Project Profile

Fostering Joint Parent/Child Engagement in Preschool Computational Thinking by Leveraging Digital Media, Mobile Technology, and Library Settings in Urban and Rural Communities


This project will teach foundational computational thinking (CT) concepts to preschoolers by  creating a series of mobile apps to guide families through sequenced sets of videos and  hands-on activities.  To support families at home it would also develop a new library model to build librarians? computational thinking  content knowledge and self-efficacy so they can support parents? efforts with their children. Computational thinking is a an increasingly critical skill for learning and success in the  workforce.  It includes the ability to  identify problems, brainstorm and generate solutions and processes that can be communicated and followed by computers or humans.  There are few projects that introduce computational thinking to young children. Very little research has been done on the ways that parents can facilitate children?s engagement in CT skills.  And developing a model that trains and supports librarians to become virtual coaches of parents as they engage with their children in CT, will leverage and build the expertise of librarians. The project?s target audience includes parents and children living in rural areas where access to CT learning may be very limited. Project partners include the EDC, a major research organization, the American Library Association, and BUILD, a national association that promotes collaborations across library, kindergarten readiness, and public media programming. The formative research study asks:  1) What supports do parents of preschoolers in rural communities need in order to effectively engage in CT with their children at home? and 2)  How can libraries in rural communities support joint CT exploration in family homes? The summative research study asks: 3) how can an intervention that combines media resources, mobile technology, and library supports foster sustained joint parent/child engagement and positive attitudes around CT?  Researchers will develop a parent survey, adapting several scales from previously developed instruments that ask parents to report on children?s use of CT-related vocabulary and CT-related attitudes and dispositions.   Survey scales will assess librarians? attitudes towards CT, as well as their self-efficacy in supporting parents in CT in a virtual environment.  During the formative study, EDC will pilot-test survey scales with 30 parents and 6 librarians in rural MS and KY.   Analyses will be primarily qualitative and will be geared toward producing rapid feedback for the development team.  Quantitative analyses will be used on parent app use, using both time query and back-end data, exploring factors associated with time spent using apps. The summative study will evaluate how the new media resources and mobile technology, in combination with the library virtual implementation model, support families? joint engagement with CT, and positive attitudes around CT. The researchers will recruit 125 low-income families with 4- to 5-year-old children in rural MS and KY to participate in the study.  They will randomly assign families within each library to the ?full? intervention condition, including media resources, mobile technology, and library support delivered through the virtual implementation model, or the ?media and mobile-technology-only? condition. This design will allow researchers to understand more fully the additional benefit of library support for rural families? sustained engagement, and conversely, see the comparative impact of a media- and mobile-technology only intervention, given that some families might not be able to access virtual or physical library support. As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program 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. This project is co-funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


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Principal Investigator(s)
Co-Principal Investigator(s)
Primary Contact


Award Number
Project Duration
2020 - 2023
Developing and Testing Innovations (DTI)
WGBH Educational Foundation, Brighton, MA
Project Work State
Target Gradespan(s)
Early Childhood (PK)
Project Setting(s)
Informal Education
Geographic Location(s)
Project Status
Target Participants
Youth / students
Parents / caregivers / families