Living and learning in uncertainty : family learning and information management during the Covid-19 lockdowns
- Abstract Background When Covid-19 arrived and sparked a wave of lockdowns in the Spring of 2020, parents and other caregivers (e.g., grandparents, adult siblings) needed to decide what to tell their children, how to respond to the children's questions about the changes in their routines, and how much to shelter their children from pandemic news and media. At the time, information about the "new normal" was plentiful and chaotic; families were left mostly on their own to determine how to care for the physical, social, and mental well-being of the family members. Families, already essential yet underappreciated or overlooked learning environments, became visible centers for learning as the physical boundaries between school, home, work, and community life collapsed. Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic is a special lens through which to understand expansive family learning dynamics with respect to the experience of sense-making in the pandemic. Caregivers are mediators and brokers of learning for their children; thus, their perspectives are critical to understand as we prepare to respond to future crises. Objective This study examines how three mechanisms shaped learning about the Covid-19 pandemic in families with elementary school children from around the U.S. during the Spring of 2020. My primary research questions are: (1) What can we learn about children's information needs in times of crisis from the questions they asked of their caregivers about the Covid-19 pandemic? (2) How were families using social and media resources to learn about Covid-19, and how did these resources play into caregivers' approaches to discussing the pandemic with their children? (3) How were caregivers managing the flow of Covid-19 information in their homes with respect to their children? Methodology The data analyzed come from a larger diary study research project conducted by Dr. Brigid Barron's youthLab, documenting how 109 families with elementary school-aged children across the U.S. adapted to distance learning in the first wave of Covid-19 lockdowns. We used dscout, a cell-phone-based, multimodal, qualitative research platform, to both collect the data and recruit participants. To qualify to participate in the study, caregivers who applied to be in the study needed to have at least one child in K-5 and give IRB consent. The final participants were mostly female caregivers (67%) who had children in public schools (84%). 55% self-identified as White, and X% self-reported incomes at or below the national average of $74,000. One portion of the study asked the caregivers to reflect on how they were learning about Covid-19 with their families. I took the multimodal data that participants provided in response to our prompts about their Covid-19 learning ecologies (written responses, two-minute selfie-style videos, pictures, and answers to multiple-choice questions) and performed multiple rounds of qualitative and descriptive statistical analyses on three units of analysis. These units of analysis are aligned to the research questions above. They are: the questions caregivers reported their children asking about Covid-19, the social and media resources caregivers drew on to learn about the pandemic with their children and inform their conversations, and caregivers' perspectives on their children's information needs and their goals for how their children's experience in the pandemic. The analyses build on each other to inform holistic case analyses of six families that demonstrate how the dynamics of Covid-19 learning were playing out in the caregiver's reports of the families' engagement with information about the pandemic. Conclusions Caregivers struggled to navigate the plethora of Covid-19 information generally and find helpful "kid-friendly" explanations they felt were appropriate for younger children. The emotional impact of not only disease but also the physical and social limitations imposed by the lockdowns also appears strongly in the children's questions also indicate their position as active participants in their families' health conversation and practices, as well as the pandemic-related topics that were most pressing on their minds in May 2020. In terms of caregiver mediation and brokering, I describe the relationship between caregivers' self-perceived transparency of information with their children versus the actions they report taking to curate their children's Covid-19 learning ecologies. Importantly, sheltering children and filtering the information they hear may have implications for public health education. Additionally, examining the social and media resources that caregivers leveraged to discuss the pandemic with their children surfaced novel forms of joint-media engagement that have implications for future research on learning in media-saturated environments. Implications Taken together, the findings imply a need for a more visible, coordinated public health educational system. A multitude of design opportunities to improve the learning environment in the next crises are evident. Some of those opportunities are material - e.g., improved public health education and messaging through all modes of media - and some are social - e.g., re-establishing sources of local information that are reliable and present a (relatively) unified message. Misinformation researchers are also calling attention to the risks to public health from the media infosphere. Now more than ever, these need to be headed and interventions designed specifically with the needs and dynamics of families in mind. Family management of the infosphere will only continue to grow in relevance as the misinformation online is not regulated. To reach families and meet their diverse needs, we must understand the frameworks that guide caregivers' actions and provide roadmaps for responding to difficult or unexpected situations. These frameworks are situationally dependent and evolve as new contradictions arise. However, we have the tools to start breaking down what is important to caregivers at a deeper level than on the surface. This study presents one method of doing so and points to novel opportunities for research on learning in families coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
|Type of resource
|electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
|1 online resource.
|Pozos, Rose Kathleen
|Goldman, Shelley V
|Goldman, Shelley V
|Lee, Victor R
|Degree committee member
|Degree committee member
|Lee, Victor R
|Stanford University, Graduate School of Education
|Statement of responsibility
|Rose K. Pozos.
|Submitted to the Graduate School of Education.
|Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2022.
- © 2022 by Rose Kathleen Pozos
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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