Central to any vision for integrating technology into schools should be a commitment to candid discussion and communication about that vision with parents.
In the past two years I’ve helped my school integrate technology across our fourth through sixth grade curriculum. Our use of technology is guided by three key questions:
- Does instruction with technology encourage inquiry and investigation?
- Does it extend learning beyond the walls of the classroom and embrace the wider world?
- Does it enhance learning, encourage critical thinking and develop digital citizenship?
Administrators and teachers need to develop a vision for how they will use technology in the classroom. This is about more than just the devices. It is about developing a clear, overarching philosophy that puts enhanced learning at the center of tech practices. The chart below summarizes my school’s vision.
As our vision unfolded, we realized that showing parents the benefits of this kind of instruction is the most effective way to communicate our instructional goals. For example, we demonstrate how we create a real-world audience for our classroom learning, and show how technology can help support diverse learners with different needs. Listed below are some lessons we learned over the past two years about how to engage families as part of the process.
- Share your vision. In the public relations world, the golden rule is: “Communicate early and often.” It’s a good rule of thumb for educators too.
- Be approachable. We found that hosting a morning coffee provides a relaxed yet effective environment for questions and demonstrations.
- Set up pilot projects. Small groups of students collaborated on history blogs, multimedia storytelling and other online projects. We then shared specific anecdotes, photos, and videos from this work with parents.
- Listen and take notes. The simple gesture of writing down concerns and suggestions, and then sending a follow-up email to parents clarifying points of discussion and sharing information from the morning coffee, helps parents feel part of the process.
- Be flexible when you can. If parents point out a problem, address it and make changes as necessary.
- Educate parents. Although many parents are tech-savvy, a back-to-school night where students show their parents how they use technology in class help make the benefits of the program more visible and generate parent enthusiasm.
- Encourage student ownership. Remind parents of the learning magic that’s possible when children write their teachers about homework challenges and questions or ideas for further study. Students love the responsibility of communicating directly with their teachers.
- Focus on learning. When kids return home from school and demonstrate what they learned on a project, parents quickly become your most enthusiastic supporters.
If you have any lessons you’ve learned through your own efforts to share how you’re using technology with the public, please share in the comments!