Educating Parents Through Participation

Because of the personal and professional learning journey that I have been on these last two years and the success stories that I have heard from the k12 Online Conference, I decided to try something this winter. It is during this time of the year that I typically hold some kind of seminar or class for the parents at our school about the Internet, technology, and society. Last year, with mainstream media’s discovery of digital social networks (MySpace and FaceBook), the focus of the conversations were on these tools. I presented at various parent dialogues that our our Parent’s Association encourages the all of the parents of a single grade to have. I presented to all each of our High School’s parent groups (9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th), a single session to our Middle School parents (6th, 7th, and 8th) and a session in the spring for our Lower School parents (focusing our 3rd – 5th grades).

In the fall, my school head asked me what we planned on doing this year. He wanted to make sure that we continued to keep the conversations that we began last spring alive. During the fall, we utilized the normal communication from our division heads, such as comments in open houses and notices in mailings to keep the conversation in the forefront.

This year, I wanted to move beyond the presentation and challenge parents to begin participating using tools similar to those used by their children. I began planning this course over our Thanksgiving Holiday, after contacting the Parent Education committee head of our Parent’s Association. Upon hearing the idea, she enthusiastically began to help publicize this course to our parents. Last Thursday, I kicked off the project. I had 25 parents in attendance and another five who communicated that they wanted to participate but could not be there.

To facilitate this experience, I created a Moodle course, Gaining Digital Citizenship, for the parents. We use Moodle as our course management solution for many of our Upper School and Middle School classes. I want parents to learn about Internet Safety and Web 2.0 tools through actually using them. Through their experience, I am trying to allow parents to better be able to guide their children. I am hoping that if the parents get stuck, that they can ask their children for help. Each week I will be posting a different set of links centered around different topics. This week, as a hook, it is centered around Internet safety. I have assembled text resources and podcasts for the parents to listen to. I have also created homework assignments. For the first week, it is to answer questions on a forum (threaded discussion), since it is an easily grasped concept for parents to work with. In succeeding weeks, I plan on introducing parents to other Web 2.0 tools, including blogs and wikis.

I also want to encourage you to feel free to point your parents to this resources, so that they can begin to participate as well. Extending the range of dialogue will increase the richness of the collaborations that I am hoping that parents walk away with. Registration is simple, a simple email validation.

At the opening meeting, a parent of a 2nd and 3rd grader came up to me and said, “this seems really interesting, but I am afraid that I will sit down to work for an hour and then find out that I have been working for three.” My reply was that was part of the experience. That knowing and experiencing how engaging online learning can sometimes be, they may be able to help her children set limits and recognize the signs.

As the course progresses, I will be sharing thoughts and reflections. It will be interesting to see what happens as a result of this experiment. Since starting, I have also heard that Bob Sprankle and Cheryl Oakes have begun a similar course and the Chris Lehman is thinking about doing one this spring. I hope to hear about their experiences and will share mine should they want to hear them.

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3 thoughts on “Educating Parents Through Participation

  1. This is a very cool idea. I just did an internet safety talk a week ago to a handful of parents — that’s all that showed up — and had time only to touch briefly on several important ideas. Now I guess I need to learn moodle to make this possible. Any chance of sharing this module with us fellow tech coordinators?

    John Wheaton
    St. Francis High School
    Louisville, KY

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