Father and son on laptop and mobile devices.

MN Impact: Researchers Develop Parentopia Platform Which Allows Parents to Securely Connect Outside of Class Hours

October 10, 2019

Objective

Researchers will develop technology tools that will enhance learning and connectedness from existing parenting classes for both parents and staff (Reported as the number of parents and staff reached by new tools).

Issue

Despite a range of supports to parents and families, the single asset most report lacking, and one that could have a positive impact on parenting, is a felt connectedness to their communities. Technology has the potential to enhance and prolong the experience parents have with their weekly early childhood family education (ECFE) courses and potentially provide a community connection.

What has been done

Susan Walker and her team developed the Parentopia platform collaboratively with staff and parents. The closed technology platform provides parents with additional secure and private ways to connect with other parents and staff outside of class hours. The platform includes discussion, messaging, photo sharing and a program calendar for continued conversation, program information and opportunities for learning. Pilot testing revealed the need for the platform to be streamlined and more mobile friendly. The current version was launched in March 2017. 

Results

By the end of the yearlong pilot program in four ECFE sites, staff and parents reported enjoying having the platform available. Parents like easy ways to get program information, connecting with others and learning more about their children's learning. Staff like having an easy outlet to reach parents. Hybridizing ECFE reveals a huge shift in the program culture that for 40 years has been face to face only. Another sign of the cultural shift was the request to continue the project by staff and parents.

As of 2018, the Parentopia platform has expanded to five sites in the St. Paul school district, and three additional school districts in Minnesota to reach over 450 parents and staff. Research continues to examine technology implementation needs and platform use benefits to learning and social capital.