Fostering inquiry skills among young learners and helping them establish meaningful connections with the world around them is a core mission at HMH. Because of this important commitment, HMH has partnered with Kids Discover, an educational publisher of high-interest nonfiction for kids, to create HMH Kids Discover Social Studies for Grades K–6. This next generation curricula series provides easily digestible content in a student-friendly magazine-style format that brings history and geography to life for young learners, enabling them to experience content in a fun, bold and engaging manner. It takes a new approach by providing teachers with the resources to foster inquiry among elementary students, helping them prepare for college, career and beyond.
Ted Levine, President and CEO of Kids Discover, is particularly interested in the intersection of multimedia, technology and storytelling, and leveraging those three elements to create compelling and memorable educational experiences for kids. We had the opportunity to interview Ted about his role at Kids Discover, the company's core mission and current trends he observes in the education space.
HMH: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Kids Discover.
Ted Levine: Kids Discover is a family-owned and operated company. My father, Mark Levine, founded the magazine in 1991, and we've been producing nonfiction products ever since. I joined the company in 2010 with the task of forming a digital strategy for both product and marketing. I led the development of our suite of iPad apps between 2012-2014, as well as the development, launch, and ongoing operations of Kids Discover Online, our all-access digital platform.
HMH: What is the driving force behind Kids Discover?
Ted Levine: Our mission today is the same as it was back 1991; to inspire kids and to feed their natural curiosity through great, age-appropriate editorial. Whether we're introducing kids to ancient civilizations, or to what life was like back during the Revolutionary War, our mission is to present subjects in a way that fascinates and excites young minds. If we can get kids excited about reading and learning, we've fulfilled our mission.
The Kids Discover editorial team huddles for a planning session.
HMH: Why do you think it's so important that young children develop inquiry skills from a young age?
Ted Levine: The skills we teach students in the classroom need to be useful beyond the walls of a school building. Because technological innovation is disrupting so many industries at such a fast pace, new problems are constantly arising, and in turn, need to be solved. Finding solutions to problems starts with inquiry. That's why it's so important that educators instill a mentality of inquiry in their classroom, and create an environment where students can make connections across subject matter. Kids Discover, at its core, is designed to promote inquiry-based learning.
HMH: What type of content do you think resonates best for the young modern learners of today?
Ted Levine: Certainly, today, children are fond of interactive, digital content. The combination of motion, sound, and interactivity creates a multimedia experience that stimulates multiple senses for children. We also hear from a lot of teachers that their students still love print, so I think it's less about print versus digital, and more about the visual experience across both mediums.
Ted visiting a 5th grade class in Barrington, Illinois, January 2016
HMH: Are there any key trends in the education space that you currently see or predict to take shape over the next few years?
Ted Levine: Many people have been calling for a "content revolution" in education over the last few years. We've seen major disruption with the emergence of OER's and the early stages of virtual reality (VR). However, these two examples represent near opposite ends of the spectrum in educational content. That is, most OER's fall into the category of light worksheets, short print-outs, and generally supplemental material. VR, on the other hand, represents the future of fully interactive and immersive learning experiences. There is tremendous opportunity in the middle of these two examples. It includes video, interactive objects, and multi-screen user experiences that are easy and fun to digest.