Portland Filmmaker’s New Web Series Makes Learning a Digital Adventure
The school year has barely begun for millions of American children, but what bothers Portland-based Web series producer Scotty Iseri is that this means there’s also millions of homework questions floating around unanswered, especially about math.
So Iseri conceived a new Web series designed for children 7-to-11 who are struggling with math comprehension. His series, The Digits, strives to make math learning cool through interactive storytelling. Now with a number of episodes already on YouTube for Schools, The Digits (www.YouTube.com/FUNDAwatch) is also available as a new app (or “appisode”) that launched to iTunes and Android Market in mid-September.
The characters of The Digits began asking kids and parents to submit their brain-stumping questions in episode four about right triangles. Want Pavi to answer about parallelograms? No problem. Want Gorgolax to field your long division quandaries? No worries. You can even ask the recycled robot Ray Ray or the airheaded The Galaxy Twins, Chad and Becky, their thoughts. Fire away in the YouTube comments section, and by subscribing to the channel, parents and kids are notified of a new episode each Wednesday.
Unlike the majority of educational apps and Web series, The Digits was created under the guidance of a curriculum designer and implemented by a 20-year veteran schoolteacher. Iseri strives to address a slightly older age group than most educational apps, aimed at later elementary students (third through fifth grade), which is a critical time in a child’s development. This is the age when kids are making affinity choices and they’re deciding who they are, what they like, and what they’re good at. It’s also when math and science start to get more difficult; math moves from simple arithmetic and into more abstract concepts like fractions, or geometry.
This non-traditional media product is also using a non-traditional funding model. The Digits is a start-up and is working with Angel Investors to create it. Iseri plans a suite of shows and toys focused on a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum.
“Television viewership is down and kids are more likely to have access to a smartphone than a desktop computer,” says Iseri. “Instead of fighting for limited broadcast bandwidth, we want to go where the audience is: on phones, tablets and YouTube.”
He continues, “Most children’s content (from TV shows to games) is funded by advertising, and the reality is that ad-funded programming does not have children’s interests at heart. This is a new business model for launching an entertainment product. We’re a company that wants to do well by doing good.”
The Digits began as a fellowship with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). Iseri set the Web workaday world on fire with Web series Scotty Got an Office Job in 2009, and before that led The Paper Hat project in Chicago. His long-touring comedy rock act “The Big Rock Show” also landed him on the Dr. Demento show.