PlayfulWords Project and Community Manager, Laboratory for Social Machines

by Kelley Shepard

Oct. 9, 2018


Job Description

The Playful Words Project designs, creates, and sustains intentionally small-scale computer-supported community networks for children’s early literacy learning. These networks engage three stakeholders—child, parent, and family learning coach—in the child’s learning experience.

Developed as part of a research project in the Laboratory for Social Machines at the MIT Media Lab, these networks aim to support family involvement in children’s literacy learning activities and empower children as authors. We address this goal through specialized coaches who help families  understand and contextualize their children's learning process on custom-built, open-ended apps. Our plan is to build these networks within the Greater Boston community.

As the Project and Community Manager you will take part in creating this new research program from the ground up, and implementing it within the Boston community. You will help keep this project on track to meet goals for improving children’s literacy, building innovative learning tools, and expanding the scope of organizational impact. You will work closely with PhD students, research scientists, and Professor Deb Roy to establish and run a pilot program of these networks across Boston.

This appointment is for one year with the possibility of extension based on funding availability and PI priorities.


You will equally spend your time between two main roles: (1) Community Management and (2) Program Management.

Your main duties as a community manager will include:

  • Research, initiate, and manage relationships with existing and new community partner organizations, families, and volunteer coaches in the program
    • Conduct regular meetings with existing community partners (e.g., 826 Boston, Boston Public Library), act as liaison to communicate ideas, opinions, and decisions between internal program team and community partners.
    • Seek out new partnerships within the local Boston community and conduct informational meetings about the research program to build interest.
    • Create and maintain publicly accessible information about the program (e.g., flyers, videos presented on the website, information presented on the website)
  • Recruit volunteer coaches through existing university and community partnerships
    • Help research team create and assemble Coach Handbooks
    • Schedule coach training including location of training
  • Recruit families for pilot program in collaboration with existing partner organizations

The role of a program manager involves working closely with PhD researchers to help design content, implement, and manage logistics related to the function of the program. Your main duties as a program manager will include:

  • Work with researchers to help organize and implement trainings and workshops for coaches
  • Organize workshops and events for community partners and families. Includes but not limited to:
    • Work with PhD students to help plan workshop activities, create materials based on previously designed content, and facilitate workshops for families and coaches
    • Manage workshop logistics with previously committed community partners (e.g., communicate with partners, scheduling and location, manage equipment, order food and supplies, setup and clean up)
  • Oversee program schedules and track progress
    • Manage timelines and team due dates
    • Schedule and manage internal team meetings
    • Arrange meetings with partners
  • Work closely with senior administrator to stay within project budget
  • Supervise Internal Review Board (IRB) processes for the program. Work with MIT Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects (COUHES) to make sure:
    • program consent forms and IRB applications are up-to-date and accurate,
    • all materials presented to community partners, coaches, and families are approved, and
    • applications completed for any modifications to the existing approved protocols.
  • Perform other duties as requested


Seeking a motivated self-starter and team player—we are a particularly congenial, tight-knit group, and this job is for someone who is happiest and at their best in this type of environment. Superior interpersonal skills for interacting with a diverse group of researchers, students, community partners, and other affiliates. Ability to be flexible and multitask and comfortable working in a demanding, fast-paced environment with frequent interruptions.


●      At least 3 years of experience as a Project Manager or similar role

●      A Bachelor’s degree required, MA in literacy or child development-related field preferred

●      Past work experience with children and families

●      Experience working with community partners

●      Ability to work with a diverse group of researchers, software developers, staff, community partners, children, families, and others

●      Flexible team player who is comfortable working in a demanding, fast-paced environment

●      Desire to help build a program from the ground-up, and take part in new, ground-breaking research!


●      Fluency in Spanish

●      Experience with workshop design and implementation

●      An interest in working with researchers to translate research out of the lab and into the field

●      Passion for family engagement, children’s playful learning (especially literacy), and storytelling

●      Experience with program evaluation a plus

To apply, go to and search Job ID # 16633.

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