning to read in the digital age, and we believe the work he and his colleagues are doing is important to understanding how digital books impact early literacy development for today's generation of children. But that research might be coming to a halt, and what follows is a special guest post from Patrick about how you can help keep programs like his alive.

From "Merry Conceits and Whimsical Rhymes."
Published by Routledge & Sons, New York, 1883. 
Awhile back, I did an interview on dot.Momming about an undergraduate course I teach at Rutgers on Children’s Digital Literacies. Since that time I’ve been including this blog in my course as a resource students can use to learn about still more digital texts for children beyond what we can cover in class. Kate has been kind enough to let me come back to tell you about a threat that has befallen this course.

My course is part of the Department of Childhood Studies, a one-of-a-kind program on the Camden campus of Rutgers University, offering the only Childhood Studies Ph.D. in North America. Recently, a plan has emerged in New Jersey to shut down the Rutgers-Camden campus and absorb it into a much smaller and less prepared college that lacks both the research focus and the child focus of the Camden campus of Rutgers.

This Rutgers campus is home to leading research and instruction in children’s digital literature. Students and faculty here study and teach digital texts created for children, stories written by children using new digital media, children using online virtual spaces, and how “the digital age” impacts literacy, learning, family interactions, and children’s daily lives. In my course students, many of whom are aspiring teachers, learn about digital literature and its potential for enriching use in classrooms and in homes. This campus is also home to the Center for Children and Childhood Studies that provides much needed assistance, programming, tutoring, and more to the children of the city of Camden.

All of this has been possible with the support and recognition that comes with being a first-rate university like Rutgers. If these programs are moved to a smaller, lesser known facility 20 miles outside of the city, they will most likely wither and die -- faculty and students will leave, and the work we have done will come to an end.

Students, faculty, alumni, and community members have been fighting hard to protect what we have. Kate has kindly allowed me to ask you to help maintain the work we are doing with and for children, and our field-leading work on the developing area of children’s digital literature. Here is a link to a petition started by a Rutgers undergraduate student to Stop the Merger. The petition has collected over 8,000 signatures in just two weeks, and I hope you’ll add yours. I won’t deluge you with links here but will point out that the student behind the webpage has loaded it with links to more information, news articles, etc., as well as other ways you can help if you so desire.

Patrick Cox
Department of Childhood Studies
Rutgers University-Camden

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