Saturday, February 19, 2011

Parent Spaces

We often talk about the importance of parent involvement in their child’s education and in their school.  I’ve heard statistics that suggest about 10% of parents participate in school parent advisory councils.  I wonder what the statistics are for parents being deeply involved in their child’s learning?  From personal experience, my wife Shelley and I were quite involved in our kids (now 23, 22, and 18) learning but that this customer survey or poll with check boxes on blackboarddeclined as they grew through the system – they were selective as teenagers in wanting our help and to varying degrees, resistant in sharing how they were doing.  We felt informed and involved when they were young but somewhat in the dark about their progress as they became older.  Well, okay, there were the report card events… Wouldn’t it be great to be quietly and electronically plugged into your child’s school and their learning progress?

I presented last week at a District Parent event where about 30 parents attended.  My talk was about technology past, today, and the future.  I included some demonstration of interesting tools, showed some videos of students sharing their use of technology, and speculated a bit about what’s coming.  I also invited parents to provide input into a new idea, Parent Spaces. 

I demonstrated WolframAlpha for parents.  This is an amazing research and study tool for students. SNAGHTML5986d11 It is also a great homework help tool for parents.  You have to check it out and explore the examples and start forming your own questions.  It poses challenges for a system that still tests students on the information they can remember.  Try a math problem like X^2+3X-7 and think about questions you could be asked on an exam like find the roots, describe it’s shape, find its derivative or integral, show your steps.  WolframAlpha will give you all of that…  Or try a test question that compares and contrasts Canada and the US – enter “canada,us” into WolframAlpha, there are a lot of “knowledge” items that you’ll recognize as testable when you were a student…

Parent Spaces are a natural offshoot of Student Spaces (I wrote about this a few months back).  Student Spaces are websites that students can use to complete school assignments.  They would be able to survey people, have discussions, message classmates, blog, use wikis, store and share documents, post videos and audio files.  They could connect external tools (blog, wiki, twitter, google doc, etc.) into their Student Space for ease and convenience of access for teachers to assess and principals to review and monitor.  The degree of flexibility, control, and interface to external tools would vary with the age/grade of the students – a shift from teacher controlled to student controlled, over time.  Student Spaces are a necessary piece to be able to provide a meaningful Parent Space.

Parent Spaces are meant to provide parents with a way to be easily informed of school events, communicate with the principal and teachers, to be informed of their child’s learning activities and their progress.  They could have these services without intervention by their child or their teacher.  Access would be a by product of the learning activities and progress reporting already being performed.  I asked parents some questions to stimulate their thinking about what their space could be.

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As I gather more and compile the input parents provide, I’ll update this post with a link so that you can see what they think.

A colleague of mine, Dave Sands, presented after me about Parenting the Net Generation.  He does an excellent job of engaging parents in a conversation about how to safely take their kids online and to support their online “life”.  Check out the resources he shares here.  For more information on this topic, check out another colleague of mine Dave Truss and his parenting resources here.

If you are a parent, and most of you are, please take a few moments to leave me a comment on this post answering the questions shown about for Parent Spaces.  I would really appreciate hearing from you.