Home visiting programs are based on relationships and connections between parents and professionals who help new families get a healthy start. Where does technology fit into these relationships?
Given the potential and seemingly incessant growth of technology, home visitors around the country are now using it, everything from hand-held video cameras that help parents learn from their interactions with their children to iPads that connect families with parenting resources, New America Foundation’s EdCentral reports.
Since Washington is a national leader in home visiting, it’s not surprising home visiting programs employ technology around the state. In northeastern Washington, for example, the Selkirk School District uses iPads to emphasize parent-child interaction, development-centered parenting and family well-being. The district’s iPads support early learning with apps for reading stories, listening to music, learning to recognize symbols and colors, introducing early math concepts and other development. (Check out the full story: “In Eastern Washington, High-Tech Toy Becomes a Learning Tool.”)
Overall, Washington state’s home visitors often use tablets to help new parents learn and reflect on parenting skills and assess their skills, says Quen Zorrah, Washington State Nurse Consultant for Nurse-Family Partnership. During a visit, for example, a home visitor will use her tablet to record a mom reading to her child. Together, they will watch the recording to learn what a mother is doing well and perhaps what behaviors she could change, Zorrah adds.
“Some of the nurses are using video to record parent-child interactions and bring the video back to share the successes that they observed,” said Gina Veloni, a program manager for ChildStrive in Snohomish County. “We are promoting and improving parent-child experiences one interaction at a time.”
During these visits, early educators also use tablets to share information with parents about parenting skills and community resources, and help them fill out forms for health insurance and other resources.
In home visiting, current and future technologies contain a lot of potential, including the possibility of narrowing one of the widest opportunity gaps being discussed in early education circles: by age four children in low-income families have heard 30 million fewer words than higher-income children, according to New America Foundation’s Ed Central.
This story lays out how new technology could enhance early literacy and home visiting.
…(H)ome visiting programs are trying out new forms of outreach using technology to show instead of tell. DVDs, for example, have been employed for years to provide parents with tips and techniques for promoting their children’s development.
—“What New Technologies Could Mean for Home Visiting and Early Literacy.” Ed Central, 8/5/14.
But, it’s important to remember technology enhances home visiting and that relationships and connections are still what make home visiting successful, Nurse-Family Partnership’s Zorrah says.