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Promoting early learning through the support and empowerment of families—especially those who are under-resourced—has become an imperative for education leaders nationwide. In 2014, New America’s Learning Technologies project in the Education Policy program published Envisioning a Digital Age Architecture for Early Education to help leaders visualize success in this media-infused environment. Since then, New America and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop have joined forces to document initiatives that use technology to connect with vulnerable families and improve educational outcomes.

Program leaders are using interactive tools such as on-demand video and text messaging to inspire and reassure parents, to share learning materials between formal and informal settings, and to bring parents closer to their children’s learning. Some communities are also taking steps to prepare educators as media mentors to help families and children be choosy about media and learn how to use technology for learning. 

But so far, these efforts are sporadic and fragile. Very few are fully sustainable, proven, or ready to scale up. Leaders need a plan, using relevant resources. New America and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center have developed this interactive toolkit, which is a compilation of resources from early learning and family engagement organizations, that is designed to help inform community leaders’ thinking as they develop and improve new and existing programs.

In 2017, New America and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center published How to Bring Early Learning and Family Engagement to the Digital Age: An Action Agenda for City and Community Leaders, which detailed four steps to build more advanced systems for family engagement and early learning. More information on these steps can be found in this interactive toolkit.

In addition to the interactive toolkit for community leaders, New America and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop have developed a project called Integrating Technology in Early Literacy (InTEL), which collected information through two surveys. The aim is to create data visualization tools that highlight early learning and family engagement programs in the United States that have integrated technology to meet the needs of young children and families. Survey results from 2016 resulted in a published report and accompanying data visualization tools, including interactive maps. We conducted a second survey two years later, and the results and analysis are published here.

The InTEL project began as a way to think about how programs around the U.S. were tackling the question of how young children learn language and literacy skills through family engagement programs in the Digital Age. In the second iteration, the scope of the project expanded to include other content areas, such as early science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), recognizing the research that shows that developing early math skills can advance the development of language and literacy. The data visualization tools found in InTEL 2016 and InTEL 2018 show where innovative programs are located, how those programs are designed, and what evidence of impact the programs were able to share with our research team.

In the 2018 InTEL map, we profile 40 programs. Seventy percent of the programs did not provide any evidence of impact through our survey. Seventy percent of programs identified themselves as family engagement programs. All of the programs were funded through a combination of sources, such as federal dollars, state dollars, and philanthropy. Finally, in this dataset, the most popular software used were websites, apps, and online videos.