Doug Johnson, Director of Media and Technology for the Mankato Public Schools since 1991 (among many other things, read full bio), runs the wonderful Blue Skunk blog on learning. His latest piece, on what he calls Techno Parenting, immediately caught my eye. I recommend you read it and send your child’s school a copy.
He asks: How can schools use Technology to make vital teacher and student links? He offers some suggestions and notes on practice-
Email: It’s quick, rarely get’s lost (or misplaced 🙂 ) and inexpensive. They can also be easily indexed, stored, and rapidly retrieved.
The Telephone: It’s personal and hence the best way to communicate.
Teacher Webpages: With student information for ready access and password protected grades, notice of assignments etc to keep the parents wired. Literally.
School webpages: With information on parent meetinfs, menus, discussions, policies, course descriptions etc.
Webcams: In classrooms so parent’s or even the granny in another corner of the world can watch.
I love it. Especially the last one. I can imagine it would be great for the family too.
“Daddy couldn’t be there for your recitation sweetheart, but he saw you on his mobile from Sweden.”
That ought to make the child feel better.
Some other initiatives that could be taken:
1. Create wikis: Let the teachers, parents & students collaborate on a school policy thats up for revision. Or on a school building design. Start conversations- get people involved.
2. Text messages: A short message in the morning to inform you that your child missed school. Followed up by a call after school to check if all was well.
3. E-newsletters: To supplement the paper-based ones. Richer in content. Cooler in presentation. With video clips from the school play or an downloads of interesting presentations/artworks made by children. Of course, instantaneous feedback from parents.
4. Activities for parents to do with kids at home: Illustrated and easy – to – understand activities that parents can do with their children and in the process teach them.
Penetration of technology is increasing. More and more people are logging on. Initiative like these that link school to parents on the fly at almost no cost should be encouraged. If you are reading this and think it could work, copy these points from Doug’s website and mine and send it to your school. Make the change happen.
Caveat: In Informational Technology, there is something called the Mom Test. It says: if our mom can use this software, then its user friendly. Engineers use it before releasing new products or updates. I hope all the Moms’ reading this pass their school’s tests!
In case you are interested, here’s the (quite amusing) anecdote between Steve Ballmer (CEO of Microsoft) and his mom:
“According to an industry legend, [Microsoft CEO] Steve Ballmer conducted a mom test before the launch of Windows 95, using his own mother as the guinea pig. He started her off by asking her to Click the Start button. When she had finished trying it out, Ms Ballmer asked, ‘How do I turn it off?’ Her son, somewhat irked by this question, pointed to the start button. ‘I have to go to the start button again to stop?’ asked his mother, quite perplexed.”
Sure sounds like my mom! 🙂 And, I’d have to agree with her!