An In-home Evaluation of a Joint Media Engagement Ocean Science App for Families with Young Children
This paper reports on a new media-based tool designed to develop new knowledge about joint parent-child participation in science talk and practices using a second screen app synced with a television program, called Splash! Ask-Me: Ocean Adventures (Splash!). With funding from the National Science Foundation, Splash! is an app designed to work in conjunction with a marine science-focused television program, Splash and Bubbles, for children 2-8 years old that premiered nationally on PBS Kids in fall of 2016.
The free app includes a variety of "conversation catalysts" tied to the television episodes to help parents support children's ocean science learning at home and in other venues such as aquariums and science centers. The project aims to support children's conceptual understanding of science concepts and practices, empower parents and caregivers to facilitate learning during media engagement, and contribute to the research literature on joint engagement with media.
Over the last several years, content developers from the Jim Henson Company and researchers from SRI International and Digital Promise used a co-design process, during which the project team went through multiple cycles of implementation and revision, to create the family app and its related hands-on activities. In 2020, Concord Evaluation Group (CEG) conducted an independent “out-of-the-box” evaluation of the Splash! app. The evaluation included a self-directed, in-home study in which families were provided with very little direction or instruction on how to use the app as a way of gathering data on what a “typical” out-of-the-box experience may be like for families using Splash! for the first time.
CEG conducted a mixed-methods, out-of-the-box evaluation of the Splash! app in the spring of 2020. The evaluation was designed to assess the extent to which the experience of using the Splash! app:
- Was user-friendly and manageable for parents without support (usability),
- Led parents to have more positive attitudes about their children’s technology and media use at home,
- Led parents to have more positive attitudes about science and about doing science exploration at home,
- Was viewed positively by children and parents, and
- Was feasible to use (and evaluate) during a highly unusual time such as the pandemic emergency we are experiencing as of the writing of this report.
The study was designed to collect data from a sample of 32 families with children aged four to five years who used the Splash! app over a period of two to four weeks.
 A “second screen app” refers to a system whereby a family can watch a video or TV episode on one screen and simultaneously connect to a second device with the two screens providing related or interactive content.