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

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.

One Device to Rule Them All

We see posts all the time that tote one device’s superiority over another. Things like, “Why the _______ is the clear winner in K-12 education” or “The _____ is now in ___ percent of all classrooms in America”. You know what I’m talking about. It’s no secret that there’s competition among companies to have their device most widely adopted. Who wouldn’t want their device to be the device of choice for K-12 school districts? Do you have a favorite device nearby right now? Do I have my favorite device(s)? Sure I do. If you follow me on Twitter or heard me on the Two Guys Show or Dads in Ed recently, you know what a couple of my favorite devices are.

'life-toolbox--richardstep-unleash-your-strengths' photo (c) 2012, Richard Stephenson - license:

There’s an array of reasons why a district might choose one device over another. Cost likely being the biggest factor. Sometimes it just comes down to what you can afford and what you can’t. School districts have to also look at things like infrastructure, device management, tech support, etc.  There’s a lot to take into consideration.

However, this poses the question: do we give students a say on which device(s) they’d prefer to use? Are we actively seeking their opinion and input on which device(s) should be made available to them? Too many times this does not happen. Perhaps we are purchasing too many of one particular device and not enough of another? Do devices need to vary along a student’s K-12 education years? I think they do. I raised this point during last night’s #edchat. Districts and schools must be ready, willing, and able to support multiple device types; whether that be school provided or through a BYOD plan.  I believe the more devices students have exposure to the better. Do they need to be using all of them all the time? Of course not. Should a district buy an exorbitant amount of devices? No. As students use different types of devices, however, they will know which is most suitable for the task at hand. This is, of course, going to happen over time. Through careful decision-making, increasing teacher comfort level, and changing pedagogy through models like SAMR (Kathy Schrock has great information here) and T-PACK (Steven Anderson put together some great information here).

Trying to find one device that will be THE device students will ever need is like saying the only tool a handyman will ever need is a screwdriver. If we want students to be creators, publishers, and global contributors we shouldn’t limit them to only one platform. Something suitable for a primary grade student isn’t necessarily suitable for an 8th grader. We must be ready; and okay with this.

Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments.

Don’t Forget the Little Things: Movement Matters

Forward movement matters. Remaining first and foremost a learner is a mindset that matters.

When striving to move administrators, teachers, students, support staff, etc. forward with technology, we need to keep in mind that movement matters.  Any movement. Even if you view what you’re learning/trying as minuscule or not as much as another colleague is doing, it still matters. You’re keeping a “learner first” mindset.  It’s a mindset that’s going to benefit you as an educator and it’s going to benefit the students we serve.

Whatever it is: Google Apps, social media, Chromebooks, tablets, etc. (the list can go on and on); you’re stepping out and trying something new. Don’t worry about how fast or slow you’re moving forward. The point is that you’re moving forward! You’re tackling the fear of trying something new head on. You’re modeling a learner mindset. We should be constantly be modeling this for our students, parents, the community, and those we lead.

I think sometimes we think that if our forward movement isn’t happening fast enough or in a big way in a short amount of time, we see it as not being a big deal.  As not mattering or having something worthy to contribute at a staff meeting, in a tweet, in a blog post, or at an edcamp. I’ve had teachers say things to me like: “Yeah but all I’m doing is (blank).” or “I don’t have anything worthwhile to contribute.”.

If you’re trying out something new you’ve learned, own it. Be proud of what you’re doing. Share it with your colleagues. Get comfortable with it, stick with it, and embrace the occasional “speedbumps”.  Just don’t forget to keep moving forward.