Parent/Student conference season has arrived. The one time of the year where teachers strive to empower students to see the big picture, students are empowered to work hard and learn and parents feel empowered to sabotage the whole experience. The biggest argument (excuse) for the lack of learning that parents like to use is not enough homework and way too much technology. The homework argument is mute to me. When I give it, they don’t do it; when mentioned during the conference, the parent insists the child claims s/he never has any. I don’t even go there anymore. The technology argument is a wee bit more complicated.
I have to remind myself that I and all of the parents of my students were taught during the dark ages of educational technology; yanno, the 20th century. Back then, worksheets, packets, textbooks and pencil nubs were expected resources parents would look for to determine if learning was taking place. The notion of “watching a video on his phone”… or creating a poster that doesn’t involve glue and bits of paper all over the floor is upsetting them greatly.
Consider learning in the 21st century from the point of view of a teacher and a parent:
Most teachers actively working in classrooms recognize the importance of preparing students for the world in which they will be entering. Knowing nothing of what that world really has in store for them, we, spend as much time as our students do learning about the future of business, education, society, everything. We need to know these things in order to teach our students about these things. Our students are just as fascinated with the gadgets we now use to learn with as they are with being able to learn about places thousands of miles away or concepts once lost in the mists of time.
We use technology to explore the world we live it. We’re teaching our students to use technology to become aware of the world they live in. They are learning that the laptop, tablet or smartphone they got for their birthday last year or for Christmas is more than a “toy”… its the open door to their world. We spend each day getting the answers to questions we have. Even I, who used to keep my nose stuck in an encyclopedia (remember those?), have become a Google search master, finding the answers to questions I have and learning more than I ever expected.
I have to remind myself almost every time I speak to a parent that they have no idea how powerful that “toy” they bought their child is. That overpriced little thing can be the ticket to a great learning adventure. When I’ve mentioned what I am doing with technology in my classes, I am confronted with that one parent, who for reasons I can only speculate about, begin to attack me for wasting precious time in my classroom “playing” with computers.
I usually counter by asking if there is a computer at that person’s house. If there is, I ask what they computer is used for mainly. Games. The kids are playing games or watching You Tube videos, or watching Netflix. Great stuff, mom and dad, but did you know they could be completing assignments or you could be taking a college level course, for free? I then suggest a website or two or three that their child could be checking out, even playing a game on, and LEARNING something new. They balk, change the subject and I pray the seed planted will sprout.
Some parents even think we use technology to “babysit” the children while we sit around eating bonbons or something! Very telling statements about what they are probably using technology for in their homes, you think?
I plan to use our time during conferences, to remind parents about the great ways they can help the teachers in providing a rich, real time learning experience for their children. We’ll set goals for ways to use our Chromebooks, tablets, and smartphones to read, learn , research and create new, authentic experiences. I am going to give parents assignments so THEY can discover how great that “toy” is and how it can change the way they see the world. It will be amazing! I can’t wait.