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Digital tool supporting healthy child-family relationships

Message from Me

location_on Pittsburgh, PA
Message from Me (MfM) serves as a tool for young children to communicate with their families about their daily activities and learning experiences through the use of digital pictures and recorded audio messages. MfM aims to involve families in the educational experience and bridge the home-school connection while enhancing a child's communication skills, independence, and promoting interaction.
Cara Ciminillo, Trying Together Executive Director
The importance of quality child-parent interactions and relationships in the healthy development of young children birth to age nine cannot be understated. Message from Me provides an opportunity for these types of interactions and relationships to form between children and their caregivers.

Cara Ciminillo, Trying Together Executive Director

Overview

HundrED shortlisted this innovation

HundrED has shortlisted this innovation to one of its innovation collections. The information on this page has been checked by HundrED.
Key figures

Innovation Overview

1 - 9
Age Group
-
Children/Users
1
Country
2009
Established
Not-for-profit
Organisation
13 247
Views
Updated on October 19th, 2020
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about the innovation

How can educators support healthy interactions between young children and their caregivers?

Solving An Age-Old Problem

While children are developing crucial life skills at child care or in the classroom, they sometimes struggle to communicate what they did, "at school" to the adults in their lives.

In collaboration with the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) CREATE Lab, Trying Together (an early childhood nonprofit based in Southwestern Pennsylvania) provided its expertise in child development for the creation, implementation, and delivery of the Message from Me (MfM) technology.

Originally, MfM was designed as a kiosk for children to take a photo with a digital camera and record a message using a microphone to send messages to their family members via the internet. In 2013, the CMU CREATE Lab researchers updated the tool by creating an Apple Software Application (App) for children and educators to send messages through the use of an iPad. Through MfM, parent-child relationships are enhanced, providing a way to more easily document and share what goes on in the classroom and answer the age-old question: "What did you learn in school today?"

What MfM Does

Using the MfM app, a child can record and share daily thoughts and experiences, impacting his or her feelings of individuality, self-confidence, and well-being.

A child who uses MfM also develops skills: 

  • that help him or her be attentive, cooperative, curious, and persistent;  
  • that foster taking initiative;  
  • like artistic expression, English language arts, mathematical thinking, problem-solving, social-emotional, and writing. 

Why MfM is Different

MfM is different from other early childhood ed tech products because it was created in alignment with the NAEYC/Fred Rogers Center Position Statement on Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children Birth through Age 8.

In addition, an educator who uses MfM in his or her classroom will have received a minimum of four hours of professional development and has access to a tailored Educator’s Guide and direct, individualized user support. Visual support resources are also available on the MfM administrative website. Since 2012, Trying Together has exclusively provided professional development and support for more than 1,000 teachers who use MfM in their child care centers and classrooms.

Impact on Early Learning and Development

Through the use of MfM, 20,000 children have engaged in consistent communication with their families about their activities. Having now expanded from pre-kindergarten to the lower elementary grades, MfM continues to promote student voice, providing a platform for children to share their unique perspectives. Currently, MfM is used in early learning centers and school districts across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Utah, Detriot, and in Atlanta Public Schools.

Thanks to the generous support of PNC Grow Up Great, MfM is poised to expand nationwide to PNC's 50+ markets beginning in 2019.

  • Impact on Children

Young children enhance their self-esteem and build their confidence when they talk about their day, their accomplishments and their discoveries. MfM offers children the opportunity to talk about their day and grows their language and literacy skills. With MfM, every child has the opportunity to share learning experiences with their family members, which grows conversations in the home about school and classroom activities.

Using MfM in early childhood settings can also improve behaviors in the classroom. With the MfM Educator’s Guide, children and teachers have access to unique ways to achieve goals while directly engaging families in their children’s educational experiences.  One teacher expressed that she was able to work together with a child’s parent through MfM.

“I would take photos of the child engaged in appropriate behavior and send the photo and message to this parent. When the parent received the message, she would make a big deal about the photo and how good her child’s day was, focusing on the positive behavior of her child. I really saw changes in the child by using the MfM app.” 

  • Impact on Families

Using MfM in the early childhood setting allows parents to enhance communication with their children and build stronger connections between the home and school environment. MfM provides a unique method to engage children, teachers, and families in using technology while communicating about the significant experiences during the day. With the integration of MFM, families are receiving more information about their child’s daily activities and classroom learning experiences.

  • Impact on Educators

Educators who use MfM report an increased use of appropriate behaviors in the classroom. MfM also supports the use of developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) by educators in early learning settings which improves young children's ability to develop in healthy ways. Additionally, educators who use MfM are able to better engage with children’s primary caregivers and build relationships with them.  

Media

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Reaction from Parents
"Message from Me has changed how my husband talks with our child. My husband was too busy before, but with the MfM message he connects - gets more involved in the conversation. My son drags him to see the messages and he makes all his brothers see the messages too. It makes them have a REAL conversation, rather than just, "How was your day?" "Good." Message from Me makes them more involved together." "I see a difference on days with messages - my child has difficulty communicating, and especially with the rush at pick-up time. With the messages, it is easier for me to know what my child has done at school, so I can ask more specific questions." "It's one thing to hear about and discuss what your child is learning in school with teachers and staff, but it's another to actually see it and hear it yourself. It helps bridge a gap between home and school. What is taught in class can be observed and repeated at home." 
Media Coverage
Message from Me has been recognized in local and national media. Read more about its beginnings and impact below.Sorensen, Kristine (June 19, 2019) Message from Me: A new tech tool for Pre-K developed at the CMU Create Lab. KDKA, KIDSBURGH.Carver, M. Sharon (May/June 2018). Campus Learning LaboratoryCarnegie Mellon University Children's School, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania*. Exchange, 26-30.Singla, Naviya (February 4, 2018). CMU Children's School Celebrates 50th Anniversary. The Tartan, SCITECH.Bailey, Laurie (November 8, 2017). App empowers preschoolers to send electronic messages home*. Pittsburgh Business Times.Haberly, Jessica (February 10, 2017). New app allows students to connect with their families throughout the day. WTOV9 FOX.Schneider, Sarah (March 18, 2015). How an iPad App Can Help Answer the Age-Old Question: What Did You Do At School Today?. 90.5 WESA.  Herold, Benjamin (January 13, 2015). Community Network Eyed as Model for Supporting Digital Learning. Education Week. 
The Early Years
In 2009, Message from Me was piloted in a child care center. Originally developed as an acrylic, portable kiosk (see photo), children could take a photo with a digital camera and record a message using a microphone to send messages to their family members via the internet. This tool brought children and their families closer together and acted as a springboard for conversation at 'pick up' time. In 2013, Message from Me took another great leap and was developed into an app. 

Milestones

Achievements & Awards

May 2019
100 views
March 2019
Innovation added to the HundrED
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Steps

Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

01
Get Started by Contacting Trying Together
Contact Trying Together
Read more
02
Receive Professional Development
Learn about Modules 1 - 3.
Read more
03
Use it in the classroom.
Getting your children ready to use MfM.
Read more
04
Families receive messages.
What happens when a caregiver receives a MfM message from his or her child?
Read more
05
Children and families discuss the messages.
What happens when children reunite with caregivers?
Read more