Learning Loops

Supporting children’s narrative development through coach family learning networks.

The Learning Loops program aims to make literacy learning — both on and off the screen — a family experience. To do this, we create small-scale coach-family networks centered around children’s play on custom-built, open-ended literacy learning apps. Through building relationships between families and coaches, these networks empower young children as authors and facilitate children’s narrative development.

Date: 01.17.2017
Type: Research Lab
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Motivating Context

Narrative—specifically storytelling—is an essential component of both literacy and 21st century skills development that is fundamental to how humans share experiences, communicate, and understand the world around them. For this reason, our program, Learning Loops, aims to empower young children as storytellers in order to promote their narrative development starting at an early age.

In the StoryBlocks App, one child constructs a plot using speech bubbles, captions, backgrounds, and characters.


The Learning Loop includes three main stakeholders- children, caregivers, and coaches. While children play with our open-ended storytelling app, StoryBlocks, data is streamed to the child’s Coach. We have developed a Coach’s dashboard, called the Coach Console, powered by play analytics which enables a Coach to rapidly inspect play traces collected from a child’s activity and pull out their salient achievements, or meaningful moments. The Coaches then translate these moments into short personalized messages for the caregiver to inform them on their child’s narrative progress and provide suggestions for how to encourage new activities around storytelling. Caregivers communicate with Coaches via text messages. Coaches can also help the children expand their sphere of learning and exploration by providing feedback on children’s stories directly to the child’s device that are based on trends in the child’s play data. This learning loop system has been tested several times with our phonemic app, SpeechBlocks, in the Boston and Greenville, North Carolina areas, and with our StoryBlocks app in the Boston area in 2019. Several papers and two dissertations have been published on this work.

A screenshot of a story being built in the Storyblocks App featuring Boo and a shark.