Sarah E. Vaala, PhD
Publication Date
June 6, 2013

"Particularly prominent were discussions of equity, the great educational potential of digital media for Hispanic-Latino families, the varied contexts of families' digital media use, the need for innovation in research design, and the obstacles to studying and serving the needs of Hispanic-Latino families."

This report provides an overview of a meeting in June 2012 that brought together scholars, practitioners, and policymakers in Washington, DC, United States (US) in an effort to better understand and facilitate the use of digital technologies to promote learning among Hispanic-Latino families in that country. It contextualises the conversations that took place about the need to redefine literacy to include digital media and the possibilities that emerge when scholars incorporate innovative methodologies into their research.

As detailed here, in preparation for the forum, a literature scan (Hispanic-Latino Families and Digital Technologies: Background Paper, Appendix A) and vision papers from 4 scholars (Appendix B) were produced and distributed to participants. These documents highlight existing knowledge regarding the current role and potential of digital technologies in the lives of Hispanic-Latino families and describe emerging research and perspectives aimed at furthering that knowledge.

Many forum participants stressed the need to train youth (as well as parents) to use digital technology effectively - focusing on the content and context of media use, as well as the nature of engagement with that media. Further, they felt that this training should be incorporated into formal education, given the ever-increasing centrality of digital literacy in our society. Craig Watkins of the University of Texas, Austin (a video of whom may be viewed below) reiterated these points while describing his research with disadvantaged youth. Children on the "digital edge" who live in economically poor homes often figure out how to get access to digital technology, particularly social media platforms. Where children's digital equity diverges, he contended, is with the nature of engagement. Though youth on the digital edge overwhelmingly have access to digital media, they often have less effective, lower quality engagement with those media. Watkins stressed that we need to give children the repertoire of digital technology skills needed to use media to solve problems, think critically, and contribute creatively.

"Forum speakers and attendees were in agreement that digital technology has profound educational potential for Hispanic-Latino families, though current practices often fall short of that potential. They discussed in particular the myriad benefits of and barriers to incorporating media education more thoroughly into children's formal education. Particularly lauded were the opportunities media technologies present for more personalized learning, especially for students who are Spanish-dominant or bilingual....Expanding on a key theme in the forum's Background Paper (see Appendix A), Diane August, a leading researcher at American Institutes for Research (AIR) described how bilingualism can be promoted through educational media. Given the ability to convey redundant information through different streams - written, aural, and pictorial - media can provide Spanish and English words, definitions, and nuanced explanations in ways that enable students to develop both languages. This is a particular asset, argued August, given the wealth of research indicating numerous cognitive, social, and academic benefits of bilingualism. These positive outcomes help to boost students' self-confidence and positive ethnic self-image, which further boost academic achievement in turn. What is more, many new media programs are able to account for users' background and existing knowledge, allowing more fine-tuned interactions and learning opportunities. The mobility and multiple access points that digital media technologies provide also allow them to extend learning environments from school to home and back to school again."

Videos and resources about the forum are available here.

See video