Integrating Technology in Early Literacy (InTEL) 2016

A Snapshot of Community Innovation in Family Engagement

Findings and Analysis

The data below are based on survey data collected from an online survey administered from December 2014 to March 2016. The maps display information and profiles for 37 programs that we discovered through that surveying process. Our intention was to capture information on pilot initiatives, programs, and other activities pursued by educators and community leaders. New maps with updated data are coming in 2018. Take our survey here to help us update the maps.

This map shows 37 programs. Some of which have multiple sites. For a full list of programs, click the drop-down menu.

“Evidence of impact” refers to evidence that the technological intervention improves children’s outcomes, adult behaviors in interacting with children, or teacher practice. Elisabeth McClure, a research fellow at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, checked the evidence that programs provided for veracity and contacted individual programs to address discrepancies and gather more information for our analysis. The programs were sorted based on four categories: 

Strong—The program has provided documentation of the results of one or more randomized controlled trials, preferably conducted by an independent research institution on the specific intervention. The study is aligned with the What Works Clearinghouse’s standards.

Promising—One or both of the following criteria have been met: The program has provided documentation of the results of an assessment of effectiveness (beyond data or user feedback, but not meeting the What Works Clearinghouse’s standards for randomized controlled trials), preferably conducted by an independent research institution on the specific intervention. The program has provided documentation of peer-reviewed evidence showing that a similar approach has worked elsewhere. 

Emerging—The program has provided documentation of intervention usage and user feedback. 

Developing—Research is ongoing, so no current evidence exists or documentation of evidence is forthcoming.

Programs Using Technology in Early Literacy

This map displays the headquarters or primary location of each program.

Program Type

There are 37 programs on the map. The majority of the programs (19) have a family engagement component. Other programs (11) have school- or center-based initiatives. Five programs use public media partnerships, and another five include some professional learning for educators. Four programs are connected to a museum or library. The various approaches we saw show the many options that communities can use to engage young children and their families. In many cases, the aim is to build an ecosystem of support so children can grow up to be learners who are adept at using and understanding many different resources. Librarians, family engagement coordinators, home visitors, pediatricians, early childhood educators, and other professionals who interact with young children all can help families learn about the best ways to promote their children’s healthy development.

Program Affiliations

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

The Campaign is a collaborative effort by foundation, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. The Campaign focuses on an important predictor of school success and high school graduation -- grade-level reading by the end of third grade.

Research shows that proficiency in reading by the end of third grade enables students to shift from learning to read to reading to learn, and master the more complex subject matter they encounter in the fourth grade curriculum. Most students who fail to reach this critical milestone falter in later grades and often drop out before earning a high school diploma. Yet two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders are not proficient readers, according to national reading assessment data. This disturbing statistic is made even worse by the fact that more than four out of every five low-income students miss this critical milestone.

Although schools must be accountable for helping all children achieve, providing effective teaching for all children in every classroom every day, the Campaign is based on the belief that schools cannot succeed alone. Engaged communities mobilized to remove barriers, expand opportunities, and assist parents in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities to serve as full partners in the success of their children are needed to assure student success.

In a future version of the INTEL map, programs using technology that are part of the Campaign will be identified and each will have its own profile page.

Ready to Learn Initiative 2015- 2020

The Ready to Learn Initiative is a cooperative agreement funded and managed by the U.S Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. It supports the development of innovative educational television and digital media targeted to preschool and early elementary school children and their families. Its goal is to promote early learning and school readiness, with a particular interest in reaching low-income children. In addition to creating television and other media products, the program supports activities intended to promote national distribution of the programming, effective educational uses of the programming, community-based outreach and research on education effectiveness.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and PBS have received funding from the Ready to Learn Initiative. A recent grant will provide $19 million in year one of a five-year grant to fund CPB and PBS’ innovative science and literacy media initiative to support the learning needs of children in low-income communities.

Program Languages 

All 37 programs offer English. Thirty programs offer Spanish, and seven programs use other languages, such as Arabic or Mandarin. For example, Ready4K! was able to send text messages to families in their home languages, using tech to make early learning accessible to a diverse group of people on a large scale, and through the use of short video clips, ReadyRosie shows families how to deploy short literacy or math activities in both Spanish and English. 

Ages Served 

On the map, we recorded the number of programs that serve each age group, from birth through age eight. Twenty-seven programs serve children from 0–3 years old. Twenty-six programs serve children from 4–5 years old, and sixteen programs serve children from 6–8 years old. 

Number of Children Served 

Almost 60 percent of the programs serve fewer than 1,000 children; eleven programs serve more than 10,000 children.

Taking a Deeper Dive into How Programs Use Technology to Reach Families

The graphic below documents the primary technological tools that programs use to develop early language and literacy skills. All 37 programs use multiple technological touch-points for outreach

Primary Technology Tool by Program