Juliana Nazaré Dissertation Defense

October 1, 2020
9:00am — 11:00am ET

Dissertation title:  Technology-Assisted Coaching: A System for Children’s Literacy Learning

Children learn best when knowledgeable adults support their learning process. Yet many learning technologies have not yet incorporated this vital social dimension. In response, we develop a technology-assisted coaching system, where a new adult collaborator -- a coach -- uses digital tools to support children and their families as they use children’s literacy apps. This coaching system blends in-person and digital coaching in order to preserve the relational elements vital to coaching, while harnessing the power of digital technology to make information easily accessible to coaches, children, and families at their convenience.

In our system, as children play with literacy apps, every tap and click of their play is streamed to their coach through our digital coaching platform. Using custom-built digital tools, coaches engage in four core coaching practices. They analyze children’s in-app activity, scaffold their learning, share progress with caregivers, and invite caregivers to engage in literacy learning experiences with their children. 

To develop this system, we iteratively design, build, and evaluate it with approximately a hundred children and their families. We conduct in-depth study of two versions of the system’s design through a randomized control trial (RCT) and a formative pilot study. From the RCT, we find that the coaching system increased caregivers’ awareness of their children’s in-app play and children’s playtime with the literacy app. We also find that for families with lower formal education levels, the effect of the coaching system was greater across almost all outcome variables investigated. In both studies, we find coaches were able to use our digital coaching tools to effectively engage in the four core coaching practices, and that these tools helped increase coaches’ efficiency. Based on our findings, we discuss changes to the system’s design to improve and scale this approach and provide design considerations for building digital coaching systems.

Through the creation and in-depth study of a novel sociotechnical system for coaching children’s literacy learning, this work contributes to the field of learning technology. We hope this work serves as a helpful guide to designers, developers, and policymakers as they create and scale-up these types of digital networks for children’s learning.

Committee members:
Deb Roy (Advisor), Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, MIT Media Lab
Mitchel Resnick, LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research, MIT Media Lab
Michael H. Levine, Senior Vice President for Learning and Impact, Noggin / Nickelodeon

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