Matt and Briana live in Arizona. He is 12. She is 11. Both of them have an essential role in the design of future learning tools because ... well, they're children.
"It's been a long time since we were kids," says (adult) researcher Lisa Maurer who helps run Kids CoLab with Pearson. The project pairs kids like Matt and Briana with adults for collaborative sessions on upcoming projects and products. "Everyone has a role," Lisa says. "They only thing the kids need to do is be kids."
Kids CoLab meets each week for about 90 minutes. After snack and circle time, adults and children split up together in to groups to test out a design task or research technique. Everybody addresses each other by first name. Each session ends with presentations about ideas and discoveries.
"It's helped me change how I look at school," says Briana in the video below. "Like in projects, I'll be open to more things and more ideas."
"She wasn't always a tinkerer," says Briana's mom, Joyce. "She manipulates things more. She's a problem solver."
"We're empowering children to take part in the design and ideation process to make learning better," says Lisa Maurer. "We know the role that engagement plays in learning. If kids can be involved in the process early on, they can make changes to the whole system in positive ways."
Coming soon: more about the specific projects and contributions of the Kids CoLab team.
In the 1980s, Anne Henderson and Nancy Berla set out to compile the findings of 35 academic studies that considered whether parent involvement in learning helps students improve. Their groundbreaking work laid out what is now more or less a fact: getting parents involved leads to significant, measurable benefits for children, families, and schools.
"The form of parent involvement does not seem to be critical," Anne and Nancy write in the first edition of their work, "The Evidence Grows." "So long as it is reasonably well-planned, comprehensive and long-lasting."
It's a tall order in 2015, especially for single parents or parents working hourly jobs. A poll last year found that nearly half of parents who want to be more involved in their child's education are "too busy" to increase what they're already doing.
Virtual Parent Conferences
Learning research scientist Dr. Rob Kadel is working with his colleagues on one way that could help busy parents.
Not all parents are able to take advantage of parent-teacher conferences. It's a major time commitment to take off work, travel to school, and wait in line. The process could easily take an hour-and-a-half.
"Can we improve parent attendance if we offer a virtual option?" Rob asks. "The convenience factor could make a big difference."
Rolling Out the Idea
This fall, two school districts will be testing a virtual, video conference option for parents, using Apple's Facetime, a Google Hangout, or Microsoft's Skype. An hour-and-a-half challenge for working parents suddenly becomes a 15-minute work break.
"Parent involvement in learning is so crucial," Rob says. "We're not only helping parents who feel left by the wayside because of complicated life circumstances. We're also finding great ways to collaborate over learning by means of technology, in ways outside of the classroom."
We'll have updates in this space once Rob and his team dig through the results from their work. Until then, we leave you with these tips to make the most out of a parent-teacher conference from Pearsons' partners at the NBC Parent Toolkit.
Download a list of questions to ask during a parent-teacher conference here.
In a perfect world, each day you'd have time to engage deeply in your children's education. But, when you have a billion things on your to-do list, 24 hours doesn't seem like nearly enough time to fit in work, family, school, and extracurricular activities.
You're not alone. Nearly half of parents (47%) say they wish they had more time to engage with their children, according to a recent Pearson poll conducted with NBC. After all, parents are their children’s’ first and most important teachers. So, how can parents boost their grades in this department?
Thousands of parents, educators, grandparents (and celebrities, too) contributed ideas to the School Year Resolution program, powered by Pearson and NBC.
What resolutions topped the charts?
Here are some of the most popular resolutions from our friends at the Parent Toolkit:
1. “My school year’s resolution is to read a book to Vale every single day. Even though she’s only one, and usually she just eats the book, I know it’s good to read to her, and I want to do it every single day.” –Savannah Guthrie, host of the Today Show
2. “To get my family together for at least a half hour each day so we can all read together.” –Al Roker, host and weatherman of the Today Show
3. "My school year’s resolution is to help my kids embrace their curiosity.” –Matt Lauer, host of the Today Show
4. “This school year, I resolve to play more with my two kids” –Erica Hill, co-anchor of the weekend Today Show
5. “My school year’s resolution is to root on my nieces and nephew and help them face their fears. I want them to think big, be bold, and want them to know that their aunt is there to root them on no matter what.” –Tamron Hall, NBC News national correspondent
6. ”I’ll continue to encourage and foster my kids’ love of storytelling and writing” –Willie Geist, co-anchor of Today’s Take
7. I will be more patient helping my kids with their homework, even if it’s sixth grade math!” –Natalie Morales, Today Show news anchor
8. To help foster my daughter Mila’s lifelong love of learning as she starts preschool” –Jenna Bush Hager, Today Show special correspondent
9. “My resolution is for Harper to not only learn the alphabet, but to get a good physical education as well” –Jenna Wolfe, NBC News national correspondent
10. “When parents get involved in their kids' education, kids performance in school improves. That's why Barack and I try to talk to our girls as much as we can about what they're learning, so we can support them through any challenges they might face."–First Lady Michelle Obama