It’s hard to believe we’ve already finished another year of thought-provoking discussions with elementary parents during our monthly Parent Technology Coffee Mornings!

Tara, Jeff and I host these sessions in the Learning Hub on the first Wednesday of every month in order to build parental understanding of the ways that technology is changing society, and therefore, changing education. Every month we watch a short video and then discuss the implications on education and learning, always with practical examples from classrooms here at ISB. Each of our sessions is re-capped in our community blog, Connect 2.0, for those parents that can’t attend face-to-face.

Thanks to a dedicated and engaged group of parents who attend our meetings on a regular basis, we’ve discussed everything from writing in the digital age (using tools like blogs and wikis), to social networking (using tools like Facebook and Ning), to digital storytelling (using tools like iMovie and VoiceThread), to information management, online safety and the changes and challenges facing education today.

Specifically, this year we’ve watched:

Each of these sessions gives us the opportunity to understand a parent’s perspective on technology, share exciting projects our students are engaged in, and help clear up any misconceptions about the use of technology in the classroom. We have been fortunate to build some lasting relationship with the parents who willingly spend one morning a month in the Hub.

Although our numbers fluctuate every month – usually depending on the topic and competing events at school – we are hoping that the positive experiences parents have had with us will spread throughout the elementary school.

In fact, the wonderful parents who regularly spend the first Wednesday of every month with us have shared some of their reasons for attending:

I want to thank Tara, Kim and Jeff for hosting us ES parents at the monthly Technology meetings this school year. WOW! It is so wonderful to be able to explore and discuss how technology is affecting us as parents, not to mention learning what our kids are doing on the IT front…or want to be doing…or shouldn’t be doing…or will be doing whether we want them to or not. I’ve learned that by understanding what is “out there” and being able to have open discussions with our children about these things (instead of ignoring it) is paramount on the parenting front! Plus it’s always great to gain insight that can help us with our daily lives…whether or not we are currently in the work force or plan to reenter it in the coming years. Thank you and I look forward to these opportunities again next year.

– D

These quick and friendly appointments have represented a valuable opportunity for me to

  • get more familiar with the most recent technological updates, realizing how easy it could be just trying (podcasting – I did it and now we are getting addicted to it !)
  • finally starting to use the various instruments we have at our disposal (Facebook – I do not hide my name anymore, just know how to use it protecting our privacy !)
  • get a bit of understanding of the new world into which our kids are born and immersed and have a first clue about how different their learning experience is compared with ours

I also enjoyed the formula (monthly, about 1 hour long, right after kids enter their classes) and hope you will continue offering us these useful updates.

– R

I attend the Parent Technology Meetings for the light, non-filling, breakfast items that complement the coffee. Just kidding…

I attend the Parent Technology Meetings to learn what my children’s world looks like and what their future holds in the realm of technology. How can we, as parent’s, help guide our children, if we are not familiar with their world. Today’s classroom (libraries, household, businesses)…today’s world is completely unlike the one I grew up with. It is continually changing.

These meeting give me a chance to become educated about technology. I am learning what my children are doing in school, with technology. I am learning how the technology works so that I can use and understand it. I am learning the benefits of technology.

These sessions give me a place to express my lack of understanding, my apprehensions, my thoughts. I share what I feel, I ask questions and I learn from others. We come from different points along the technology timeline, depending on our age. I am able to hear differing viewpoints. This allows me to evaluate and form educated opinions about technology.

The sessions are invigorating. I may not grasp everything that I learn, but I am trying. It will make things easier, because not just their world is changing, my world is changing as well. I don’t want to be left behind.

I feel privileged to be given the opportunity to learn more about technology through these eye opening sessions.

– R

In order to continue to promote these sessions, we’ve already organized a great list of topics for our monthly sessions in the 2009-10 school year, for those parents that like to plan in advance:

September 2009: An Introduction to the Ways Education is Changing in a Digital World: an introduction to the major technological changes that are currently shaping society and changing education. We will also give an overview of all of the sessions for the rest of the year.

October 2009: An Introduction to Blogging: What is a blog? How and why do people blog? How can parents get connected to all the teacher and student blogs being authored at ISB?

November 2009: An Introduction to RSS: What is RSS? How can it help me stay connected to learning happening at ISB, as well as more personal interests (like gardening or travel)? Bring your own computer and we’ll help you set up your own RSS account!

December 2009: An Introduction to Podcasting & iTunes: What is a podcast? How and why do people podcast? What are some great podcasts for students and parents to listen to and watch? Bring your own computer and we’ll help you subscribe (for free) to podcasts from ISB and around the world!

February 2010: An Introduction to Digital Literacy: What are the new literacies for the 21st Century? How is the understanding of literacy changing in education? How are ISB students learning and using 21st century literacy skills?

March 2010: An Introduction to Social Networking: What is social networking? How are your children using social networking both in school and outside of school? How can we use social networking strategies for learning?

April 2010: An Introduction to Wikis: What is a wiki? How and why do people use wikis? What is the controversy over Wikipedia? Plus, we’ll share some examples of wikis being used for learning at ISB.

May 2010: Summer Tech Activities With Your Kids! Some great tech-rich activities you can do with your children over the summer, like: starting a family travel blog, taking control of your summer vacation pictures, finding the top 10 kid-friendly podcasts for long car trips or plane rides, or making your own summer travel video for YouTube!

Final Thoughts

Overall, these sessions have been a big success! We’re actively spreading the word about new kinds of learning all students should be regularly experiencing in the classroom, we’re helping parents understand why this kind of learning is important, and we’re helping build a strong voice among our parents to share that feedback with our admin team.

One of the new things we started this year was having parents actually try some of these tools during our sessions. We had a hands-on Facebook training where parents were able to create their own Facebook account, which they really appreciated. As you can see, we’re planning a few more hands-on sessions for next year in order to help parents actively engage in these new media.

What are you doing to help your parents connect to the new ways of learning in your school?