In 2013, 25 per cent of public school children in the U.S. were Hispanic-Latino, and this number is expected to grow to 29 per cent by 2025. Within this vibrant and diverse population, many students, particularly those from immigrant families, face challenges in school. Many are tasked with mastering a new language, and their parents often struggle to understand an education system that is completely new to them. But Hispanic-Latino families can bring enormous strengths to school communities. How can educators help forge these home-school connections?
A recent survey shows that the majority of Hispanic-Latino families now own at least a smartphone, if not other digital devices, and are connecting to the Internet regularly. Case studies of Latino immigrant families have shown ways that families are already using technology in innovative ways to learn. For example, parents who speak primarily Spanish often use translation apps such as Google Translate to understand children’s homework assignments in English. But while many families are already finding ways to use technology to improve learning at home, many have expressed that there is a lot more they would still like to learn about finding resources to support their children.
Our newest Research2Practice guide, “Digital connections to link home and school” offers some research-based ideas for how educators can harness technology to engage with families. Finding ways to engage parents using tools they are already comfortable with is a powerful way of building trust and helping families feel more empowered about their children’s learning. For instance, text messaging is already a primary way that families communicate, and can be an effective way for educators and community leaders to engage parents. Studies of text messaging efforts have shown high rates of parent engagement and positive outcomes for middle school students as well as for preschoolers. Online videos also may make it easier for families with different language needs to explore and learn together— Hispanic-Latino families in our Families and Media studies have reported using YouTube to learn everything from recipes and hairstyles to English lessons, and some used it to follow up on academic topics.
We hope this guide offers professionals some practical tools that they can use in supporting the Hispanic-Latino families in their communities. By stepping into the role of “media mentors,” educators, librarians, and community leaders can play a powerful role in helping families understand more about the digital media and tools that are available to them, and finding the effective ways to use these technologies to improve their children’s learning.