Helping Families Take the Lead in Their Own Family's Literacy - Media Literacy That Is!

December 2015

“We are all surrounded by media every day, and we’ve learned to select the best apps to help us deposit our paychecks, navigate around a new city, shop, or just keep in touch with friends and relatives both near and far. However, when it comes to our children, many young parents confess that they don’t know what’s good and what’s potentially harmful when it comes to tablet apps,” said Susan Leger Ferraro, Founder of Imajine That, an award-winning family play space in Lawrence, Mass. “Through our partnership with WGBH, we knew we had a unique opportunity to help build parents’ knowledge and confidence in selecting and playing apps with their children to help them learn and grow.”

Imajine That and WGBH started off by observing parents with their young children in the Imajine That family place space. While most parents hugged their children tight as they read aloud together, when it came to tablet apps, parents took a more stand-off approach. Something was preventing parents from joining in the fun and the learning. Was it that they didn’t think that tablet apps could be shared? Were parents suffering from a bit of math anxiety themselves (the selected apps promoted math content)? Turned out it was a bit of both.

“As educators, we needed to learn for ourselves that tablet apps are for sharing and that math, just like science, is fun to explore,” said Jess Brenes, VP of Operations at Imajine That. “Only then could we be good digital role models for our parents.” So, the Imajinators (as Imajine That staff are called) set out to model joint media engagement and talk to parents about math exploration as opposed to math calculations. Over time, Imajinators saw a real transformation in the confidence level of their parents, and how engaged they were with their children and technology. Gone are days when parents stood on the sidelines while their children played with tablet apps. Now, parents were focused on learning—both for themselves and for their children. Parents reported that the combination of the math apps and the hands-on activities all around Imajine That made math seem more accessible and less intimidating for them to explore with their children.