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ApSeed Update:

Chasing Continuous Improvement

GREG ALCORN - 08/29/2019

We are running ApSeed like a business.  Striving to improve in all areas.  Here are some examples:

The touchpad, Seedling, has some significant upgrades.  Our next wave of 3,000 Seedlings have been designed with three modifications.  One, we added a “baby games” app for parents to use for activities with their child.  Two, the Numbers app now helps the child learn numbers up to fifty (was twenty).  And, third, we replaced the really boring Android start-up screen with a self-promoting and very cool ApSeed intro.  Check out this link for a 25 second demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUbotaoXX2k

Note that we have ordered 3,000 Seedlings.  We are anticipating more activity in our current school districts – Rowan, Davie, Fort Mill and Chester County.  Plus, several other districts have expressed interest, so we are stocking up to be ready.

We have two new board members.  Dr. Ozzie Reynolds, retired ophthalmologist, lives in Salisbury and will provide wisdom and work for us.  Philip Price, Raleigh, was CFO of the Dept. of Public Instruction until retiring.  Philip and I worked closely together when I was on the NC State Board of Education.  He will help us with big picture thinking and networking.

Finally, our data gathering for results is improving.  We had very positive results from the Summer Academy.  I’ll share the details later.  The Rowan-Salisbury School leaders are also collecting Kindergarten data over the next two months and will provide findings.  Internally, we have a three-year horizon on results, but we’ll gladly take interim results.  Stay tuned.

 
 
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ApSeed Update:

NC State Budget

New Clients

New School Year

GREG ALCORN - 08/07/2019

We are disappointed that ApSeed did not make the state budget.  Much appreciation to Reps Horn and Warren and cheerleader Rachel Beaulieu for building awareness and value for ApSeed.  There is still potential funding via reallocations, but nothing firm, yet.

       In the meantime, we are working on the Mebane Foundation challenge of “real-time usage tracking”.  Our tech guru, Erik Lipscomb, is researching a cellular option with our manufacturing team.  Beta testing is underway for ApSeed 4.0. Version 4.0 will have upgraded and new apps.  Hopefully the cellular connection will be successful, too.

       We have two new clients.  Fort Mill, SC and Chester County, SC.  They each have private funding to provide Seedlings in their school districts.  Thank you, Springsteen Foundation for jump starting these two.  Fort Mill is a fast growing and highly rated school district.  We are in the process of delivering and managing 500 Seedlings to South Carolina.  Chester is rural and has lots of upside.  We hope to start their program by year end. 

       Back in Rowan and Davie County, we have a new school year coming up.  That means new pre-K children at several locations, like Head Start.  We are anxious to see how many 4-year old children already have Seedlings.  If our “market saturation” has worked, there should not be many.

       Finally, Novant Rowan Hospital now provides a Seedling touchpad to ALL new parents.  That’s 750 per year and should be easy to track.  Our goal is to have every child kindergarten-ready, so we need to start early, real early.  Thank you for your support.  You can follow us on most social media sites for ongoing updates.

 
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My plea to 2020 candidates:

Talk less about student loans, much more about the very young

Kenneth A. Dodge

Opinion Contributor

USA Today

July 26, 2019

As we lean in to election season, candidates are vying for votes by appealing to families. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren want to cancel college loan debt. Sen. Cory Booker supports baby bonds, which are really young-adult bonds that provide a gift of up to $46,000 when a child turns 18.

It is time candidates listen to what families really want and need: support for raising their babies and young children in the first five years of life.

Hard data show our youngest children are suffering. Too many of our nation’s children come to kindergarten not ready to learn. Too many are undernourished, and, paradoxically, too many are obese. Among the 36 developed nations in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, infant mortality in the U.S. ranks in the bottom four, alongside Turkey, Mexico and Chile. Neonatal mortality is also in the bottom four. Mortality for children aged 0-4? Bottom four

We should not be surprised: Despite being the wealthiest nation in the world, we rank fifth from the bottom of OECD nations in child poverty rates, and things are getting worse for working-class and low-income families with young children. Our income inequality indicators are among the worst in the world. As the wealthy have gotten even richer since the Ronald Reagan era, the bottom half has stagnated and the wealthy avert their gazes.

Our government does not help. As a percentage of GDP, public expenditures on families with children ranks in the bottom three, next to Mexico and Turkey. And what we do spend is skewed toward older children instead of the very young.

Thought experiment: Ask anyone who has ever been a parent when in their child’s lifespan is financial and social support needed most. As someone who has studied and worked with children and families for 40 years, I have asked that question many times. And for nearly every parent, the answer is: when their child is young.

Parents of young children are themselves younger with less money, often trying to work just to make ends meet and facing child care costs greater than their income. And now scientists are telling them that their baby is forming neural synapses at a rate of millions per second, and they better hurry up and enrich their infant’s environment or their baby will be forever behind. Working parents feel guilty about leaving their baby every day; non-working parents feel guilty that they are not working. Virtually every parent of a young child is feeling stressed and alone.

How did we get into this mess of failing to provide for young families? It used to be that mothers stayed at home and fathers earned enough to provide for the entire family. Neighborhood moms pitched in and looked out for each other’s children. Today, nearly two-thirds of children live in households where both parents work, but our public policies and community practices have not caught up. Paid parental leave policy? We are dead last, the only developed nation that still awards no paid parental leave. Enrollment in early education among children aged 3 to 5? We are fourth from the bottom.

So what are our candidates offering? Sen. Booker, why would you give an impulsive 18-year-old $46,000 to start her own business but nothing to help her parents raise her to make good decisions? Sens. Sanders and Warren, if we fail to invest more in early education, the only families that will benefit from your college loan forgiveness proposals will be those who were wealthy enough to afford privileged early education in the first place.

To be fair, some candidates do support better early childhood policies — most notably Warren, whose "Universal Child Care and Early Learning" plan would cap child care costs at 7% of income and phase them out entirely for families earning under 200% of the poverty threshold, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, whose "Family Bill of Rights" would also make child care more affordable. Sen. Kamala Harris supports federal relief for child care costs through the “Child Care for Working Families Act.”

I wish they would shout these proposals from a rooftop, and from the stage in next week's debate. I wish all of the candidates would consider policies that families want and that we know are associated with better outcomes for children: Paid parental leave. Loans to families with babies. Expanded child tax credits. Expanded earned income tax credits for young families. Universal home visiting at birth. Universal high-quality early child care and education. Universal health care for young children.

Please.

 
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Interview:

Ginger Jenkins

CENTER DIRECTOR - PRICE HEAD START

SHELBY DAVIS - JUNE 27, 2019

Shelby Davis, employee of ApSeed, interviewed Ginger Jenkins. Ginger is the director for Price Head Start in Rowan County. Price Head Start has over 140 children attending their pre-school. Price has been using ApSeed’s Seedling readers for almost 3 years.

The interview is highlighting the importance and impact the Seedling has made and continues to make.

Shelby: Have you noticed a difference in children’s behavior?

Ginger: “I have noticed that children who need a breather from the whole group can turn on a Seedling, work on an app to regroup themselves, and then they go and rejoin with the class.”

Shelby: What do you, as a director, think about the Seedling?

Ginger: “That it is a great tool to enhance the way children learn. It incorporates hands-on, visual, and auditory lessons which is important because children learn in different ways.”

Shelby: Has the Seedling made an educational difference?

Ginger: “I believe so. Children have a chance to use technology in a positive way to enhance their learning. The socio-emotional skills that have happened was a pleasant surprise. I knew it would develop their cognitive abilities.”

Shelby: What are some testimonials parents tell you?

Ginger: “That the Seedling has helped their child focus on a task. That parents have noticed that their child can identify more numbers and letters since using the Seedling on a frequent basis.”

Shelby: What ways, if any, have you incorporated the Seedling into the school’s curriculum?

Ginger: “It has been added to the lesson plan and teachers use the apps that corresponds with what they are teaching (letters, numbers, shapes, etc.).”

Shelby: What improvements can we make?

Ginger: “Incorporating some newer apps.”

Shelby: In your opinion, is the Seedling helping these children get ready for Kindergarten.

Ginger: “Yes, the apps that are loaded on the Seedling reinforces what our teachers are teaching in the classroom. It is also helping children develop a sense of confidence when they complete a task and it tells them ‘way to go’ or ‘great job.’ The children are also developing their social skills when using the Seedling. They work together, help each other, and even turn completing tasks into a competition.”

 

The interview was very successful question and answer. Ginger mentioned wanting newer apps. We have already began looking for a parent app, a baby/infant app, and a bi-lingual app.

Ginger provided us with much needed feedback!

 
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INTERVIEW: Shanelle Wilkey

DIRECTOR - ROWAN WIC DEPT.

SHELBY DAVIS - JUNE 27, 2019

Shelby Davis also interviewed Shanelle Wilkey. Shanelle is the director of Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) of Salisbury-Rowan Health Department. ApSeed uses WIC to distribute Seedling readers. WIC and ApSeed share the same target market of low socio-economic status (SES) children.

 

Shanelle was asked a series of questions on her thoughts and observations of ApSeed’s impact.

 

Shelby: Have you noticed a difference in children’s behavior?

Shanelle: “As a WIC Director, I do not see clients individually; however, on several occasions I have seen the children come into the WIC office with a Seedling in hand.  They are occupied with the Seedling rather than running around the office.”

Shelby: What do you, as a director, think about the Seedling?

Shanelle: “I think the Seedling is a great tool that can help children learn colors, to count, ABCs, etc.  It is 100% educational which is a benefit for the child.”

Shelby: Has the Seedling made an educational difference?

Shanelle: Absolutely I feel it has.  All of the apps are 100% educational and it helps them to learn to count, learn their colors, ABCs, etc.”

Shelby: What are some testimonials parents tell you?

Shanelle: “As a WIC Director, I do not see clients individually anymore, so I don’t hear as much; however, we did have a parent tell us that it helped her two year old learn to count to 10.  The nutritionists have heard parents say it has helped their child learn colors.”

Shelby: In your opinion, is The Seedling helping these children get ready for Kindergarten?

Shanelle: “Yes, absolutely.”

 

Shanelle’s feedback gives us a different point of view. She does not directly see the child using the Seedling every day. Instead when the parents/caregivers come to their appointments the child plays with the Seedling, while the parent is with the WIC nutritionist.

The parent/caregiver often tell WIC testimonials about how the Seedling has changed their child’s life for the better.

 
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ApSeed: Supporting our Youngest Readers

By Jeanna Baxter White - Davie County Blog

“We aren’t looking for advocates anymore, we are looking for accomplices and we have them in Davie County,” says Greg Alcorn, founder of ApSeed Early Childhood Education. “The Mebane Foundation has been the rockstar of all partners for ApSeed.”

The Mebane Foundation and ApSeed Early Childhood Education joined forces last spring to increase literacy scores among at-risk children in Davie County by providing a free e-Reader preloaded with applications designed to help children start school kindergarten-ready. From music that will soothe a newborn to games that teach simple spelling and math, the tablet’s carefully selected apps meet the developmental needs of children from birth to kindergarten.

“ApSeed strives to help children stay age proficient at home, so they can be grade proficient in school,” said Alcorn. “Our goal is to provide a Seedling to every socioeconomically disadvantaged child 0-4 years old. We believe the ApSeed Project will level the playing field while also being a tool for real and lasting enrichment.”

Through a $105,000 grant from the Foundation, almost 1,000 custom-built tablets, called Seedlings, have been distributed free of charge to children 0-4 whose families are enrolled in the WIC program through the Davie County Department of Public Health, Parents as Teachers through Smart Start of Davie County, or Davie County’s NC Pre-K program.

“We’re always on the lookout for best practices and resources to support our youngest readers, with this partnership and with the Seedling I believe we’ve hit a home run!” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Foundation.

Colbourne believes the Seedling is a valuable tool to support DavieLEADS, a five-year early literacy initiative funded by a $2.5 million grant from the Mebane Foundation. The initiative seeks to improve kindergarten readiness from 70% to 90 percent and to increase reading proficiency in third grade from 60 percent to 80 percent by 2022.

In order to receive a Seedling, parents must provide their email address and agree to complete a short, five-question survey which is emailed every 90 days. ApSeed measures the results of the surveys in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the Seedling and to continue perfecting its programming. Questions include 1. How are you using the Seedling? 2. How much per day? What is your child’s favorite app? 4. What is your child learning? 5. What is the Seedling doing for you as a parent?

It is too early to make research-based conclusions in Davie County, but Alcorn said the ApSeed internal survey results have been favorable and no one has expressed that their child has experienced boredom or burnout with the device.

Responses have included: “At first he couldn’t say the alphabet but now he can use ALL of the letters,” “likes tracking letters and is trying to learn to spell words,” “the twins were born early and their speech is behind but now they are catching up,” “I can hear her singing with the tablet,” and “plays with it until the battery is dead.”

Usage by age has been consistent with Rowan County. Children begin with the music app and transition to letters and numbers as they get older. ApSeed’s analysis for Davie County explained the progression.

“Under the age of one, the music player (Pulsar) app is used the most. Pulsar can play songs over and over, meaning the Seedling can allow the infant to listen to pleasant music. Since the parent/caregiver is operating the Seedling, bonding is the most helpful value the Seedling does for the family.

Age one shows a significant increase in the child focusing. Favorite apps become shapes and colors. The brain is forming allowing the child to want to focus. Another striking development is the parent/caregiver is teaching their child. Now the child is a little less dependent on the parent/caregiver but just enough to be taught. At this stage, the child is learning how to learn to read.

Ages two and three show an amazing increase in learning colors and shapes. Parents notice this as well. The child is learning to read. Therefore, bonding decreases because the child is more independent.

At age four children use the 123 Numbers and ABC Kids apps the most because they have already learned the colors and shapes. These apps encourage tracing letters and numbers, so the children are learning to write. We have observed children tracing their letters on the Seedling, then grabbing a piece of paper to try to replicate what they just learned demonstrating the child is ready to learn to read. The Seedling is so familiar by age four that it is very easy to use. At this stage, the child is ready to enter Kindergarten at the age proficiency of the other children.”

Based on what ApSeed has learned, the apps are arranged on the tablet in age-proficiency order. Alcorn says this will help parents help their child be kindergarten-ready. Ideally, a child should spend about 400 hours over the four years using the Seedling.

“Students less than 50% proficient in school are less likely to catch up. It’s too late when a child is in the 8th month of third grade to expect them to be able to make up for six years of not being close to age proficient and to expect them to pass the end-of-grade reading test. That’s what we are charged up about, helping children get to where they are supposed to be.”

ApSeed is now brainstorming ways to increase parent/caregiver response rates. “We want to figure out if there are additional things we should be doing to reach out to parents to find out how well the Seedling is working for their child since the response rate to our surveys is about 25%,” said Alcorn. “Most would say that’s a great return but it’s not to me. We want to be able to take a comprehensive look at the other 75% in order to know if the responses we are getting from the 25% are representative of the children as a whole.” 

“We want to identify any additional needs the children might have because we have room for more apps. We also have six tutorial videos about operating the device that we’d like to get to parents.”

ApSeed also hopes to expand its social media presence so that everyone learns about the benefits of the Seedling. “The ideal situation would be to have every parent/caregiver and every person involved in the child’s life on our Facebook so that they support each other and get guidance from each other.”

“Eventually, we would like to get to where the Seedling is recognized as valuable for all of North Carolina so that it can be distributed through public funding instead of just private funding, that’s our next goal.”

Alcorn may soon get his wish. Representatives Horn, Warren, Lucas, and Howard have sponsored a bill to the North Carolina General Assembly recommending that the  Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child Development and Early Education, establish a three-year pilot project to implement the ApSeed program in Forsyth, Hoke, New Hanover, Watauga, and Yadkin Counties beginning in July 2019.

ApSeed Early Childhood Education is privately funded through foundations and donations. For more information about ApSeed visit apseed.org or call (980) 643-0451.

The Mebane Charitable Foundation supports collaborations and partnerships among educational professionals (public and private), business leaders, elected officials, and the community at large. The Foundation focuses resources on ensuring that all children have the opportunity to reach their highest potential in school, career, and life. Visit MebaneFoundation.com.

 

February 19th 2019 - Greg Alcorn

We continue to enhance the website.  Our new Seedling users now have several “tutorial” videos to view for FAQs.  Each video runs for about one minute and answers usage questions for first timers.  Check them out on our YouTube Channel or our Helpful Hints page.

 

February 11th 2019 - Erik Lipscomb

The stretch of road that all children know is having a birthday. Sesame Street and the colorful creatures that live there are turning 50 this year.

CBS Sunday Morning celebrated the upcoming event by giving viewers a backstage look at the show. Sesame Street has been educating children since it first aired on November 10, 1969. Sesame Street has been a huge influence on ApSeed as we are both helping children prepare for Kindergarten. When designing the Seedling, we looked to Sesame Street for inspiration. We wanted to make a portable and interactive device that mirrored what they were trying to teach.

Sesame Street will live on for many generations to come as the foundation for scholastic success has not changed. Much like Sesame Street, ApSeed is committed to making sure that every child walks into Kindergarten with these skills mastered. 

Please join ApSeed and generations of people around the world in saying “Happy 50th Sesame Street!” and thank you.

 
 
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7 Dumb Things We All Say

Nobody wants to say dumb things. But we all do. The first step towards reducing the number of dumb things you say is to know what the dumb things are. Based on thirty years of research with millions and millions of conversations, this book contains the secrets of overcoming these blunders:

Using Bad Bookends

Starting with Wrong First Words

Not Choosing Your Words Well

Poor Questions and Bad Listening

Focus-on-Me Attitude

Wrong Tone

Not Diffusing Difficult Drama

7 Dumb Things We All Say is quick and enjoyable reading. Action strategies are clearly outline and prove a road map to success. If you are serious about communicating well—and like a spot of humor along the way—then this is the book for you.

Get the Book Here.

February 5th 2019 - Erik Lipscomb

Today ApSeed and The City of Salisbury joined together to provide Seedlings to City employees with children ages 0-4.  Mayor Al Heggins, Mayor Pro Tem David Post, and City Council Member Karen Alexander were in attendance to help assign the first eight Seedlings to excited City employees. 

The employees were given the short tutorial on how to instruct their children to use the Seedling. They were also made aware that ApSeed supplies FREE REPLACEMENTS for any damaged Seedlings, no questions asked.

This partnership is a dream come true for ApSeed as we fight to get every child in the city we love ready for Kindergarten.

A special thanks to Jennifer Silvia for her leadership in coordinating the event. 

 

January 25th 2019 - Greg Alcorn

Our internal research is telling a nice story.  Below is a link to the survey results BY AGE of the child.  It’s for Davie County.  It shows which apps are most popular as children grow from birth to four years old.

In summary, new born babies listen to the music/lullabies app, then 1-2’s gravitate to the shapes and colors and then the 3-4’s use the apps for numbers and letters.  This progression makes a lot of sense.

We can use these findings to coach parents and caregivers on selecting apps and knowing where the child should be in “Seedling proficiency”.  And, yes, we just invented that literacy category.

We are still considering third-party, independent research options.  For now, it’s full steam ahead toward helping EVERY child become kindergarten-ready.

 

PS  We were honored with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Service Award.  Many thanks to Phyllis Little, Dixie Dalton and Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Salisbury for this recognition.  Humbling and Inspiring.