The New Coviewing Workshop at DML 2011

by Meagan Bromley
March 30, 2011

DML 2011: Designing Learning FuturesHow can technology allow us to provide teachable moments and meaningful interactions across challenges of everyday life? How can a single parent who works until 9:00 at night help a child with homework assignments after school? Is there a way for distant relatives to read story books together with young children despite being far apart? What would a video game for children and grandparents to play together look like?

These are just a few of the possible scenarios that characterized discussions at the Cooney Center’s recent DML Conference workshop, The New Coviewing: Supporting Learning through Joint Media Engagement.

This year marked the 2nd annual conference on Digital Media and Learning, hosted by the Macarthur Foundation. As the name implies, the DML Conference brought together a community of of educators, media industry professionals and academics for three dynamic days of innovation, design, and discussion. Other workshops offered at the conference included hands-on activities in robot programming for kindergartners, computer hacking for kids, and challenges like designing a serious game for learning after being given a theme of “honor” and a game structure like “Tetris.”

The New Coviewing Workshop was led by our Research Director, Lori Takeuchi and Cooney Center Research Fellow, Rebecca Herr-Stephenson in collaboration with the LIFE Center. Attendees came from incredibly varied positions and backgrounds including academics, leaders in K-12 school settings and non-profit youth groups, as well as media designers working in television, games and museums.

So, what is “the new coviewing?” Over the past 40 years, researchers have examined behaviors of coviewing among families watching Sesame Street; however, now that we’ve entered the digital age, families interact with and learn from one another across many other forms of media and in various settings. Sesame Workshop has developed and conducted research on a number of projects that aim to capitalize on intergenerational learning opportunities. Among them, Electric Racer, a video game for literacy learning, led to some interesting research findings. Researchers in media and the learning sciences have determined that a new framework is needed to assess these new types of interactions, hence: the new coviewing.

To kick off the workshop, Becky and Lori took us through a variety of video clips featuring instances of joint media engagement (JME) — spontaneous and designed experiences of people using media together. After a discussion of the videos, workshop participants broke into small groups and completed design challenges to provide interactive solutions for families with constrained budgets, time and technological abilities. The diversity of experience among groups became apparent as they developed solutions to problems like how to engage a classroom full of kids with limited technology and how parents with limited English skills might still be able to help their children with web-based homework. Designs incorporated existing technology and infrastructure, as well as the potential to employ every learner, across all generations, as a potential teacher.

We look forward to continuing the conversation around The New Coviewing and welcome further input and feedback from DML workshop participants!