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Stina Nylander
Swedish Institute of Computer Science, Box 1263, 16429 Kista, Sweden. www.sics.se

We have interviewed four parents and a teacher at a Swedish preschool to  investigate the practices for spreading information in preschool. Our findings  suggest that frequent presence in the premises of the preschool is important to  get information, and that parents rely heavily on routines to make it work.  When either of these points fail, breakdowns occur. Discrepancies in parents’  and teachers’ IT use also complicates the information exchange.

Introduction  Family life and the elements of planning, coordination, and problem solving it  encompasses have received a lot of attention in the HCI community in the recent  years. Various studies have shed light on families organize their lives using various  tools such as paper lists [11], home made organizing systems [10], and paper  calendars [1], how they communicate and coordinate their information [3], and how  this work could be supported by smart home systems [2]. This research has focused  on the family as a unit and explored how family members communicate with each  other, organize incoming information, and negotiate their everyday tasks. We add to  this body of knowledge by looking at the information exchange between the family  and an external unit, preschool. Families stay in contact with many external units such  as schools, sports teams, authorities, doctors and the like. We have chosen preschool  since it is a daily activity, involves different types of information in both directions,  and breakdowns can have potentially cumbersome consequences such as a parent  having to stay home from work unexpectedly.

The information exchange between parents and preschool teachers is frequent and  important. Parents get a lot of practical information and information about their  children’s development from preschool teachers. They also need to convey  information about the children to the teachers. A large part of the information  exchange takes place in the premises of preschool where parents talk to teachers, pick  up paper notes, reads notes posted on notice boards etc. Some information is  conveyed over the phone while email is used very little in the studied preschool.  Parents then bring the information home and incorporate it in their own organizing  system to keep track of what is going on.

We have investigated the practices for information exchange between teachers and  parents at a Swedish preschool through interviews with four parents of preschool  children, and a preschool teacher. Here we focus on the present handling of written  information. Our findings suggest that the existing routines for keeping track of  information rely heavily on presence (at home and in preschool) and that the  information usually is non-portable. We also noted a discrepancy between the  parents’ and the teachers’ use of information technology that seemed to influence the  information exchange. We conclude the paper by presenting some implications for  future design of information technology for family use.

Full paper, Interact 2009. [pdf]


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