Combining Media and Messaging to Engage Underserved Families in STEM Learning: A Study
WNET, working with Education Development Center, will lead a small scale Innovations in Development effort to develop, research, and evaluate a new model to engage underserved families in STEM learning. The new endeavor, Cyberchase: Mobile Adventures in STEM, will build on the proven impact of the public media mathematics series Cyberchase and the growing potential of mobile technology and texting to reach underserved parents. WNET will produce two new Cyberchase episodes for 6-9 year olds, focused on using math to learn about the environment. Drawing on these videos and an existing Cyberchase game, the team will produce a bilingual family engagement campaign that will combine an in-person workshop followed by a 6-8 week "text to parent" campaign, in which parents receive weekly text messages suggesting family STEM activities related to the media content. The engagement model will be piloted in three cities with large low-income/Latino populations, along with one texting campaign offered without the workshop. This project will build knowledge about how to deploy well-designed public media assets and text messaging to promote fun, effective STEM learning interactions in low-income families. While past research on educational STEM media has tended to focus on children, especially preschool age, this project will focus primarily on text messaging for parents, and on learners age 6-9, and the wider scope of parent/child STEM interactions possible at that age.
The primary goal of the project will be to develop, test and refine a family engagement model that includes a face-to-face workshop, rich narrative Cyberchase content, and text-message prompts for parents to engage in short, playful STEM activities with children. The project team will explore which features of the mobile text-and-media program have most value for low-income and Latino families and prompt STEM learning interactions, including a comparison of workshop-based and text-only variants. The project will have three phases: needs assessment and preliminary design; an early-stage test in New York and development and testing of media; and three late-stage tests in contrasting locations, two including workshops and one "text-only," and analysis of findings. Ultimately, the project will share knowledge with the field about the opportunities and challenges of using mobile texting and public media to reach underserved families effectively. This knowledge will also inform a future proposal for production and outcomes research, which, based on the study results, may include a scaled-up version in ten locations and a ten-city Randomized Control Test. This project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants.