The increasingly prominent role technology plays in our lives has come to the forefront of education research in recent years for obvious reasons. With a majority of the population now constantly immersed in electronic communication platforms and engaged with devices such as smartphones and computer tablets for upwards of several hours a day, the nature by which we process information and learn new things has been fundamentally altered forever.
This trend presents new challenges for educators but also provides forward-thinking entities with the opportunity to reach a wider audience. Marzano Research partners Bright By Three (BB3), a nonprofit organization that supports families and children by providing educational resources, has taken advantage of this opportunity by utilizing the convenience and widespread distributive potential of text messaging as a mode of communication to distribute its content.
In the first half of the 2010s, BB3 began looking at practical methodology for implementing their learning tool dissemination program through emerging platforms – namely short message service (SMS) text communiques.
Bright By Three was originally founded as “Bright Beginnings” in the mid-1990s by Colorado Governor Roy Romer in partnership with former Procter & Gamble Chairman Brad Butler. Its goal was to improve the quality of early childhood education in the Centennial State. They sought to achieve this goal by working with pediatricians, researchers, and other early learning experts to develop dynamic and impactful prekindergarten learning materials for Coloradans to use in preparing their children to enter the school system as well prepared as possible.
As technology grew more advanced in the new millennium, Bright By Three launched Bright By Text (BBT) – a modern platform for disseminating the various evidence-based early learning resources the organization had developed over the course of its existence. By delivering content in a more convenient and interactive manner via text messaging, BBT was designed to provide an optimal conduit between resource provider and resource audience, further circumventing any potential barriers between the two entities by avoiding necessities such as smartphones or data plans.
Furthermore, by streamlining the messages themselves in order to make individual posts easier to transmit via SMS, content also became more easily digestible for the target audience, a large segment of which is made up of underserved community members. As part of the free service, families are able sign up to receive parenting tips, games, and information sent right to their cell phones 2–5 times a week in both English and Spanish.
Topics covered by BBT messages include language and literacy, nutrition, developmental milestones, brain development, social and emotional learning, and caregiver resilience, among others. Examples of text messages sent by BBT to include simple early educational tips such as “Eating, bathing, and dressing are some daily activities that you can use to teach a child good conversation skills” and “Help your child learn to share. Sit and roll a ball back and forth to encourage playing nice with others.”
In 2018, BBT partnered with Marzano Research to conduct an extensive evaluative study of its platform’s effectiveness. The study was designed to produce information that could guide Bright By Three’s ongoing efforts to implement programmatic and strategic improvements to advance the goals of its BBT program.
Marzano Research staff members conducted numerous polls and interactive surveys with BBT subscribers, using a recruitment strategy that considered optimal days and times for data collection efforts in order to ensure the highest possible response rates.
Findings from the comprehensive research-based evaluation included subscribers reporting higher levels of verbal interaction with their children, reduced stress levels regarding parenting strategies for users, and the children of users being more on-target or advanced in language development. On average, children benefiting from BBT’s services were found to be three months ahead of their counterparts in a comparison group of young learners from similar socioeconomic backgrounds.
Overall, subscribers were pleased with the messages they were receiving from BBT and felt that the service was of great benefit. Marzano Research made various recommendations to augment the service even further, including making messages more customized for specific groups and individuals and providing various multimedia materials such as short videos for subscribers with access to smartphones.
Since Marzano Research’s input was implemented into its curriculum and modus operandi, BBT/BB3 have expanded their reach into new territories while receiving extensive support from various regional media partners and enhancing its reputation as a preeminent nonprofit organization in the early childhood education arena. At a recent Show+Tell event entitled “Supporting Parents in the Earliest Years,” BBT was recognized as being an innovator in the “Mobile Decision Support” category.
As we enter a new decade, Marzano Research is proud to have supported Bright By Text from Bright By Three as they continue to provide valuable resources to caregivers and prekindergarten learners for years to come. The service now boasts over 75,000 subscribers and has sent out over 14 million text messages to active caregivers in the United States.