Parents as #Edtech Partners

A partnership with parents is critical to all success in our schools and classrooms; technology or not. There’s always a barrage of initiatives and events; academic, extracurricular, athletic, or otherwise. Looking specifically through the lens of technology, however, we must pay careful attention to the partnerships we’re hopefully already forming with our parents. With all the 1:1 implementations, STEM, apps, devices, etc. we’re giving kids access to, we must constantly be assessing where parents are at in terms of a foundational understanding of what this means for their child(ren).

I have said many times in talks and workshops I’ve given that I believe

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parents are the most underserved group in education. Is it solely a school district’s job to educate parents about technology, social media, digital citizenship, etc.? Of course not. As a parent myself, I still need to first and foremost be a diligent parent and make time to check my daughter’s phone, ask lots of question, and embarrass her in public as often as possible. 🙂 However, the more access to the world and devices we provide students to have that access, we must create not only learning opportunities for staff, but for the parents as well.

So, what are some ways we can do this? I have seen some very successful parent learning nights around technology, STEM, and digital citizenship. Guess what? The best ones weren’t led by teachers, they were led by kids! Yes, elementary students too. Put the planning in students’ hands. Ask them to come up with the agenda of what their parents need to know about Chromebooks, iPads, G Suite, Chrome, this app, that app, etc. Have the students share about what good online collaboration looks like, what it means to be a good digital citizen, and show examples of the amazing things technology allows them to create and learn about.

This is all called being proactive instead of reactive about #edtech. Create learning opportunities for parents before something negative happens. It makes those difficult conversations (about negative topics) a bit easier and students have more ownership of technology’s place in teaching and learning.

Growing People Change People

I often see this question in Twitter chats, in keynotes, or when it’s asked of esteemed panelists: “How do we create real, systemic change in education?”.

While I’ve never thought there was one clear answer to this question; one particular action or formula that could solve all the problems in education, I do believe that people (as in you and I and every other education Bonsai plant picturestakeholder) have all the power to make the changes that need to be made for our students. The power lies with us. We should never underestimate the power of a group of people who are well-informed about the possibilities available to our students.

Think about it this way. What if every person that attended a conference, went to an edcamp, participated in a Twitter chat, etc. committed to sharing 1 new idea with just 1 person? Then the 1 person they told commits to sharing with 1 person, and so on and so on. While your school or district likely sees the value in participating in professional learning opportunities, do they see (and hold teachers accountable to) the value of sharing out what has been learned? Not just creating reflection around how it will help me as a teacher, but looking deeper at how it will help me help others.

Just like we should be personalizing and differentiating learning for students, I wholeheartedly believe teachers should get the same in their professional learning. While I’m sure there’s more work to do in that specific area, I think a lot of systems are seeing the value and starting to provide a wider variety of options, particularly self-directed ones. However, we must make a more concerted plan of how our learning is not only going to affect our teaching and learning but how it could affect all teaching and learning. We need to lean more on our own people and empower them to spread their genius to all stakeholders.

 

Inviting Students to Learn Alongside Teachers

This past Monday, I had the privilege of facilitating a day-long workshop around YouTube and the power of video in the classroom. I had found out beforehand that my audience was going to be half teachers, half students. I had certainly worked with students before but I think this was the first time they were truly “attending” something I was leading. I felt good about the workshop going in, but I did have in the back of my mind a bit of nervousness (I always do, students or not) about how it would go with students being there. I love teaching on this topic so I wanted to make sure what I was sharing was applicable to teachers and students both.

The high school students that joined their teachers were outstanding. Not only did they fully engage with me by asking great questions and participating, they felt comfortable enough to help me out with helping their teachers throughout the day. It made me wonder, “What if we did this more often?”.  What if we allowed students to sit down and learn alongside teachers? What if we allowed students to actually lead professional development? Many of the edtech topics I frequently see presented could be equally as applicable to students and I’m sure students could come up with some great topics to teach us too. How about we create more opportunities for them?

student helping a teacher