D. Laranjeiro, M.J. Antunes, P. Santos

University of Aveiro (PORTUGAL)
The importance of parental involvement (PI) in children's learning has been studied for many years, being associated with better results, study habits, self-control and discipline, positive attitudes towards school, aspirations to pursue higher education. Plus, in preschool, studies suggest that PI impacts children’s general and cognitive development and preparation for school.

Given the increasing access to the Internet, this project aims to develop a multimedia platform that promote communication and content sharing among parents, educators and children, with the intention of enhancing PI and study its impact on children's learning.

It’s a design based research, divided into three phases: preliminary studies, technological development and evaluation. Four kindergarten classrooms, educators and parents were involved in all phases.

This presentation concerns the preliminary studies. At this stage, a survey was carried out, with a questionnaire to parents (S = 59) and interviews to educators (S = 4) to include both perspectives and needs in a platform that should improve communication between them and promote PI in learning.

At the same time, a literature review was done to find out research about PI with technological tools, to predict good practices and learn from projects already implemented.

Also, we searched for existing platforms and identified their main features. This helped us to acknowledge market trends.
Results of parent’s questionnaires show that parents value some features: news and events calendar, photo and videos gallery of children’s projects and private messaging with the educator. The greater advantage of the platform is to access updated information on the work carried out in kindergarten. A general concern is the protection of personal information, in particular, sharing photos where children are identified.

Results of interviews with educators indicate that the platform must gather official information of kindergarten and direct contacts of parents. Also, it should integrate specific services, such as child/group history, dissemination of activities, sugestions to do with children and links to educational resources. The biggest advantages are celerity and automation of communication; promotion of parent’s feedback; separation of professional contact from personal social networks. The constraints are lack of time for maintenance and parent’s fear on privacy issues.

From the research about existing platforms for PI, we summarize the most common features: private groups, individual and group messaging; image gallery; events calendar. Some platforms have e-learning components. Platforms best suited to preschool focus on disseminating information about what happened or what is planned, but lack the provision of strategies or suggestions that parents can explore at home, contributing more actively to their child's learning.

Literature review presents some research projects in which PI in kindergarten was promoted through technological tools. Some results to be considered are: active participation and higher feed-back from parents; awareness about the work developed in kindergarten; improvement of relationships between parents and educators; parents' ability to extend home-based learning using the information shared; reading comments to children contributed to collaborative and constructive learning.

Results from preliminary studies were cross-checked to decide the features to be developed in the first platform prototype.