The Parent's Role in a Digital Classroom
As educators, we understand the importance of introducing even the youngest students (Pre-K and Kindergarten) to technology in the classroom. We also understand that it is important to have parental support, since these students are young and need a great deal of assistance. What do you think teachers should expect from parents and what should the parent's role be as young children begin their journey into technology?
I think that we have to think of ourselves as working in a three-way partnership. As teachers we have a good idea of what we want from students in the classroom, but parents don't always know how computers can be used educationally, other than through using commercially produced programs or perhaps presentation of work via PowerPoint or some other presentation software. So we need to also help parents to understand how we want their children to use the technology available and why.
One effective way of doing this is by arranging for parents to have a participating role in some tasks. As with our students, we can help parents learn through doing. This could be as simple as having the parent reply to a blog post to give their child some feedback on their work. On a more significant task, such as a project, perhaps the parents could be provided with a checklist and be give a role as "project coordinator", or some other appropriate title, so that they actively follow along as the child moves through each step of the project. In this way they get to see first hand how technology is used throughout the project rather than just the presentation at the end.
However it is done, by actively involving the parent in some way, they will improve in their understanding of how their child can effectively use technology to improve their learning. They will also better understand why technology can support their child's learning and broaden their awareness of the educational possiblilties beyond searching the Internet and using presentation software.
This whole issue is a particularly important one. Thanks for raising it Robbie!
I agree that we can help our parents learn by doing! Parents with little technology experience can be afraid to take on a helping role in the classroom, but soon discover that most applications or technology-based projects are easier than they thought. In the past, I posted my digital story on our class wiki as an introduction to my families. It was my goal that students could tell their story through an application, such as OneTrueMedia. I posted the TEKS that I was targeting and offered help. Only several of the families felt confident to help their child (kindergartener) tell their story. As I reflect on the project, I wonder if I should have had a workshop for my families. I guess we always question how much time we have (as teachers) to take on extra projects such as these. I strongly feel there is a great deal of value in these types of projects! As a teacher of young children, much of the technology falls on the shoulders of the teacher, since much of the technology is exposure.
Robbie - Sounds like you're doing wonderful things with your students. You say: "Only several of the families felt confident to help their child (kindergartener) tell their story. As I reflect on the project, I wonder if I should have had a workshop for my families." I think family workshops are great, lot's of work but they go a long way. Many years ago Microsoft had a program called Family Technology Nights. Micorsoft would send a very engaging speaker/presenter to your school for a Family Technology Night. The program centered around: families having fun with technology, providing real world examples of using the computer for research and communication, Internet safety , and techniques for parents to encourage learning throught the engagement of technology. I just Googled "Microsoft Family Technology Nights" and found barely a trace of information about the program...too bad they were great events. I totally agree with you when you say: "I strongly feel there is a great deal of value in these types of projects!"
My school is in a unique situation. We currently have 60% of our students on Free or Reduced lunch. This, therefore means the students and their parents may not have Internet access at home. I find it difficult to engage such parents in digital learning.
I am sure you can imagine my excitement when I read Comcast's Low-Income, $10 Per Month Internet Service Goes Live. I quickly shared the article with my principal. His comment was that we might need to figure out how to let our parents know of the option. ANY family that is on Free or Reduced lunch is eligible for this service. I'm holding my breath for this one ...
Thank you so much for the information about Comcast and their Internet service!!! I will share it with my colleagues on several campuses.
I, too, have taught in Title 1 schools and there is a great disparity when dealing with technology. Most of my families did not have computer access, unless it was at the library. I made my classroom, and computers, available several days a week so parents could take advantage of the technology. Few parents made use of the service and I wonder now if I could have offered training or some type of childcare while they worked on the computer. This continues to be a problem that we will need to continue discussing.
thanks for starting this thread of discussion, its going to benefit us a lot, with lots of suggestions and new ideas. would like to share something here, we are working on a new project where school IT labs can be used after school hours as IT Community Centers for that particular locality, specially targeting parents. We are also trying to engage one of the Intel Easy Step partner organizations to conduct adult literacy IES trainings at these centers. we are expecting positve response and good results by the end of this quarter.
thanks once again for starting this interesting thread.
Intel is a partner in the Comcast Offer- i just wanted to clarify that currently the program is only available to those families that qualifty for "free" lunch - not "reduced" lunch. We are hoping it gets expanded to both- but at this time the offer is only available to the most needy families in your schools
With the need for "privacy" regarding family finances, I'm not sure that I will know any details of families that sign up for the program. I, however, will keep my ears open to any information I may share on how beneficial the program is. I can say there is great interest from the school's perspective to make sure information is given to parents. I appreciate the possibility of students and parents having Internet access where they did not before.
Even in this age I find that there are quite a few parents who are mystified by our classroom wiki. It takes some of them weeks and some months before they get used to it as a resource and tool. A very few parents never quite get used to it. Fortunately, the vast majority quickly or eventually come to see its value. My colleagues and I offer lessons/tutorials and we recruit parent volunteers to run some of these classes. Our wiki is an integral part of our classroom and the parent support role is critical. If the parents reject it or ignore it, the effectiveness of the wiki is minimized.
For of all, I think as educator, it is our job to educate our parents about our technology tools, websites, and digital projects in our classroom. At the beginning of the year, I have a parent meeting and discuss our class curriculum and digital classroom. Most of my parents have internet access so they are able to see our digital classroom through my Shutterfly site. I also invite them once a month to view our technology projects through class presentations. Fortunately, my parents have been very supportive and have shared with me how impressed they are with my students' knowledge of technology. Since most of my students have computer access at home, I have also included some homework projects that requires the use of technology, which ties together the home-school connection.