Lessons from Mister Rogers for a High Tech Generation

In just a few weeks, my daughter Dani will start her freshman year of college. The thrill of watching her prepare for this exciting new adventure -- from packing up her room to selecting what classes she'll take in her first semester -- is all the more meaningful because I know what a long road she has traveled to get here.

Dani had been an attentive and accomplished student up until the 10th grade. Then she started to struggle: her grades slipped, her frustration grew and she began to doubt herself and her abilities. It wasn't for lack of trying. Something just wasn't clicking, and it was standing in the way of her progress.

As a mom, it was heart-wrenching to watch my daughter go through this. I wanted to understand Dani's learning style, but I didn't know how -- or if -- I could.

And as General Manager of Children's Media at PBS, I knew I wasn't alone. Through years of research and conversations with parents, we've heard from scores of moms and dads who love their children and want to see them succeed in school, but who feel hopelessly on the outside of their learning.

So when the team at PBS recently launched the PBS KIDS Super Vision app -- a tool that gives parents insight into what their children are learning as they watch and play on -- I knew it had the potential to open worlds of possibilities for both parents and kids around learning.

Designed for parents of young children, PBS KIDS Super Vision lets parents see on their smartphones, in real time, what skill areas their children are engaging with in every PBS KIDS game or video. It offers suggestions for related, hands-on learning activities parents and children can do together, and a Play Timer parents can use to help transition kids from screen time to real-world experiences.

Our new app is just the tip of the iceberg. We plan to continue adding features and building functionality that lets parents not only see what their children are learning, but help them better understand how they're learning by analyzing the kinds of games children gravitate towards and excel at.

The app opens the door to the next frontier for media: to create experiences that not only teach and engage kids, but invite and empower parents to participate in their learning at the same time. After all, we know media can teach, and we know that parents' involvement in their children's education is the single greatest contributor to their success. But we're only just starting to discover how we can use these two strengths together, to help children thrive.

As Mister Rogers said, "Play is the way children talk to us best." Now, with tools and technology that parents can literally hold in the palm of their hands, we can listen to what our children are telling us about their learning better than ever before.