Last night, participants of #edchat discussed and debated that parents are the one's in the way of progression. Ideas were also tossed around about how to get parents more involved in the process. Here is just a taste of what was said:
- Change the way we "do business" as far as P/T/S conferences, Back-to-School Nights, Curriculum Nights, Open House nights for math/reading/etc...integrate tech and web 2.0 tools! video lessons & share with families...have students share...
- We are in a difficult time period here... Parents have to be taught and given access if we want to do many of the things we talk so much about. Soon enough, the students of today will be the parents of tomorrow.
- Technology is yet another tool. Folks are afraid of what is new and need some time to assimilate. If they are shown the value of the 'new tool', they will try to make it work in their classes too, because great teachers will do whatever they need to do to get kids to learn.
- I think parents and teachers are roadblocks...fear and ignorance are the worst of the culprits. I think we need to teach from the top and then go down, otherwise we will not have the support we need from the top. How many things, for instance, are blocked by your district's servers? There is where to start the education...
- The best way to educate parents about Web 2.0 is to USE it. Include it as naturally as you do in the classroom. Send surveys (such as this one) or create videos on the web and share them. Use tools such as VoiceThread, Animoto, Google Docs, Smile Box, wikis, blogs, etc so they can see and have opportunities to respond to your projects.
- We don't want to teach "social media" - we want to use it TO teach.
- Wonder if teachers talked about how to educate parents about the benefits of calculators 40 years ago?
This, I see is the biggest challenge to overcome. It seems like daily we hear about a predator who uses a social network to meet an underage child; the same social network we advocate for use in the classrooms (sometimes). We hear about the latest case of cyberstalking or cyberbullying. But can you think about the last time you heard about a positive use of these tools? I know the stories are out there. I have heard them. But the problem is they stay inside educational circles and hardly ever make it mainstream. So parents have this warped idea that all social networking is bad and evil. Parents are scared to let their students use the internet or have their picture appear on the web, all over the fear mongering that perpetuates the airwaves.
Were parents, teachers, administrators, so resistive to change when the slide rule, calculator, overhead were introduced in school? Were they afraid that when students learned to use a calculator they wouldn't know math any more? Maybe. Social Media and Web 2.0 Tools are just that, tools. They are the devices teachers use to teach, and students use to learn. I (and many others) see them no different from the chisel and slate, ink and hide or pencil and paper. These are just the new tools. And new tools take time getting used to.
Going right along with fear of use of these tools in the classroom is the lack of education on our part. I am sure there are individual schools/districts out there doing a great job of teaching their students responsible use and cybersafety. But I would guess that the vast majority of students are not regularly involved in a cybersafety curriculum on even a monthly basis. Whats worse is that when the students are learning about how to stay safe online the parents are rarely involved.
Another comment that was made was about access. Parents might not understand these tools because they have not had the time/ability to investigate them at home because of access. I live/work in a very rural area of North Carolina. Everyday I hear a teacher or parent that is frustrated because where they live in an area either not served by high-speed internet access or they only thing they can get is dial-up. So because there is frustration with the technology and access at home, this is then translated, perhaps unintentionally, to the classroom.
Ideas For The Future
If you are a teacher who regularly uses technology in the classroom when was the last time you invited parents into your room to use it with their students? I know, most who use these tools do a great job of showing off the end result but what about from the beginning? If you create a classroom blog, do you invite your parents to also post? If you are creating Voicethreads do you have your parents come in and give them access so they can create one too?
The idea here is involvement. Parents naturally fear what they don't understand. So, help them understand. Give them same access you would give a student. Bring them in, and teach them just as you would your students. If you are using Edmodo, let them in and see the discussion. If you are working in Animoto, bring them in and have them make one also. If you can't do it during your class, make the time to do it during a special open house night or meeting at your school. Even if there isn't enough time to create, at least show. More importantly, talk about the whys and the benefits.
Another thing schools and districts need to do a better job of doing is education of our parents. In addition to bringing them in to show them the use and benefits of the these tools in the classroom, we need to be having frank conversations about how to keep our students safe online. If we begin to show parents that teachers and schools are doing what they can to keep students safe online at school, we might begin to break down some of barriers. We are in the business of education. Why are we leaving the parents out of the conversation?
What do you think? Are parents the road block to change. What are you doing right at your school or in your classroom. What are some successes that you have had with parent buy-in? What are you going to do different?
Image from Creative Commons Image Search. View the original here.