Parents often find technology a roadblock to helping their children with classwork. There are too many geeky tools with too few instructions, and every year, what they thought they understood changes. Like students, they don’t want to sound like Luddites, so they struggle for a while and ultimately give up. With that comes either disinterest or pushback against your efforts to blend tech into learning. Both are dangerous to your teaching goals.
You can solve this by offering tech classes to parents, to teach them either the skills their students are learning or an introduction to tech in their lives. They can be offered while parents are waiting for students to finish after-school activities, as a brown bag lunch program, or online during evenings or weekends via Google Hangout or Skype. Which is best will depend upon the needs and schedules of your parent group. Kick off the program with a poll (use an online platform like Google Forms or PollDaddy, one students use in class) to find out what time works best.
If you find there’s interest, get approval from your administration before going further. There are lots of reasons schools have for NOT offering free classes to parents. Make sure you don’t infringe on any of those before proceeding.
Once you decide to move forward, determine which of two approaches work best for your needs and parent interests:
‘Technology in education’ has become the buzz phrase for cutting edge classes that are plugged into the latest education trends. Not surprisingly, it takes a lot more than a room full of computers, iPads, and apps to turn “tech ed” from marketing to mainstream.
For parents, where schools fall on that continuum — mostly marketing hype or taking the necessary steps to integrate tech — is critical. When you start at a new school (or classroom, or teacher), it’s important to understand the part technology will take to improve educational experiences for your child. Here are fourteen question you can expect stakeholders to answer — in depth:
Who teaches students to use class digital tools?
Many teachers (too many) think students arrive at school as digital natives, with all necessary digital knowledge downloaded into their brains. This myth exploded when students taking the year-end online tests didn’t know basic tech skills like copy-paste, keyboarding, using dialogue boxes, and more. So it’s a legitimate question: Who teaches students how to use the school’s digital devices and what training do they get to support that responsibility? Is it a one-off PD day or ongoing? Is there a tech ed curriculum to ensure topic coverage and that teaching is done “the right way” or is it up to the teacher? How does the school handle an unexpected tech need — say, programming for December’s Hour of Code?
Most teachers I know accept that their classes must be technology-infused. Many think that means replacing traditional tools with the tech version (for example, instead of creating a big bulky poster, use a virtual poster like Glogster). Others think using iPads to read the book is homage enough to the 21st Century teaching police. A surprising number of students — and teachers — still consider technology to be the realm of a chosen few endowed with brilliance and math/science skills. When you try to explain that technology, computers, and websites are easily accessible to anyone willing to think critically and solve problems, they laugh. Or hide.
Here are fourteen websites I use to persuade teachers that technology isn’t always about math and science, that lots of tools work flawlessly as they inspire students to new ways of learning.
This site shows the Google search engine backwards as is everything you type into the search field. This is from the creative minds at elgooG (not affiliated with Google) and only for entertainment. When you’re done giggling over the oddity of a backwards world, try some of their other geeky options included at the top of the screen like:
- Snake Game (at the top of the Backwards Google screen)
- Do a Barrel Roll –click the link and Google will do a barrel roll before beginning your search
- Tilt — click the link and Google will tilt before performing your search
Chrome Experiments is a showcase of over 1200 web experiments written by the creative coding community. They are clever and often addicting and include a mesmerizing kaleidoscope, Fluid Particles (waves of particles generated by a SketchUp type drawing you create), Searching Planet (a 3D visual of what people around the globe search for on Google), and A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2 (shows how carbon dioxide travels around the globe over the course of one year).
A topic I don’t cover enough in Ask a Tech Teacher is how seniors handle the onslaught of technology in their lives. Thankfully, Beata GREEN, Director of HeadChannel Ltd., London-based bespoke software development company, has experience in this area and was willing to share her ideas. Beata is responsible for overall strategic direction and overseeing the company’s continuing growth, building closer client relationships and maintaining best working practices. When she’s not pondering the blending of tech into the lives of parents and grandparents, she enjoys brisk country walks with her red fox labrador and then relaxing in front of a TV crime drama with a glass of red wine.
Older people have always been reticent to adopt new inventions, especially when it comes to new technology. As new tech is mostly created by young developers, it is usually tailored to the younger generation. However, the impact of technology on the health and personal life of seniors can be huge, even if they claim they do perfectly well without it.
One of the major problems of technology adoption among elderly people is their non-understanding as to why they need it at all. Keeping up with the youth is not going to be a good incentive here. What is the greatest value, then, that technology can bring into the lives of the older generation? We’ve analyzed many different aspects of the biggest pains for seniors to show how tech can be decisive in increasing their life quality. And how after seeing a clear benefit, even our grannies are not afraid to try something new.
Parents increasingly find technology a roadblock to tracking student progress in the classrooms. There are too many options, with too few instructions that seem to constantly change. One of our Ask a Tech Teacher contributors summed it up like this:
Most parents have some concerns about keeping up with the part of the digital revolution that has extended to their child’s classroom. Parents who are not comfortable with technology, or who have no experience with it at all are facing challenges. Some of these non-techie parents are asking questions such as:
* What kind of devices, programs, and/or apps will my child be using?
* How will the school communicate with me about my child’s progress in using a technological device?
* How much time during the school day does my child spend using a technological device?
* Will my child be taught to read, write and do mathematics without using a technological device?
* Does this school have an anti-cyberbullying program?
* Is the use of technology really good for my child’s education?
Parents who are not tech-savvy may be reassured about their children’s educations and futures when they understand that technological devices do not take the place of teachers.
I’m taking the day to honor our soldiers. Hang the American flag and call my two soldier children. Say hi, how are you. When are you coming home to visit? (more…)
Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Cassie Phillips, is a consultant and internet security expert. She is passionate about sharing information on protecting children from cyberattacks making policy to improve school systems on this topic. You’ll enjoy her latest article on how to address cyberbullying with your students:
Cyberbullying refers to a situation in which a teen, preteen or child is embarrassed, humiliated, harassed, threatened, tormented or otherwise targeted by another on interactive technology such as smartphones or social media. If your instincts tell you that cyberbullying is going on, it’s best to investigate the situation no matter what it is. Cyberbullying and aggression in schools can only promote a culture of violence and negatively impact education.
School systems and the government have put in place policies and legislation to deal with cyberbullying in schools. Out of all the students that report being victims of cyberbullying, 23 percent will turn to a teacher as their first contact person. Therefore, the teacher’s role in cyberbullying is imperative as a facilitator of communication between the parent and the school. They play a central role in prevention as they are knowledgeable about what is going on in the classroom. They can give recommendations for online safety that are tailored to a given situation.
A common and recurring question from parents is how to keep their children safe while using the internet. I haven’t covered this topic in a while, but Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Sara Stringer, came to the rescue with this great article on How parents can protect their children online:
One of the best things about the internet is that it brings the world to you. That is also one of the worst things about it. The struggle for parents is always to keep from limiting the beneficial information available to our children while we keep them away from the harmful influences in cyberspace.
Despite the high stakes, many parents prefer to bury their heads in the sand. But the news is littered with so many tragic stories of kids victimized through contacts made online that parents have no choice in the matter. They have to watch for exploitation in the middle of education. This vigilance has led to the development of systems such as WebSafety that permit simple, detailed monitoring of what your kids are doing.
Here are the things you need to be doing:
Know Who Is Out There
I love hearing a parent’s perspective on technology in their classrooms so I reached out to efriend, Joe Peters for his thoughts. Joe’s not only a parent, but a freelance journalist and tech enthusiast, so he knew exactly how to get his ideas across on the printed page. You won’t want to miss this article:
Parents are aware that classrooms nowadays are much different than when they went to school a generation ago. Students are no longer confined to their seats all day. Long instructional lectures by teachers are rare. And most of all, technology has invaded the classroom in the form of equipment, tools and video educational lessons.
In most cases, parents have welcomed this new leaning phenomenon known as EdTech. One survey published on EdTechReview states that 87% of the parents polled feel that the implementation of effective technology in schools is an important element in helping their children succeed. Of those parents voicing a positive opinion on EdTech, 64% said they were happy with their child’s school and thought it was doing a good of utilizing technology effectively.
Not all parents are convinced about the benefits of EdTech, however. They question the true effectiveness of EdTech and the long-range effect it has on their children.
Some of the most common questions parents have related to EdTech:
Is technology a priority in the school my child is attending and what are the technology goals for the school this year?
How will the school communicate with parents and transmit important information to them concerning EdTech progress?
What type of technology devices will the children be using?
How much screen time does my child utilize every day?
Are we raising a generation of students who cannot write in longhand or who cannot spell without spellcheck?
What access will my child have to technology tools at school?
What access will the students have to the Internet?
Is there a school policy on cyberbullying?
What is the school policy on children bringing cell phones and personal devices from home?
Does technology enhance my child’s educational experience over the pre-technology experience?
These are all valid questions. The overriding point for parents to be assured of is that technology is never a replacement for teachers. EdTech is a tool that extends a child’s natural ability and desire to learn. Technology tools help students to be more creative and to explore and experiment in ways they never could without the classroom computer and Internet access.
Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please contact me at askatechteacher at gmail dot com and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.
Here’s a great question I got from Christy:
I love your site – holy buckets of information! I was looking for examples of great classroom blog sites – I do marketing for our school and we had set up “classroom” blog pages for the teachers to control and be able to put up information – i.e. links to great sites relevant to their kids, their bio, hot reference sheets (memory work schedule, etc.) –
We are updating our website and the principal wants to take the blogs down so that it is not so much work for the teachers and they don’t have to take the time to update.
This is not surprising as our teachers are not great at keeping themselves tech savvy – so it is not like they are excited to have a blog page and are mostly just using it to “post” a periotic classroom update vs. making it a rich parent resource page.
I am curious with your tech wisdom – is this a trend for strong schools that teachers have a page for parents – does it help the school or classes stand out in a parents mind? Does it help with the marketing of the school and the value it offers in and out of the classroom? (we are a private school)
Is it worth me outlining a case to keep the blog and how to take them to a higher useful level or drop it – as it doesn’t matter and is not really a trend in classrooms today anyway?
I’m sad to hear that your principal wants to remove the teacher blog pages. It may solve the problem of out-of-date and non-relevant information, but the unintended consequences will be worse. Parents expect teachers to connect to them on a tech level, to offer 24/7 access via an online site like a blog (or a wiki, website, or any number of other albeit more complicated forums). They expect to be able to find homework help, links, resources, school materials at 7 at night while organizing the next school day with their child. Removing that access because teachers have difficulty keeping it up-to-date will solve one problem while causing many more.
Let’s back up a moment: Do you know why teachers aren’t keeping blogs up-to-date? Maybe:
- they don’t know how–a training session or 1:1 help might get them over this hump
- they think it takes too long–maybe a template with simple fill-ins, add-tos, or tweaks would make it faster. Truly, all teachers really need to start with is weekly lesson plans–resources, dates, reminders, newsletters. Fancy and involved can come later.
- they don’t think they are techie enough–recurring tech training might be necessary. Kids are baptized in iPads and smartphones. We can’t meet them where they are ready to learn if we’re afraid to enter that geeky room. Kids love learning with blogs, iPads, apps, online webtools–that sort.