Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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As part of the #EduroChallenge leading up to our Micro-Credential program launch, we wanted to pay tribute to the most important educators in a student’s lives…their Parents. Nobody has more influence over a child in their lives than their parent/guardian does…and raising a child today is different.

Digital Parenting is No Longer Optional

It’s a hard realization I find for many parents. Understanding there are things your child may be doing online that you don’t know about, or maybe just don’t understand. The following video is from one of the parenting sessions I did last school year for Everett School District.

This was just the first half of the night. At this point, the students left to do other activities and then I got to have some real heart to heart conversations with the parents in the room. We touched on some of the information I reflected on in this blog post, as well as other information on what children are really doing on their devices and why it is so important for schools to work with parents in helping today’s generation understand Digital Literacy.

Kim, Chrissy and I are so passionate about this subject of helping schools, PTAs and parents everywhere, that we created six online courses for parents around the top concerns we have heard from parents and schools throughout the years of doing trainings. I truly believe these courses might be some of the best we have created so far and are so needed today.

Each course focuses in on a different aspect of things to consider when being a digi-parent. We have interviewed parents from around the world to hear what strategies they are employing for their own kids, as well as readings. There is a private Facebook group that goes with the courses where all parents can share stories, ideas, and strategies that work for their families.

If you are a parent or know a parent these courses are for you. If you are a member of the PTA and would like to have us come and do a PTA presentation or work with you…we’d love to. We can even do a blended learning model where a school or PTA can become a member and we will come to your meeting or school once each course to lead discussions, talk through ideas and help support your community.

As part of our Micro-Credential #EduroChallenge and launch. If you purchase any or all of the parenting courses before October 15, 2017 you can save 15% on checkout using the code: TTSparents

I often start or end may of my parent presentations with:

“Congrats! No parent has ever raised a digitally connected child. You’re the first of your kind!”

It’s true…it’s hard to lean on all those parenting skills that you learn and read about when the rules around play, friendships and hanging out have changed…sort of.

Danah Boyd’s great research paper “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens” (PDF, Book, Audio Book) is some of the best research I have seen in helping all of us understand the new complicated lives of Networked Teens today.

If you read the research, you start to understand how 10 students had their acceptance from Harvard rescinded recently. How does something like this happen? It’s complicated for sure but it starts with understanding and education. My own fear about this recent Harvard news; there are parents out there that will take the social networks away from their children. That’s not the answer and in some cases can make things worse. It’s time we all come together; parents, teachers, schools to understand and educate ourselves about the new connected world these children are growing up in and how we can support them in making the right choices that will lead them to great possibilities.

Over the past year Kim Cofino and Chrissy Hellyer have been hard at work to put together resources for parents to first understand the new social lives of children today, and then help them support their children through this new digitally connected landscape.

Throughout the next month Kim and Chrissy will be holding Facebook Live sessions for parents as well as giving away some great resources they have created to help parents understand and educate their children. Kim’s first Facebook Live session was last week where she focused on helping all of us understand the new learning landscape these children are now growing up in and why and how we must embrace this in our homes and schools.

Here is the full schedule of Facebook Live Events:

June 1: Kim Cofino: How is learning today different from when we were in school? (above)

June 8: Chrissy Hellyer: Technology Never Sleeps: Managing Our Many Digital Devices

June 15: Chrissy Hellyer: Staying Safe Online: Helping your child build good “digital habits”

June 22: Kim Cofino: Social Media & Your Child: Connecting, sharing and communicating with others

June 29: Kim Cofino: Overexposed: Helping your child to navigate and manage what they see in a media rich world

July 6: Chrissy Hellyer: Is your child learning while they’re playing games online?

We have created a calendar that you can easily add to your own calendaring system. Just click on this link and follow the prompts to add our Eduro Live Events Calendar to your own calendar.

Free Resources:

Along with the Facebook Live sessions each week, you will also get access to the free resources Kim and Chrissy have created. Here’s a list of the freebies you can get.

7 Things All Parents Need to Know about Kids and Technology

Top 10 Tips for Managing Screen Time

Conversation Starters and Family Media Agreement Template

Parent’s Guide to Instagram, SnapChat and YouTube

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Helping your child navigate a media rich world

A Parent’s Guide to Minecraft

Each resource will be released during the Facebook Live session on the Eduro Learning Facebook Page. Or if you sign up for the Eduro Learning Newsletter you’ll get access to them in your inbox as well. We do ask for your email to receive these free resources. It’s our way of tracking which resources are most popular so we know what to create for you in the future.

As we approach the end of the school year we feel the summer months are the perfect time for parents to both learn and implement some of these strategies to help their children become amazing digital citizens. I hope you will help us spread the word among the parent communities at your school.

We also offer in-depth Online Courses that parents can take on their own or that a school/district can purchase to use with their school community. See our Parent Courses for more details.

The world we exist in now is very much an on-demand one. We expect to watch our favorite TV shows when we want where we want, we expect to have the entire music library in our pocket. We want what we want when we want it.

We believe professional development for educators is headed in the same direction.

Over the past six months, the team and I at Eduro Learning have been working on a new online learning system that not only is on-demand but could lead to new micro-credentials. Our goal is to partner with school districts where teachers could receive Clock Hours or Continuing Education Credits (CEC) through the school that leads to either re-certification and/or movement on the salary scale within the district.

Districts seem to be interested. We have already started rolling this out in the Marysville School District and Everett Public Schools with more schools and districts interested in signing up.

badge-coding_classroom
The badge you will receive from the coding in the classroom course.

The idea is that teachers can take different courses. Each course earns them a badge of completion. Teachers can then take a combination of courses that lead to a micro-credential. Our first micro-credentials are:

As we started creating these micro-credentials for teachers we realized there was a need to support parents as well.  So we’re excited to announce the launch of the Parenting in the Digital Age Certificate.  Zurich International School is now offering these courses to their entire parent community.

 

pdacoutline

This six-course certificate program is self-paced. Parents can take courses in any order or just take the course or courses they want to take and learn about. Of course, the content is not even half of what the program is really about. The social aspect within the courses is where the real learning happens. We have created a social learning experience for parents to support each other, try new approaches, have conversations and help one another as they raise their kids in a new digitally connected world.

We are excited about the direction these micro-credentials are headed and feel that this is just one more way we can help school communities as a whole. If your district or school is interested in chatting about how you can bring these micro-credentials to your school please feel free to contact me.

This article from The Guardian has been sitting in my inbox now for about a month. Waiting mostly for me to calm down so I can write about this halfway intelligently.

Let’s start with this:

Andy Phippen, professor of social responsibility at Plymouth University, said sexting – where schoolchildren are encouraged to take explicit photographs of themselves and send to other pupils – was a problem in most schools, despite the study revealing that 89% of parents believe their child has not been touched by cyberbullying or sexting.

“There is a disconnect between how safe parents think they can keep their children online and their actual ability to do that,” Phippen said. “Those conversations are not being had – we have a hell of a long way to go on internet safety. In schools we hear teachers unwilling to talk to teenagers about sexual images because they worry about their jobs, schools unwilling to record instances of cyberbulling because they are worried about their Ofsted reports.”

Now add this:

AVG security expert Tony Anscombe said half of the parents consider a school’s internet safety policy when making their selection, and 95% thought online safety should be mandatory in schools. “We know parents take responsibility of online safety seriously […] yet we’re not living up to the standards we’re setting by avoiding conversations about exposure to explicit adult content, privacy or other Internet-related threats,” he said. “It comes as no surprise then that nearly 90% of parents aren’t aware of whether their child has been exposed to cyberbullying or sexting – two of the most common internet risks facing children.”

So where do we go from here? Well it should start with conversations both at home and at school. However, conversations at school are hard when the sites that we need to have the conversations about are blocked and do not allow us to teach about them. When we don’t face websites like Facebook head on, we allow them to become places of Cyberbullying. You want to help decrease cyberbullying on Facebook? UNBLOCK it! Not one school that I have talked to has said that cyberbullying has increased once Facebook was unblocked. Instead cyberbullying decreases because:

  1. We have shined a light on the dark corner
  2. We can now talk about it in school
  3. We can use it and show students how powerful of a tool it can be as well as how dangerous it can be
Photo Credit: Joybot via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Joybot via Compfight cc

Two of the most common internet risks facing children are sexting and cyberbullying. Not predators on the Internet. By blocking sites, we are not keeping our students safe, we are giving them a place to hide. The online predator thing was and has continued to be an overblown idea since 2009 with this report (NYTimes article worth a read).

Yet when schools tell me “we need to keep kids safe” they more often than not are talking about online predators when really we should be talking about keeping kids safe from kids. That we can do by educating, but we can only educate if we are given the tools to educate with. Which means unblocking social-networking site and teaching students how to use them propertly.

Let’s start by giving every student a public blog in say 3rd grade and then teach them what it means to be in public. Who can access it? Where does the content go? How does this all work becuase class after class that I visit from 4th grade through seniors in high school have no idea where their content goes when they click “Publish”.

The survey of 2,000 parents carried out by AVG technologies and Plymouth University found 92% were confident about their ability to teach online safety. “People tend to think they are protected in some way, that there are parental fixes in place – but that is not always the case,” said Phippen.

Let’s get over this idea of “protection”. The best way to be protected is to be educated. The best way to educate is to be in these spaces, understand them, learn how to use them, with an adult. Sure at my last school we had students misuse their blogs, but it led to a conversation to help that student understand. I would much rather have a conversation about how to use these sites properly in 4th grade before habits are set and they mess up their careers later in life. We’re so worried about protecting that we are not educating.

The only way we are going to help solve this issue is through education. By unblocking sites we not only actually help educators do this, but we open up amazing learning opportunities at the same time. It’s a win – win situation for everyone.

Anna left a comment on my blog post about 1:1 program with MS and HS students that reads:

My son attends a school where MacBooks are required from grades 8-12, and students use many different assistive technology tools. I believe that 1:1 is great as a learning TOOL, but because students have their laptops with them all the time, there is no “down” time when they have to use their own initiative to think, dream, plan, create w/o a screen. He gets up and will open the laptop before breakfast to play, he will play or noodle around with his iTunes in the car on the way to school, on the way home from school, and every other time that kids used to be unplugged. He is not creating, he is consuming. It is a huge fight in our household.

What advice do you have for parents in dealing with this dark side-effect of a mandatory BYOL environment?

girlwithxo
by One Laptop per Child

It’s a good question and my first response is what is your school doing to help train parents on both their responsibility and management of technology that the school provides?

Here at ISB we do a couple of different things. We first have a mandatory meeting that at least one parent has to attend we run the same training three to four times at different time periods for parents. Of course the kids make them go as they want their laptops.

We also run a set of 5 courses called the ISB Technology Certificate for Parents. We’ve taken 100 parents through the program over the past two years. Now, not every parents will take it, but enough do and they talk to other parents and the message we give in the courses spreads through the community. Spreading an understanding of the use of the laptops and what parents can do to help support their children at home.

If a school is going to give every students a laptop, I feel, they have an obligation to not only train students but parents on good use of the technology.

My Advice For Parents:

Remember That You Are The Parent

When it comes to technology, many parents feel that they do not know enough to create limits and boundaries. Because of this they do not feel right taking the technology away. You are still the parent and in your house you make the rules. You have every right to take the computer away from your child if you feel they are not having enough “down time”. I know one family that the whole family felt out of balance so they unplug the Internet in their house. So everyone has to be disconnected at the same time. They use this time to reconnect as a family and just have some ‘down’ time.

Create Family Rules

The #1 thing you can do is have a conversation with your child. I strongly encourage every family to sit down and talk about exactly the points you raise. Make family rules that everyone can live by. No computer before breakfast, no computer in the car while someone is driving, etc. These are good times to be disconnected and be together as a family. If the parents also abide by these family rules then there is buy-in from everyone. Everyone having to give it up is easier then “Why do I have to give it up but Dad can still check email on is iPhone?”

Homework Shouldn’t Take Longer

“But mom, I’m doing my homework.” What a great way to play on your computer and waste time. If your school gave 2 hours of homework before the 1:1 program, they’re probably still only giving about 2 hours of homework after the 1:1 program. But students play this card a lot. Set a limit that you think is reasonable and if they don’t finish their homework in that set time, then too bad they don’t get their homework done. If they make the choice to use their time unwisely they pay the consequences. Learning to manage your time is a skill, especially in Middle School, that we all need to help teach students. The computer makes this harder, and also easier. We have parents e-mail or call teachers and let them know that their child did not finish their homework because they were playing around on their laptop. Teachers usually support this, the student gets a zero and usually a good talking to from the teacher. Sometimes if the problem persists, teachers will recommend after school detention or Saturday School as a consequence for not getting assignments done. It usually doesn’t take long before kids get the message.

Are They Really Just Consuming

Many times we think kids playing video games or “messing around” on their computers is not a learning experience. Take the time to watch and ask yourself “What are they learning?”. Creation with the laptop can sometimes be hard to spot. A great example is the game that is sweeping through our Middle School at the moment called Mindcraft. As far as games go these days, it is about as calm and creative as you are going to get. Basically you get to “build whatever you want” and I have to say I have seen our students build some pretty amazing things. Is it playing? Yes, with virtual legos. Creative? Absolutely. Future engineer? Very possible.

Conversation, Conversation, Conversation

Because you asked the question I know you’re thinking about it and it worries you, which tells me you’re a good parent. The best thing you can do is sit and have conversations with your child. Watch them play their games and ask them what they are doing. What do they think they are learning. Talk to them about how much time they spend on the computer and do they think it’s healthy? Take an interest in what they are doing on the computer in their free time helps to open up a dialogue between you and your child about the technology. If they know you are interested then they are willing to listen more when you start asking questions about how much time they spend “connected”.

We Still Know What’s Best For Them

gcwtechnology
All the tech I took

Now, I’m one of the biggest technology pushers out there but even I value disconnected time. Last year on a high school trip the “tech guy” took away all the technology from the kids. 10th and 11th grades…made them turn in every piece of electronics they had. They hated me for about 2 hours and then magically it didn’t matter anymore. You can read their reflections about the trip here and many of them reflect on just how connected they were and didn’t realize it and what spending a week disconnected did for them.

Disconnecting Doesn’t Always Mean No Technology

We still know what’s best for them even if they don’t think so. It’s important to disconnect and as adults I think we have an obligation to help kids understand this. Disconnecting doesn’t have to mean no technology. I love my Kindle for the simple fact all I can do is read on it. I disconnect every day when I go workout or for a run, yet I have my phone with me playing music or tracking my run via GPS. This is time disconnected yet technology still plays a supporting role. 


What other tips or advice do you have for parents who’s children are in a 1:1 program?

(Contributions to this blog post were made by my wife Daneah Galloway, a National Certified School Counselor.)

Last week the Ed Tech team here at my school held a 3 hour social networking workshop for parents. The workshop was requested by parents after we made a brief presentation to the school board back in November.

Before we began we took a quick poll of the 20 parents (all mothers):

  • Non had a Facebook account but a couple of them had heard about it.
  • Non had been on YouTube but they all had heard about it.
  • What did they want to know: How to see what their kids were doing on the computer without them knowing about it.

In the 3 hours we covered the following:

  • 20 minutes on introductions and Inside ISB our new educational portal
  • 20 minutes on PantherNet (Moodle) our walled garden for learning
  • 20 minute presentation on why students are so connected (this year’s seniors were born the same year the Internet was invented…they will never know a time without the Internet)
  • 20 minutes on using YouTube as a life lone learning tool (parents searched for ‘how to’ videos on things they were interested in).
  • 20 minutes on Internet Safety
  • 20 minutes on web based library resources
  • 20 minutes on Facebook
  • 20 minutes on Google Search Skills
  • 20 minutes on breaks, Q&A

It was an enlightening three hours for both sides I think. I didn’t realize how little our parents knew. At one point we stopped to explain tabbed browsing and the back button.

I’ve talked about this before, that for the first time in the history of education we not only have to spend time on the students in our charge, but on re-educating our community as well on what it means to learn in today’s world.

Parents were amazed with what they could find on YouTube. One mom improved her golf swing, while another looked up recipes for dinner.

What I took away from the three hours and what has me the most worried is, that it seems that up until now these parents had taken an “Ignorance is Bliss” approach to technology, and rather than learning the tools what they really wanted was to find a way to spy on their kids.

Of course this is a similar approach many schools take….if we just ignore the changes happening then maybe they will go away. The problem is the Internet and all of its content is not going anywhere anytime soon. Worse yet, by taking this approach both in the home and in our schools, the gap between what the students know and what the adults know continues to widen.

The 20 parents that showed up obviously want to learn, think it is important and are hungry to learn more. How many parents at your school would come to a three hour workshop on social networking? 20 is a start…but we have a long way to go in re-educating our communities.

The best advice I ever give to parents is one of conversation. On more than one occasion parents have asked me where should they start. My answer is always the same. Start with your own children. Grab a pen and piece of paper and really care about these spaces. Have them walk you through their Facebook account. Try and learn and understand what they do there. If they won’t let you see their account, then you have an issue. Facebook is not a private space. If they are willing to share that information with their friends, they should be willing to share it with you. Have a conversation about what you see. See a picture that upsets you? Talk about it in an adult fashion. Ask the questions:

  • What do you think this pictures says about you?
  • Do you know all (number of friends) of your ‘friends?
  • Can you trust everyone on your ‘friends’ list not to download that picture?
  • What does that update say about you as a person?
  • Is that who you want to be known as?

These are just a couple questions that parents can use when starting those conversations with their children…again be open and listen to their responses. Even better advice….have your child help you set up your own Facebook account. This has been the most powerful moment for many parents I have talked to.

Limiting access to the computer is also not a bad thing (See Will Richardson). We need to remember that students see the computer as a ‘social gateway‘. The same rules could easily apply that have always applied about visiting or chatting with friends. The conversations remain the same, just the context changes.

Mom: “You can go play with your friends, but be home in an hour.”

which is what my mom use to say….today:

Mom: “You can go on Facebook, but you need to be back here in an hour.”

It’s the same message.

Dad: “Yes, you can go to the store with your friends, just know that dinner will be served at 7 and you are expected to be here.”

which is what my dad use to say….today:

Dad: “Yes, you can go on the Internet, just know that dinner will be served at 7 and you are expected to be here…and disconnected.”

The conversations haven’t changed…or at least haven’t changed that much, we just need to update our vocabulary and understand these social spaces are the new ‘hang outs’ for students.

What is even more important I think are the after conversations….the conversations that allow both you and your child to debrief about their day. My mom use to always ask me how my friends were doing….in fact she still does. 🙂

(After time on the computer)

Mom: “How are your friends doing?”

Son: “OK”

Mom: “What is John up to?”

Son: “Not much, his mom is away again so he and his dad are going out for dinner.”

Mom:  “Oh, how about Susie?”

Son: “She updated her status from downtown somewhere….not sure where but I’m sure she’s with Chad.”

Mom: “With Chad? Are they a…..”

Son: “Yeah, happened yesterday at school….”

Kids want to talk about their friends….we just need to ask. This is the time of their life to be soical and this generation has more ways to be connected socially than any generation before it. But they still want to know we care, we just need to update our conversations…but the conversations are the same.

What I love about kids is that kids are kids. The language might have changed, the conversations might be different, but in the end they just want someone to care about them. They want to know you care enough to ask the questions, to get to know their wired world, and to be facinated by it, not scared by it.

Strike up a conversation with a kid today, learn about their world….they are the most facinating of human beings. 🙂

(Full Disclosure: I do not have kids of my own)

Over the last couple of years I have helped numerous teachers set up blogs, wikis, and just plain old html pages to be used to communicate with parents.

As some point teachers always ask:

“So, I can just copy and paste my newsletter right here?”

You can, but you shouldn’t

Newsletters do not transfer well to the web. Well, as in the amount of information people expect and will pay attention to in digital form.

For example: Most parent newsletters are two pages long (or front and back). Parents will read a two page newsletter that comes home in the Friday folder, but they won’t scroll for two pages worth of information on a single web page.

You’ve seen those web pages….the ones that seem to go on forever and you know that feeling you get when you see those pages thinking to yourself, “I don’t have time to read all that!”

Starting a digital communication site for parents will also mean rethinking how you post information. Many teachers are finding blogs to be a great tool for creating such a site. Easy to use, easy to update, and looks pretty. The three things every teacher looks for in a web site. 🙂

So, how do you change your communication style when you move from print communication to digital communication?

1. Shorter is better
Think about the length of your posts. I’m not saying that you need to leave stuff out. But don’t include math, reading, writing, science and social studies all in the same post or on the same page.

2. Increased Frequency
We expect digital print not only to be shorter but to be updated more frequently. So think of it this way. Don’t write about all subjects in one post, or even in one day. Do shorter posting over multiple days. For example: Reading report on Monday, Update on Math on Wednesday, Weekly reflection on Friday.

Instead of giving parents all the information in one long sitting. Give it to them in shorter more frequent bursts over time. Many teachers also find this easier then having to write the complete newsletter in one day. Take a bit of time every day will make those newsletter blues slowly disappear (I can still remember doing my newsletters during library time. Frantically trying to create and print the whole newsletter in 45 minutes).

3. Images, Images, Images
Parents like nothing more than to see their little loved ones hard at work in the classroom. Know your schools policy for putting student pictures on the web and work within it to make your posts more inviting to your parents. We (and I’m talking elementary here) love putting those clip arts into our newsletters..they make them seem….prettier. Do the same with pictures from your classroom. If your district doesn’t allow student pictures on the web, get creative and take pictures of student work, or when talking about reading, just two little hands on a book. You can still add imagines…you just need to be creative. You can always use Flickr Creative Commons search to find that perfect picture (and they are already on the web!).

4. Add a personal touch
Whether you use a blog or not, make sure to add a personal touch to your communications with parents. Talk about lessons you did, or an exciting day where you as a teacher were really excited about the way a lesson went. Celebrate the small things, not just about your kids, but about you. Be human to your parents and they will react in kind.

5. Keep Stats
This might be a strange one. But I have found that teachers that have some way to keep stats on their web sites have buy in. As a 4th grade teacher I never knew how many newsletters made it home or how many were ever read. With a stats tracker you get that feedback and you can see that people are reading what you post. Knowing there are readers will keep you motivated to continue to post information.

Also, remember we live in a time of data gathering in our schools. Keeping stats on your site makes it easy to go to your principal when they say “How have you been communicating with your parents?” you can show them how many hits you have, and if you use a great free tool like Google Analytics you can even tell them how many are within your district/school boundary.

Learning to communicate with parents in a digital world is more then coping and pasting your newsletter into a web page. It means learning a new writing skill…the same skills we need to be teaching our students. 🙂

If you have a good online parent communication portal that you want to share with others, feel free to add a link in the comments for others to see and for all of us to get ideas.