The participation and actual engagement of parents in their children’s education is one of the most important predictors of children’s academic success. However, for many parents from non-dominant groups in the United States (e.g., ethnic minorities), engaging in ways that allow their children to achieve such success is still a challenge. Barriers like language and cultural differences pose challenges. Digital technologies have the potential to offer the needed support by enhancing parents’ opportunities to access relevant information.
In order for digital technology to provide access to relevant information, we must consider the design of these technologies. At this juncture, the design of such technologies has yet to enable parents to actively participate with regards to what they find meaningful and valuables. To tackle this design challenge, we focused on the case of Spanish-speaking low-income Latino parents. Our goal was to tackle access to information and to diversify parents' exposure to learning resources in culturally relevant terms.
We interviewed 18 parents (22-35 years-old), 2 teachers, and 6 parent-school liaisons and 4 members of NGOs in Spanish. We conducted participant observations at one school, and at a church where we volunteered to help parents improve their digital literacies. Throughout our data collection we focused on exploring (1) information transfer between parents and other stakeholders, (2) assets that could be leveraged to design parent-school technologies, and (3) the different constraints these parents experienced to bridge social capital. We utilized affinity diagramming and thematic analysis to uncover patterns in the data. We developed user personas and two working prototypes as well (sample images below).
Our findings highlight three key aspects to acknowledge—and harness as assets—when designing for this group. First, parents’ eagerness to use apps they are familiar with—and avoid those which benefits are not clear to them—indicates that any design needs to work over such familiar apps, especially the ones that elicit a sense of privacy like WhatsApp. Second, parents’ willingness to work towards their children’s happiness suggests also willingness to act on information that could benefit children’s future. Third, the potential of organizations and schools to share information about learning opportunities, together with the issues that parents face to access relevant information, signals a need to work on issues of meaning, scale, and form to ensure parents can make use of available resources.
Consequently, we developed Consejero Automatico - a chatbot that provides access to educational resources via the familiar app, WhatsApp. Resources are provided in a group chat, which are common and familiar for Latino parents. We first build a low-fidelity prototype which was shown to participants. Afterwards, we developed a Wizard of Oz experiment utilizing WhatsApp to test feasibility (sample images below).
In this project I developed interview questions and conducted semi-structured interviews in Spanish. I also participated in the observations as well as thematic analysis/affinity diagramming exercises. I designed the user persona. I developed the low and medium fidelity prototypes. I also helped to create the Wizard of OZ experimental protocol.