April 15, 2014

Learning Together: New Council to Study Latino Families’ Digital Media Use

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aprendiendo juntosWith the population of Latinos in the U.S on the rise—and current estimates indicating that a quarter of the nation’s children ages five and younger are Latino—the digital needs of Latino families have become a key concern for many organizations, including the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Street Workshop. The groups have created the Aprendiendo Juntos (“Learning Together) Council (AJC) to identify models and practical strategies to improve digital literacy for Hispanic-Latino families. AJC plans to use the findings to influence public and private sector investments in effective programs for the community on a regional and national scale.

“Hispanic-Latino families are pioneers in adapting new technologies in their communications practices and approaches to parenting and learning,” Dr. Michael H. Levine, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, tells School Library Journal. “The new AJC initiative is intended to better understand those research-based practices and policies that will support young families to grow and prosper in a digital age.”

Adds Emily Kirkpatrick, vice president of NCFL, “We are continually working to develop, implement and improve innovative programs to support and accelerate intergenerational learning among families. [AJC] is a great step towards linking research to program development, merging new technologies with vital learning opportunities.”

The origin of AJC was spurred by the Hispanic-Latino Families & Digital Technologies Forum that convened last June in Washington, DC. Present at the event were experts representing organizations like the Pew Hispanic Center, National Council of La Raza, and the National Center for Latino Child & Family Research. AJC released last week a synthesis [PDF] of that discussion, complete with a report reviewing existing research and best practices in the field. Some of the key points examined included the vast differences among Hispanics from various countries of origin, language and education attainment, and immigration and socioeconomic status.

Mark Lopez, the associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center, points out that “ownership rates and uses of these new digital technologies vary widely within the Hispanic-Latino population, particularly by education level, generational status of immigration, and dominant language,” while Monica Lozano, impreMedia CEO, emphasizes the transformative influence effective digital media use can have on immigrant communities. She argues that, “while the access gap between social groups is diminishing, an information gap remains, making digital literacy a key concern in today’s society.” Participant interviews from the day are also available to the public on YouTube.

AJC would like to work with libraries in the future as a viable location for research and implementation of the council’s findings, although Levine says that would probably not occur before 2014. In the meantime, several field studies are already underway.

AJC will support field studies directed by Dr. Vikki Katz of Rutgers University examining the roll-out of the national Connect2Compete digital media literacy initiative in California and Arizona. It will also conduct an analysis of a national survey conducted by Ellen Wartella of Northwestern University of media usage by Latino parents and their children ages 0–10.

Levine encourages librarians interested in participating in or serving as a site for future research to contact Lori Takeuchi directly. Librarians should specify how such research would serve their local community as well as libraries and Hispanic families more broadly.

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