A Casebook & Design Guide
Amber Levinson
Sinem Siyahhan
Briana Pressey
Katie Headrick Taylor
Publication Date
Publication Date: 
October 29, 2015

"A one-size-fits-all model of product development is all too often the norm in the children's media industry. The implications for equity here are of course, enormous." - Lori Takeuchi

This research-based guide is created for education researchers, practitioners, and producers of children's media who create programmes for children and families. It seeks to help answer these questions: How can we learn from the research in order to make better resources for children and families? How can education research be made more relevant to design and practice? What needs do diverse families have that designers and educators might not be aware of? Diverse Families and Media offers stories of family media use that were documented in studies carried out as part of the Families and Media (FAM) project, in which researchers from various universities around the United States (US) and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop have been studying low-income and language-minority communities in California, New York, Arizona, Colorado, and Illinois (US). The resource raises design-relevant questions as well as suggests design principles that can be applied more broadly. The goal of the guide is to help producers and designers gain insight from FAM's research with families children ages 2 to 12, particularly those from underserved groups, and help refine existing programmes or give rise to new concepts.

The guide begins with a foreword, in which the reader learns a bit more about FAM: "What have we been finding so far? Survey figures tell us - and in-home observations confirm - that parents and children aren't huddling around mobile phones all that often, or even tablet devices, for that matter. Rather, TV is still at the center of most intergenerational engagement with media. But parents also recognize the value of the Internet as an infinite learning resource and social connector, and even those from the lowest income brackets are making it a priority to be online - for the sake of their children’s edification as well as their own. We've also found that despite healthy rates of consumption of 'educational' media by Hispanic-Latino children (i.e., a majority use educational media at least weekly), their parents are less satisfied about how much their children are learning from such content, and less informed about the availability of these resources than their White and Black counterparts. This last finding illustrates the extent to which educational media are not being designed and vetted with all families in mind." The FAM approach is based on this belief: "When we think about learning with media, or any type of learning for that matter, we need to consider all the contexts in which young people spend time - home, school, after-school programs, community centers, places of worship, relatives' or friends' homes, and many others."

In this context, the guide takes a case-based approach to highlighting the potential of intergenerational learning with and around old and new forms of media. Rather than prescribing for the reader what to extract from each case, the authors have crafted portraits of five families that are open in nature, leaving room for the reader to decide what these scenarios mean for his or her own work. The design challenges in this Casebook portion of the guide invite designers to empathise with families, imagine what might offer new and exciting opportunities for these users, and finally create new solutions based on their needs. This human-centered approach is based on the idea that understanding specific needs and practices of particular users can inspire innovative designs that often also speak to a broader audience. The challenges present details of family dynamics, practices, and values that can help designers better understand and meet families' needs and goals for learning. For those seeking a more structured experience with the cases, there are questions to ground discussions and design challenges to tackle with a reader's colleagues.

The Design portion of the guide provides guidelines based on research focusing on fostering family learning and making designs more inclusive of all families. The authors have also updated the design principles set forth in Takeuchi and Stevens' 2011 report The New Coviewing: Designing for Learning Through Joint Media Engagement to reflect what they have been discovering in the field with regards to the strengths and needs of the families they are studying.

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