Below are excerpts from this grantee’s quarterly reports.
Quarter 3 Update
Briefly restate the specific aims or objectives associated with this project
The study objective is to evaluate the effectiveness of Media Power Youth’s in-school curriculum, Screenshots, in shaping students’ beliefs on media usage and the skills and behaviors that contribute to positive social experiences:
- Aim 1: Evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum in cultivating responsible and empathic digital behaviors in three areas that contribute to healthy relationships and mental wellness: Digital Citizenship, Online Conflict Resolution, and Social Media and Substance Use.
- Aim 2: Determine the extent to which the effectiveness of the curriculum varies across demographic and attitudinal groups, including gender, age, perceived personal relevance, and content responsiveness.
Tell us about key learnings you’ve uncovered over the course of your project, including advice you might give to investigators conducting similar work.
We learned considerable lessons in regards to the implementation of both the curriculum and the study. We experienced firsthand the challenges of rolling out a curriculum linked to an empirical study across four middle schools. Each school had its own approach to integrating the curriculum into their classes. Such variety of implementation conflicted with our desire to maintain fidelity across the sites. It was a valuable lesson in flexibility. Overall, we feel that the benefit of a real-world evaluation in multiple locations outweighed the cost of variability in the implementation. For other investigators and curriculum designers interested in this area, we would recommend a curriculum design that reduces the burden on teachers as much as possible and an implementation strategy that includes developing school-level program champions as well as district-level support. Having buy-in of the program among those who dictate and those who implement the curriculum is vital to a project’s success.
Quarter 2 Update
Briefly summarize (3-5 sentences) what was accomplished with regard to these aims in the present quarter.
The four middle schools participating in the study selected which 7th grade classes would receive the curriculum first and those who would receive the curriculum second. We developed a teacher planning tool to assist teachers in coordinating the evaluation, curriculum lesson plans, and the completion of the media creation project. We also arranged weekly check-ins with the middle school teachers to discuss progress and questions. Pre-assessments were completed by the selected students (348 completes) and the curriculum is now being taught to the first group of students. Early feedback from our regular one-on-one check-ins suggests students are finding the curriculum engaging and relevant.
Tell us about problems encountered, changes to your approach, and reasons behind these changes.
In the last 8 months, there have been a number of changes within the school district where the project is taking place. Some of these include a new superintendent, school board election, a redistricting initiative, school staff turnover, availability of new health-related curriculum options, and new thinking on the best way to implement social-emotional and interdisciplinary curricula, such as media literacy education.
We achieved agreement with the four participating middle schools to conduct the evaluation with a variety of classes that included health classes, study/enrichment blocks, and core classes (social studies, language arts, and math). Some students and teachers were not accustomed to engaging on the topics featured in the Screenshots curriculum in these types of environments so the pre-assessments and some of the early lessons took longer to complete than anticipated as it took some time to establish classroom behavioral norms.
We believe that these challenges reflect the types of dynamics we are likely to encounter in disseminating the curriculum. There is lots of innovation happening within individual middle schools as they seek to better meet the needs of the communities they serve and provide more social-emotional learning opportunities. This makes it difficult to maintain consistent conditions when conducting research across different schools. The experience we’ve gained in navigating these complexities early on in our project is going to greatly enhance our ability to disseminate this curriculum to a broad range of schools and enable us to provide better guidance to schools on implementing these types of initiatives within the constraints of school scheduling
Quarter 1 Update
What excites you about the funded project?
We are excited about being part of a national research community that is advancing our society’s understanding of how technology impacts mental wellness. This project will enable MPY to offer a wider assortment of evidence-based resources to families, teachers, and community-based organizations. David Bickham, our co-investigator, said: “It’s extremely fulfilling to be part of a project that moves my research from documenting the risks of technology to one that maximizes its potential. The Screenshots curriculum represents an opportunity to demonstrate that young people are not powerless against media-based forces and that school-based educational programs can enhance the beliefs and skills necessary to lead positive and healthy, online lives.”
Tell us more about your team!
Our team is a collaboration between a media literacy educational nonprofit organization, Media Power Youth, and an academic research center, Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Rona Zlokower (Principal Investigator): Rona is the founder of Media Power Youth and a passionate advocate for public health initiatives. She enjoys gardening, yoga, and soup making – now that fall has arrived in New Hampshire.
Heather Inyart (Executive Director, MPY): Heather leads Media Power Youth in its mission to provide media literacy education to children, parents, and youth-serving professionals. She enjoys hands-on, creative projects including knitting and painting where she can play with color and texture to make something new.
David Bickham (Co-Investigator, CMCH): David’s research examines the impact of media use on the health and well-being of adolescents. David’s favorite tech-free activity is playing strategy board games, such as Viticulture, Pandemic Legacy, and Wingspan.