Today’s learning revolution taking place across the globe is creating opportunities to reflect, enhance and transform what we do in education. One of the areas that many are revisiting is relationships. Undoubtedly, education is a shared responsibility; it does not begin at 8am and end at 3pm, nor does it begin at age 5 and end at age 18. John Dewey said it best, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
As many schools prepare to go 1:1 or BYOD we spend a lot of time talking about network filters, apps, classroom management and much more. However, it is important to remember that alongside many of the pressing agenda items that need to be checked off is how you are developing an ongoing relationships with parents to communicate why and how you are moving in this direction.
Like many of the concepts, school-community engagement is not a new idea. However, as we move forward in today’s connected age many of us are thinking about how we can enhance and develop school partnerships with the parent community.
In the classroom we always emphasize how it’s important to first identify learning objectives before we search for tools. It is imperative that we approach all matters pertaining to technology in this manner. Begin first by examining your objectives and goals. When approaching parents, what message would you like to communicate? Why is it important that you engage them? How will you engage all of them? Once you have answered these key questions, you can then begin to think about what tools can help you in achieving your objectives.
In 2010 when I was leading the 1:1 initiative at Fairmont Private Schools, it was important to us that our parents were engaged in the process and partnered with us as we moved forward. Before placing devices in the hands of students we spent a year on professional development for teachers and parents. Once a month we met with both groups and for our parents who were not able to attend meetings we created an online space where we could communicate. I’m going to share four ideas for engaging the parent community that you can implement as you begin or move forward in your 21st century initiatives.
Interactive Parent Meetings Using Nearpod
I’m a strong believer in the idea that you can talk about how fantastic something is all you want, but until people on the other end don’t experience it for themselves they’ll never understand your enthusiasm and excitement. In my latest article, “How to Win Teachers and Influence Your Learning Community,” I take a look at lessons we can learn from Dale Carnegie. One of the ideas Carnegie talks about is the importance of being able to arouse enthusiasm and understand another person’s perspective when trying to get support for an idea. He shares a quote from Charles Schwab who said, “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people the greatest asset I possess.”
When we invited parents to our first, “Learning in the Digital Age,” meeting, I knew we had to do something more than just tell parents why this was important we had to arouse their enthusiasm and excitement, all while begin able to put to rest any fears they might have. To achieve our objective we contemplated many ideas, but none stood out the way Nearpod did.
Nearpod is an interactive presentation tool that allows the presenter to have customized control over other devices. Before you ask, YES Nearpod can be utilized across multiple platforms. Nearpod models an innovative and interactive classroom experience all while quelling the many fears that parents first come in with when they hear their students will be getting mobile devices. It does exactly what should be done when introducing others to technology – it leads by example. By utilizing the features that Nearpod offers, the presenter can create an experience that allows the user to engage in the process, and not just be a passive participant. It models how a student no longer has to worry about being too close or far from the screen, it models the importance of feedback during learning and it models how students can be online with the guidance of the teacher. To those who are new to the experience this is a great place to begin!
For your next meeting consider taking your presentation and turning it into a Nearpod. Include interactive elements like polls, multiple choice questions, and open-ended questions. Take them to the Internet and model how the teacher can customize the web experience. Best of all don’t tell the parents about the control features in Nearpod, model what happens when one of them leaves the app! They love when it happens every time and you’ll begin to feel that sense of fear turn into a sense of enthusiasm!
Parent Meetings Using Google Hangouts on Air and Nearpod
These days for many parents taking time out of the day to attend a face-to-face meeting is a luxury. Those who cannot attend must not be left out of the conversation. Seize this moment as yet another opportunity to lead by example and model how powerful technology can be in redefining learning experiences. A great method for creating this model is to host a Google Hangout on Air at different times throughout the week. This offers parents a great opportunity to join in the conversation at their convenience. Your flexibility and appreciation for accommodating different days/times will be much appreciated.
To take this a step further, have your participant’s login to a Nearpod presentation! Yes you can launch a Nearpod and share it with anyone and everyone no matter where they are as long as they have the PIN. It’s always a bit impersonal to say hello to your audience and then disappear to have them look at a series of slides. The combination of Google Hangouts and Nearpod allows you to keep the face to face element all while being able to engage your audience in an interactive and dynamic presentation. Yet again you will have the opportunity to arouse a sense of enthusiasm for the possibilities that lie ahead!
The best part about a Google Hangout on Air, you can add it to your website and parents can refer back to it at any point in time.
While on the topic, why only do this with parents? Consider modeling the power of being connected by hosting a PD session with folks from another place. Read about how I did this for a PD session in California and invited Steve and Luke, founders of iPadEducators.com to share their expertise here.
Creating an iTunesU Course
The above two ideas are a great way to initially engage your audience and are great to host every once in a while. However, as you move forward you are going to want to share pertinent information and resources with parents that they can peruse at their own leisure. To achieve this objective creating an iTunesU course for parents can prove to be an invaluable tool. There will be lots of communication going out throughout this process and important discussions on digital citizenship that must begin to take place, so why not house it all in one place where parents can have easy access? A great example comes from Carl Hooker from EanesUSD in Texas who utilized iTunesU to create a course titled, "Digital Parenting."
Flipping Back to School Night
There are two events that parents typically mark on their calendars well in advance – Back to School Night and Open House. Once again we have an opportunity to redefine experiences, and Scott Bedley from Orange County, CA set out to do just that. Scott is truly a leader when it comes to redefining school-home relationships and from his passion sprung this brilliant idea of flipping back to school night. Scott places great value upon the time that he knows he is going to have with parents and is determined to use it wisely. He decided instead of repeating the same seven minute talk multiple times, why not create a short video that parents could watch ahead of time introducing his class, policies/procedures and above all his website that would be a constant source of connection between the home and classroom throughout the year. When parents came to back to school night, instead of sitting in desks, moving from class to class they engaged in a more social event, discussing education, the future of learning and most importantly the reason why we all do what we do – how can we help students succeed.
Furthermore, use this as an opportunity to showcase what your students have been working on. Consider creating interactive bulletin boards where parents can see and hear the exciting learning experiences taking place again arousing enthusiasm and reaffirming why bringing mobile devices into the learning environment was a great direction to move in. To hear more about how to flip back to school night, you can listen to our interview with Scott here.
We hope you find these ideas useful as you begin to think about how you can redefine home-school relationships and engage your parent community as you move forward in 21st century learning and instruction.
In Part Three we'll speak with Steven Morrone, Assistant Principal in the Chariho Regional School District about how he is leading his learning community in their 1:1 initiative.