Creating an information clearinghouse

Solving early childhood learning’s information-delivery challenges is an important item on the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy’s short-term agenda. The strategy is simple: Create an information portal that provides a clear-cut path through the maze. A beta version of that vision, www.EarlyChildhoodColorado.org, went live online last year.

“This site is an information clearinghouse — a searchable database of what’s available to help families with young children,” says Marsico Institute Director Ginger Maloney. “It’s designed to provide a gateway to information and resources for parents, early childhood learning professionals, policymakers and other stakeholders.”

The Marsico Institute and DU’s Center for Teaching and Learning designed the site, and the list of participating partners includes representatives from the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children, the Piton Foundation, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Department of Education and Qualistar.

The Web site also includes an online video library, an event calendar, job listings, links to relevant research and a data-rich family section with links to various parenting, health care, professional and systems-building resources.

Any effort to provide parents and guardians with additional support gets high marks from Darcy Allen-Young, Head Start state collaboration director for Colorado’s Office of the Lieutenant Governor.

“It’s important for families to be really knowledgeable consumers,” she says. “Paying top dollar doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting the best opportunity for your child, so parents have to do research and investigate whether a particular provider meets the needs of their family. Does it uphold the values they think are important? Does the center afford the necessary educational opportunities? I think it’s got to be much more than proximity, much more than ‘the center is two blocks away and that’s where I’m sending my kid.'”

The Marsico Institute’s Web site isn’t the first of its kind, but it breaks new ground for two reasons: openness to input for users and a guiding philosophy of favoring collaboration over credit.

“Other states have done something similar, but they’re not using our exact model,” Maloney says. “The work that we’ve done is really built upon Smart Start Colorado. They started this, and we took what they did and prodded it into a much more 21st century technology environment.

“The Web site we created is dynamic. It’s designed so the community can continue to build it. The Marsico Institute will help maintain the site, but we’ll host it in such a way that it’s not obvious that we’re the developers because EarlyChildhoodColorado is a service. It’s not about us.”

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