Searching for programs
I recently asked a parent “So where do you find your information on after school programs?”
She responded, “Well, we didn’t. We checked what the school offered, and when we didn’t find any option that worked, we did nothing.”
I was curious. I wanted to know what the process would be like for a Cambridge parent trying to find an after school program. Where would you start?
Google, right? That answer comes to us like a kneejerk reaction, and let’s be honest, that’s because Google is really good at what they do.
So what happens if you try to use Google to search for after school programing within Cambridge.
Well the first results would look like this: Cambridge After school Programs. Instantly you get linked to the City’s numerous offerings of after school and community school programs. This is a good start, but I would imagine parents would want more information.
What if you want to search something more specific? For example, what if you want to find after school programs focused in science.
You get results that look like this: Cambridge Science After school Programs. You’ll notice that you still get some useful information, but the results start getting a little more difficult to navigate through. Some are targeted towards certain genders or age groups and that makes it a little harder to match what you are looking for.
And now let’s try searching for a program completely focused in one area, something like robotics.
Your results would look like this: Cambridge Robotics After school Programs. Once again, the results are tough to search through. Outside of a a couple of useful links at the start, it becomes a frustrating process of weeding through links.
What can we take from all of this? Well, one might argue that with enough persistence and some hard work, someone should be able to find the type of after school programing they are looking for.
But what if this person looking for information has limited experience working with computers, or has no access to computers at all? What if this person knows English as a second language and has trouble understanding the results? And what if this person just doesn’t have the time to spend dredging through the sea of results?
To help gain more insight on this topic, I’ve been asking parents how they search for programs, and you know what the most common response is? Word of mouth. This can work great for some families, but what about the parents that don’t speak to one another. Or what about families who just moved to Cambridge and have no one to ask?
I want to find ways to help guide parents through this process, and I think my work is part of that. That way in the future when I speak to parents about problems they face while finding programs, they’ll respond “What problems?”