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A Media Mentor for Every Child: How Early Childhood Educators can Empower Parents to Become Media Mentors

Train Early Childhood Educators as media mentors so that they, in turn, can empower parents to make healthy media choices for their children

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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

Our idea has become much more focused throughout the process of creating this proposal and working with our mentor. As we talked to others about our idea, we realized how important it was to understand and consider the different starting points of families when it comes to their knowledge, skills, attitudes, perceived competence, access to, and use of digital media. Through conversations with our mentor we discovered areas where we could leverage our network of parents and teachers to get quick and useful feedback on our idea through concept testing. Together, this has given us a clearer vision of where to start and the impact that our idea could have over time.

Name or Organization

Jennie Ito and Kiri Fluetsch

Geography

Bay Area, CA

What is your stage of development?

  • New Innovator, with less than one year of experience in ECD

Type

  • Team

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

Young children and their families need resources and support to help navigate today's "Digital Wild West". We know from our work that parents view members of the community who have a personal connection to their child as experts, and often look to them for media recommendations and guidance. As someone who connects directly with families daily, Early Childhood Educators are uniquely positioned to educate parents on how to make healthy media choices for their children.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Network: Connecting people with each other to enhance the reach or effectiveness of new or existing resources.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

Our North Star Goal is to ensure that every child has a media mentor. Inspired by the words of Fred Rogers, “Strengthen a parent and you strengthen a child", we will train Early Childhood Educators as media mentors so they can reach parents where they’re at, and empower them to become media mentors to their own children, as well as to others in the community. Why train Early Childhood Educators instead of trying to reach parents directly? In low-income communities, parents don't always have the time to seek parent education opportunities. They do, however, make time to attend parent-teacher conferences and seek the advice of educators that know and understand their child. Reaching parents through someone they have already developed a trusted relationship with will help make the idea of a “media mentor” feel less like a judgement of their parenting, and more about what is best for their child. By focusing on children under the age of 3, we are able to reach parents as they begin to navigate the “Digital Wild West” for the first time, and empower them to make healthy media choices for their children both in the present, and the future. To do this effectively, we first need to understand parents’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, perceived competence, access to, and use of digital media. We also need to find effective ways for teachers to share information with parents. This will allow us to appropriately train educators and ensure they have the resources they need.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

The main problem we are trying to solve is to ensure that every family with young children has access to a media mentor. Not only will this help young children and their families navigate today's "Digital Wild West", it will help shift the conversation from the negative connotation of "screen time", to educating parents on the importance of context and choosing quality media.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

To help ensure that every family with young children has access to a media mentor, we plan to: 1) Conduct research to better understand parents’ needs and solicit feedback on the best ways to disseminate information to parents: Starting small, we will leverage our connections in a low-income, predominantly Latino community of Redwood City, CA to solicit feedback from parents. First, we will create a survey to understand parents’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, perceived competence, access to, and use of digital media. We also plan to research the ways in which low-income families gain parenting support and resources. This will help us understand the most effective ways for teachers to disseminate this information to parents and the wider community. Armed with this knowledge, we will work on creating prototypes of concise, easy-to-digest resources for parents such as “nudges” (brief suggestions or reminders of a behavior), checklists, and comic strips (similar to those in the Joan Ganz Cooney Centers’ Family Time with Apps Guide). After receiving feedback on the best way to disseminate this information to parents, we will then evaluate its effectiveness of promoting behavioral change and increasing parental engagement over time. Together, this research will yield quick and useful feedback that will be used to inform both the development of our professional development seminars for Early Childhood Educators, as well as the resources we create for parents. 2) Create professional development seminars to train Early Childhood Educators to be Media Mentors: We will create and test our professional development training with our network of Early Childhood Educators -- which we define broadly as educators from schools, home daycares, churches, community centers and libraries -- in Redwood City, CA. This training will focus on defining what a media mentor is, choosing appropriate content, understanding content ratings, encouraging joint engagement, teaching digital citizenship, understanding the Apple app store and Google Play, and being a media role model. 3) Provide educators with the tools they need to empower parents to become media mentors to their own children: We would love to partner with organizations such as the Joan Ganz Cooney Center or the Fred Rogers Center to create concise, easy-to-digest resources for teachers to share with parents (for e.g., a partnership similar to the one between Apple and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center when creating the Family Time with Apps Guide). 4) Help parents form networks to learn from one another: As illustrated in the image above, our “back of the napkin” idea is to further our impact by helping parents form networks of knowledge, so they can learn from one another. Doing so will allow us to have the most reach and create communities of support for low-income families.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Low-income communities, children, parents and educators: Our idea will give low-income parents and children access to media mentors and provide Early Childhood Educators with professional development opportunities. By empowering Early Childhood Educators to mentor parents around media, we highlight the power Early Childhood Educators have to influence and produce meaningful change within families. As a developmental psychologist (Jennie) and teacher (Kiri), we interact with parents, children, and teachers from diverse backgrounds every day. Not only does this give us extensive experience interacting with our beneficiaries, it provides us with a large network to test our professional development training with and gauge the effectiveness of the information passed from teacher to parents.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

As a trusted source that interacts with families on a daily basis, Early Childhood Educators are uniquely positioned to educate parents on how to make healthy media choices for their children. By leveraging this special relationship, and finding ways to empower parents themselves, we believe our idea has the potential to make a big impact as it allows us to reach a large number of children, at the earliest stages of development, and help shift the mindset of parents from focusing only on "screen time" to making healthy and smart media choices.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

The most recent Common Sense Media report (http://www.commonsense.org/zero-to-eight-census) found that children from lower-income homes spend an average of 1:39 more time with screen media each day than those from higher-income homes (3:29 vs. 1:50). It's important that we reach these families and educate parents on how to make healthy media choices for their children. Training Early Childhood Educators from schools, home daycares, churches, community centers and libraries to be media mentors allows us to reach lower-income children and their families, understand their needs, and make an impact at an early stage of development.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

Media mentorship is a relatively new concept. As a trusted source, who connects directly with families daily, Early Childhood Educators are uniquely positioned to educate parents on how to make healthy media choices for their children. By reaching parents early, and arming them with the tools they need, we empower families to harness the power of media and technology, rather than fear it.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

By leveraging the trusted relationship between Early Childhood Educators and parents, and finding ways to empower parents themselves, we believe our idea has the potential to reach a significant number of end-users (as illustrated in our "back of the napkin" illustration above).

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

Given our combined backgrounds, we believe we have the knowledge and experience to build this professional development platform. We also have a large network of parents and teachers to test our idea and provide feedback, allowing us to iterate quickly until we get a valid concept. With technical assistance, possibly through the local non-profit TechSoup, we will be able to create accessible literature and tips for teachers to reference and distribute to families.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

Early Childhood Educators are required to continue professional development in order to maintain their credentials. Our goal is to create professional development training that Early Childhood Educators could complete for credit and are offered at national conferences, workshops and through county offices of education.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

As outlined above, our first step in ensuring every family with young children has access to a media mentor is to solicit feedback on the best ways to disseminate information to parents. This will involve creating surveys to understand 1) parents’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, perceived competence, access to, and use of digital media and 2) the ways in which low-income families currently gain parenting support and resources. Based on these findings, we will create prototypes of concise, easy-to-digest resources for parents and solicit user feedback. After receiving feedback on the best way to disseminate this information to parents, we will then evaluate its effectiveness of promoting behavioral change and increasing parental engagement over time. Together, this research will be used to inform both the development of our professional development seminars for Early Childhood Educators, as well as the resources we create for parents.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

There is no doubt that technology plays a huge role in children's and parents' lives. In fact, children are spending more time with screen media -- and at younger ages -- than ever before. As a developmental psychologist/mother of two that works at Google (Jennie) and teacher with 10+ years of experience teaching in Silicon Valley, and now an Executive Director of a Preschool (Kiri), we have seen the impact -- both good and bad-- that technology can have on young children. We also hear from parents, who are concerned with the amount of screen time their child is getting. After all, today’s parents did not grow up digital natives, making it challenging for them to find the right balance and set boundaries with technology (not only for their children, but for themselves). Determined to shift the conversation away from the negative connotation of "screen time", and instead, help parents focus on making healthy media choices, we teamed up to find a way to help parents navigate the digital world and make healthy media choices. Driven by our passion to "put children first", we are thrilled to have the opportunity to share our passion project with this community of people who care about children and their families as much as we do.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

While we feel that we are well equipped to build this professional development platform, it would be helpful to partner with someone experienced in creating successful professional development training for teachers. Specifically, we are looking for someone to advise on the best way to present the material, update materials over time, and maintain a system of support post professional development training. It would also be helpful to work with a partner fluent in Spanish to help us translate our resources.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

We would love to collaborate with leaders in the field of early childhood education and technology and plan to reach out to the following experts and organizations to build upon their work with librarians as media mentors: Lisa Guernsey from New America; Chip Donohue from the TEC (Technology in Early Childhood) Center at Erikson Institute; Cen Campbell, founder of LittleeLit.com; the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, and The Fred Rogers Center.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

We are looking for a mentor to help us craft a compelling story and understand how design thinking can help us test and refine our concept.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

Jennie Ito, Ph.D. is a UX Researcher for the Kids & Family team at Google, and the former Designed for Families Policy Lead for Google Play. Prior to joining Google, she created meaningful play experiences for children as a play consultant. Kiri Fluetsch is the Executive Director of the Redwood City Child Development Program. Before that, she worked for Gymboree as a Program Development and Training Specialist, and was the Lead Early Childhood Educator at Children's House of Los Altos Preschool.

Mentorship: How was your idea supported? (5000 characters)

Our mentor helped us to ideate and define the scope of our project. By encouraging us to "think big, but start small", she helped us see how our idea could grow from a pilot program to professional development training that educators could complete for credit. She also encouraged us to "move fast", by leveraging our networks to solicit feedback, then iterate from there. Lastly, she talked to us about the importance of storytelling and helped us think through ways to illustrate the impact our concept could have on the community.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Network: Connecting people with each other to enhance the reach or effectiveness of new or existing resources.

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