When I was in the classroom I created a web site so that parents could always go and find out what was happening in school.
We also held a math and science night and invited the community to come in and explore with us- that was pretty successful.
When I was in a lower income school district where most of the students did not have access to technology in the home we had a weekly open lab after school for kids and parents. Some of the lab times we gave mini lessons on skills, sometimes it was just for exploring and getting done what they needed to get done. I wish that Help Guide was around during those open lab times that would have been a big help.
In addition the school has gone to electronic communications. I receive all class newsletters, PTO Newsletters, School Newsletters and the District News letters all electronically. If parents still want a paper copy they can get one- but I have said electronic will do.
We're using blogs as a 'showcase tool' for student work in a primary school (Aust). We have whole school blogs (for example our school Literacy Blog) and some of the classes have their own blogs. We use them as an alternative to hanging up work in hallways and classrooms (although we still do this too!) so student work can be shared with a much wider communtiy.
Parents have enjoyed being able to view their child's work and are then also able to pass on the link to other family and friends to share their child's achievements. The fact that they can leave a comment about the work serves to motivate students and gives them a 'real' sense of audience. It also involves parents and extended family in giving feedback and keeping up to date with their child's learning. The kids love getting on to the different blogs, checking if they have any comments and also leaving comments for other students.
Parents have been pleased that they can log in at any time to view work - a bonus for those who work long hours and are unable to come into the school.
It's been an easy way to make the home - school link much stronger and enables parents to give feedback and praise in a manageable way. Students are motivated, it requires very little effort on behalf of the parents and the workload is quite managable for teachers too!
Back a bit, MicroSoft used to offer a program called Family Night. They sent very entertaining representatives out to schools and presented family technology activities. My school district participated in this program for several years and it was very well received (It helped that the reps came armed with loads of door prizes). Although the focus was on entertainment, it gave us a chance to promote our program(s) and introduce internet safely strategies. Somewhere along the line, MicroSoft dropped the program, so we picked it up ourselves. We added mini hands-on-workshops that promoted family technology projects. It was very successful.
Tom mentions parent workshops in his note. I would add creating a toolkit for parents accessible on the school website that gives parents information on how to access and use technology. You could have an introduction to the toolkit during a PTA or Parent/Teacher conference night. Along with the toolkit you could include access to a Blog (as already mentioned) and:
- Common Definitions
- Troubleshooting Resources
- Monitoring Children Online (Tips and software/browser examples)
- Links to School Purchased Software along with Quick User Guides
- Copyright Documents to print out (Try Intel® Teach resources and Google for posters)