Increasing Family Engagement Through Technology

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Increasing Family Engagement Through Technology
EEC is developing the Massachusetts Early Childhood Information System. Through this system,
Massachusetts is developing a best practice model to increase family engagement and level the playing
field for all children. This model includes the ability to collect child level data to inform research and
practice.
Hart and Risley conducted research that demonstrated at-risk children hear 30 million fewer words by age 4
than their more affluent peers. It was shown that these children enter kindergarten with 25% of the
vocabulary needed to succeed, and 88% of them never catch up. Research has shown that the number of
words a child hears by age 4 makes a different in children’s readiness for school. Child development
specialists also say that young children learn best when they are fully engaged and imbued with a feeling of
control. They encourage parents to seek out more open-ended games and toys in which children could
explore and create their own pace. Michael Kamil (Stanford) and Catherine Snow (Harvard) concur that
student motivation (engagement) could accelerate learning. Today's children, who are digital natives, find
our curriculum and tablet technology highly motivating. Snow and Kim (2007) state: “Lexical acquisition
could be a more central and vibrant focus in literacy instruction in the primary grades, and can be
demonstrably supported across the school years, if intensive instruction, lexically rich environments,
high student motivation, and lots of opportunities to encounter and use novel vocabulary are provided."
Research has shown that mobile technology devices are being purchased at an unprecedented rate even
by socio-disadvantaged families. Yet at the moment, not many tablet or smart phone applications are built
with this approach in mind. A recent Australian study showed that only 2 percent of 'educational' apps in the
iTunes Store allow for open-ended discovery and exploration.
Applications that currently exist can and do meet the needs of ELL students through receiving clear and
simple directions, having models of expected behavior and having checks for understand. Children can have
the ebook story read aloud or get help in identifying a single word making both the story and vocabulary
readily accessible to all children.
These types of mobile applications include opportunities for families not involved in early education and
care programs to support their children’s development through strengthening literacy by using
electronic curricula, books and games. A recent article by LISA GUERNSEY stated that "Child development
specialists say that young children learn best when they are fully engaged and imbued with a feeling of
control. They encourage parents to seek out more open-ended games and toys in which children could
explore and create their own pace. Yet at the moment, not many apps are built with this approach in mind.
A recent Australian study showed that only 2 percent of 'educational' apps in the iTunes Store allow for
open-ended discovery and exploration."
This growing use of mobile technology with access to ebooks, curricula (The Academic Language
Program for Students or ALPS) and instructional games as well as communication with families pushed
through electronic devices is an innovative way to reach families both involved in early education and
care and those not currently involved. This technology will assist in extending the learning opportunities
that can be accessed anywhere. It also empowers parents by extending their children’s learning through
easy to use tools (games and books).
To collect child level data there is a need for parental consent to be collected. To obtain parental
consent, EEC is looking at various methods. One method is using an electronic method using mobile
learning technologies. These types of programs are currently being developed and beginning to be used
across the country. Using this technology, parental consent can be obtained through an electronic
signature from any smart phone, tablet or computer. Achieving parental consent will not only allow
child level data to be collected but through this software but allow for increased parent engagement
through targeted and general communication, educational games and books through electronic means
(smart phones, tablets or computers). Parents to do not have to be involved in early childhood
education and care to participate as any family can access the consent form through a mobile device.
This method does conform to Massachusetts law for digital signatures.
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