Sunday, July 8, 2012

Parents in the Loop Via the Class Blog

When my kids were in school the proverbial answer to “What did you learn today?” was, wait for it…  “nothing”.  Do any of you get that response from your kids?  I suspect so as it seems to be some kind of natural law.  As parents, we were never quite sure what our kids were learning.  The periodic report card or the marked work didn’t tell the real story.  With today’s access to technology, there are ways to iStock_000018493321XSmallmitigate this and keep parents ‘in the loop’.  There are various tools that provide a range of connections for parents.  Some enable simple consumption of lesson outlines, homework lists, pictures, stories, spelling lists, and with portals or other secure spaces, the viewing of marks.  Other tools such as wikis, blogs, etc., depending on how they’re configured, enable parents to interact with their kids and their teachers.  “Technology makes connecting, collaborating, and learning easier than ever before in human history” (Kindle 413, The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Lani Ritter Hall).

I recently visited with a Kindergarten teacher, Amy, who started a class blog this past school year.  The purpose for her blog is to capture and share learning stories her students are experiencing.  She experimented this year as a means to keep parents informed.  Here is one parent’s comments on this approach.

Ofelia, a parent of a Kindergarten child, stays in the loop via class blog

Ofelia appreciates that the blog “makes learning visible”.  She is able to see through the blog how her daughter is learning and interacting with other students.  She gets to see what her daughter is creating, her involvement with nature and her environment, and her personality.  She is better informed and able to talk to her daughter in a more informed way about what she’s learning at school.

Amy, a Kindergarten teacher, talks about starting and using a class blog

Amy chose to create her blog on the District private site to protect her students’ privacy.  She creates learning stories for parents to experience their kids learning vicariously through the blog.  She documents the emergent curriculum as it’s happening.  The blog supports reflection on individual student learning, which supports assessment.  She sees the blog as a great communication tool for parents and families.  It opens up communication between parents and their kids.  Her blog “serves as a memory holder” of learning for her students and a place for them to reflect.  She is going to promote the blog this coming year, as a primary means of communicating with parents.  She will encourage them to use the comment button to provide input, ask questions, etc.

Lori, a parent of a Kindergarten child, talks about the impact of a class blog

Lori enjoys sitting with her daughter, looking at the pictures, and talking about what she does throughout her day at school.  The blog helps her see what her daughter is learning.  It allows Lori to interact more.  Her older daughter is also able to have learning conversations about and with her sister – it’s a support for the family.  The learning stories bring to life the learning and explain what’s going on in class.  What might look like simple play can actually be something more complex and the blog explains that.

There was a lot of interest in the post I wrote recently about student’s blogging.  I think that if educational leaders were to choose one activity to promote as a transformative use of technology, blogging would be in the top 3 for me.  Blogging supports students in writing, communicating, and sharing better.  What do you think is more powerful, writing in their note books and journals for their teacher to mark versus writing for their own enjoyment and interest in sharing what they’re learning and thinking with their parents, extended family, and other students and readers around the world?  Social media, used appropriately, is a powerful lever for student learning.

With the advent of social media, learning occurs anytime, anywhere, and students regularly pursue knowledge in networked and collaborative ways— with or without us” (Kindle 190, The Connected Educator)

I think the power of blogging is remarkable.  It is such a simple way, technically speaking, to share ideas, advice, lessons, our work (students, teachers, anyone), and to interact with others in our local circle or the entire world.  Never before has there been a platform so accessible and powerful for communication and connection.  “In a participatory culture, I am unable to learn from you if you are not sharing online. I will never be able to find you and leverage what you know” (Kindle 384, The Connected Educator).  Ponder that quote for a moment.  The most difficult part involves generating the ideas, writing about them in some coherent manner, and gaining access toOne man between past and future. an audience.  This is hard work but so rewarding.  It causes the writer to grow and learn in ways likely not possible using other means.  Remember that this is reciprocal.  Not only can our students, teachers, and anyone else be a writer for the world, they can contribute to others learning by interacting with them on their blogs.  “In the future, individuals must learn how to synthesize knowledge and how to extend it in new and unfamiliar ways” (Kindle 685, Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner).  Blogging is a great way to fulfill this advice from Howard Gardner.  I challenge you to make blogging a priority for the future of learning in your life, your class, your school, and your District.  In putting forth this challenge, I suppose I had better do the same…