Zooming in on Family Engagement with Media at AERA

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center’s Lori Takeuchi and Briana Pressey had the wonderful opportunity to be on a panel at the American Education Research Association 2014 (AERA 2014) annual conference in Philadelphia, PA. This panel was titled, “Learning With Technology: Different Perspectives From Low-Income Families” and held under the Special Interest Group – Advanced Technologies for Learning.

AERA cover slideLori and Briana began the panel with their talk, “The Impacts of Technology on Family Life: Engaging With Media Together, Apart, and On the Move.” In their talk, they describe how coviewing educational television in the past was a way in which children could learn through social interaction. However, as media and technology is shifting, along with family structures, a new definition of co-viewing needs to be defined. At the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, we are interested in joint media engagement (JME), a new form of co-viewing digital media. Unlike coviewing television, which may be restricted to particular schedules and spaces (e.g., living room), JME can occur anywhere and anytime. To highlight JME and learning, Lori and Briana focused on two research studies.

First, with the national survey of parents, Lori and Briana asked the questions: To what extent is JME occurring in families with young children across the U.S.? Who is using media together? Here, they highlighted our work at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center on Learning At Home, a national survey of over 1,500 families (with an oversample of Black and Hispanic-Latino heritage families) and their learning and media usage.

parent survey details

Slide from AERA presentation on joint media engagement. View the presentation on SlideShare.

Second, Briana and Lori examined specific case studies and asked the following questions: How might particular family characteristics and circumstances shape how parents and children engage around media? The in-depth qualitative case studies complement the quantitative survey data. In this portion of the talk, they provided examples of case studies of families with children (ages 6 – 9) from a local community center and their views of technology, digital media, and learning. Here, they highlighted findings such as children’s desire to connect with parents and siblings, which challenge the idea that new media devices isolate children.

In other aspects of the panel, Katherine Headrick Taylor, Ph.D. from Northwestern University presented her work (along with Reed Stevens, Ph.D. from Northwestern University) on the impacts of technology on family life. She asked the questions, “How has the ubiquity of learning arrangements influence technology usages in families?” and “How can we understand family practices that have become mobile?” Through her examination of eight families in the greater Chicago area, she found that parents often are the ones that introduce their kids to the technology and that common family practices can be updated with new technologies. For example, parenting practices, such as checking in on children’s progress in school, can be online now through emails and other forms of communication. The generational divide between parents and children may be overstated. Parents and children are often co-constructing updated family practices the leverage mobile technologies.

Researcher Betsy DiSalvo, Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology (along with Parisa Khanipour, Maia Jacobs, and Michaelanne Dye of Georgia Institute of Technology) presented their work on how parents in in economically depressed communities access learning resources. Here, Betsy presented work on how lower socio-economic status parents search of educational technologies. She found in the work that parents often want to search for education technologies for their children, but that many factors can influence how parents access technologies, such as fear of cyber-attacks and security, the difficulties of using public computers with restricted hours, and reliance on children for technical support.

Finally, Ricarose Roque, a Ph.D. student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab explored how workshops for parents with lower-technical backgrounds could be useful in supporting child-parent collaborations in computer programming and making experiences. She found that as parents and children went through these workshops, they expressed changing perceptions on how they see themselves (from technical novice to technical proficient), each other (e.g., parents can learn new technical skills), the technical tools they were using (e.g., being confident in using the tools), and the learning environment (e.g., seeing other parents and learning together). The challenge in Ricarose’s work is to determine how to sustain engagement between and beyond the workshop sessions and work with families with less flexibility and interest.

All four presentations in this session expose the complexity that is underneath families, income, children, and technology usage. Overall, my takeaway as an audience member is that each of these talks on the panel focuses on how parents and children use technology to co-learn together. These days, it’s not about children learning from technology and their parents. In contrast, it’s also not about “digital native” children teaching older clueless adults on how to use technologies. Instead, the interactions are occurring in the middle; both parents and children are co-teaching and co-learning from each other. Technology and learning becomes a negotiation of usage; what are the needs of the adults and children in learning? It’s also about learning from the community. In these talks, there is an emphasis that parents seek information from other parents on digital technology usage. It’s important to understand how parents get their information, who and what resources do they trust, and what information is being used.


Slides from the presentation are below: