Category: Parents

summer tech fun

19 Ways Students Keep Learning Fresh Over the Summer

summer tech funTeachers have known for decades that ‘summer learning loss’ is a reality. Studies vary on how much knowledge students lose during the summer months–some say up to two months of reading and math skills–and results are heavily-dependent upon demographics, but the loss is real.

To prevent this, teachers try approaches such as summer book reports, but students complain they intrude on their summer time. When teachers make it optional, many don’t participate. The disconnect they’re seeing is that students consider these activities as ‘school’ rather than ‘life’. They haven’t bought into the reality that they are life-long learners, that learning is not something to be turned on in the schoolhouse and off on the playyard.

This summer, show students how learning is fun, worthy, and part of their world whether they’re at a friend’s house or the water park. Here are nineteen suggestions students will enjoy:


  • Youngers: Take a picture of making change at the store. Share it in a teacher-provided summer activity folder (this should be quick to use, maybe through Google Drive if students have access to that). Kids will love having a valid reason to use Mom’s smartphone camera.
  • Any age: Take a picture of tessellations found in nature (like a beehive or a pineapple). Kids will be amazed at how many they find and will enjoy using the camera phone. Once kids have collected several, upload them to a program like Shadow Puppets where they can record audio notes over the picture and share with friends.
  • Any age: Pit your math and technology skills against your child’s in an online math-based car race game like Grand Prix Multiplication. They’ll know more about using the program and will probably win–even if you do the math faster. You might even have siblings compete.
  • Grades 2-5: Set up a summer lemonade stand. Kids learn to measure ingredients, make change, listen to potential customers, and problem-solve. If you can’t put one up on your street, use a virtual lemonade stand.
  • Any age: If your child wants to go somewhere, have them find the location, the best route, participation details, and other relevant information. Use free online resources like Google Maps and learn skills that will be relevant to class field trips they’ll take next year.


parent class

How to Run a Parent Class

parent-teacher classParents 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:


Tech-Savvy Seniors: Myth or Present-Day Reality?

seniors and technologyA 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 and technology

How Do Non-Techie Parents Handle the Increasing Focus of Technology in Education?

parents and technologyParents 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.


What a Teacher Can Do About Cyberbullying

bullying-679274_960_720Ask 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.


How Parents Can Protect Their Children Online

family at home using tablet computerA 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


kids and technology

Parent Questions About Edtech

parents and technologyI 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: Can We Eliminate Blogs–Teachers Hate Them!

tech questions

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?

Hi Christy

blogging in classI’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.


parents education

Four Ways Teachers Can Stay Connected With Their Student’s Parents Using Technology

parents classroomI was chatting with Mary over at the Dial My Calls site (click to see my review of Dial My Calls) and she had some great suggestions for  how teachers can use technology to stay in touch with parents:

A lot of emphasis has been given to getting parents involved in their child’s education, but with a teacher’s already full schedule and parents who are already stretched thin, this is not always easy to accomplish. Luckily, technology has intervened and come up with some very innovative solutions that make it quick and easy for a teacher to stay connected with parents.

Create A Class Website

Setting up a class website is a way for parents to see what is going on at their own convenience. It should feature a calendar that has highlighted all of the special events as well as test dates and special assignment due dates. It should only take the teacher a few moments to update the website and calendar weekly, adding in daily homework assignments, special announcements and achievements.