I just attended a discussion with Alan November of November Learning. He discussed how we as educators need to be willing to let students use the technology that is at their fingertips. Despite all of the concerns that we have, students should be using their phones and other electronic devices to access information.
As the discussion was going on, I began thinking of ways that I could incorporate technology into what I do. Considering that parental involvement is the single most important factor of student achievement, I want to integrate technology ideas that will involve the parents of my students. Up to this point, I haven't been a huge Twitter person, but I am beginning to see how its use in my classroom might be beneficial.
This year, I began using the Remind101 app to remind my students (and their parents) of upcoming assessments and activities. I have even used it to pose questions to the students, but the missing component has been the ability for students to respond to me or have discussions with each other. Collaboration is a 21st Century skill that all of my students need, but I haven't been allowing it to take place...mostly out of fear. We are told to limit our communications with students, to keep things professional (which I totally understand and agree with), but shouldn't learning be able to take place outside of the school day? Shouldn't our students be taught the skills of collaboration that they need? Doesn't this happen 24/7/365? And don't we need to include the parents in the learning process (considering their involvement may determine whether or not the students will prove to be successful)?
In order for this to be done correctly, students need to be taught digital etiquette & citizenship, and we, as a school, need to do everything in our power to insure that EVERY parent has the ability to connect to these resources. We cannot continue to wait for 100% of our families to be connected to the global world. Surely there was a time when all families were not able to purchase paper or basic school supplies for their children, but did education come to a halt? No, educators and schools took whatever actions were needed to bring every student and their family "up to speed" so to speak. Maybe families don't have the wi-fi needed to connect to the internet, but just maybe there is a local store (or even your school) that can provide that resource for free. So, what can we do to get every parent connected to this new digital teaching world we are upon?
It is going to take baby steps. First, we need to incorporate it in our individual classrooms and find ways to get all of the students on board. For me, giving every student a laptop/ipad and getting them connected to the web at home, just isn't feasible. So what can I put in place immediately? For the most part, a large majority of my students have a cell phone (or a parent that does) and the majority also have texting capability. (By the way, I live in a small town, with a very large minority population and an ever-growing population of Mexican immigrants who speak very little, if any English. A little over 50% of our students are economically disadvantaged and at-risk.). So using Twitter as a method of communication and collaboration would be a simple addition.
I can foresee posting pictures of what's happening in my classroom because it would be great to allow the families access and a look into my classroom! And I'm sure you parents can agree with me, but isn't it annoying when you ask your child what they learned at school, and their response is "I don't know." So if I begin posting questions for parents to ask their students about that evening, it gives families a conversation starter and my students will be continuing their learning outside of the school day- what an awesome gift!
My ideas are flowing, but I want to be realistic in what I can easily implement. I'd love to hear from other teachers who are implementing technology to involve parents and foster student collaboration.