Category Archives: Parents

ePortfolios: Parent Engagement 2

As I see it, trying to get more parents on board and participating in commenting and providing feedback in their child’s eportfolio has two distinct parts.

Firstly, and certainly a prerequisite to anything else, is getting parents online. Once they are online and viewing learning, then leaving any kind of comment is the first step. Then and only then can we begin to work on developing quality comments that provide feedback for improving learning.

Developing quality feedback in parents is the second part of the equation. Is it realistic? Achievable? Involving parents in elearning to support achievement has certainly been discussed in many reports and publications including Enabling the 21st Century Learner: An e-Learning Action Plans for Schools (PDF);

Research shows that parents who are involved in their children’s learning, and encourage their children to be the best they can be, make a real and positive difference to how their children learn.  The influence and involvement of parents and whanau, in addition to effective teachers, has a significant positive impact on how well students achieve.

It goes on to stay;

Schools need to work with families, whanau, and their communities to foster understanding of how to use ICT effectively in learning. ICT provides new possibilities for following students’ progress and engagement…

So the justification is there, and it perfectly compliments the principles of formative teaching and learning which is alive and strong in our school.

So where now? My first approach will be to use the students as teachers. By utilising their technical know-how, their understanding of the purpose behind the learning and the crucial component of them being their to sharing their learning with their parents, they are in the prime position for facilitating the change and making a difference. Here’s some of what I plan to do to make it happen.

  • Specifically plan for increased peer/buddy/critical friend written feedback in eportfolios. These strategies are well used in class already but making a conscious effort to plan for and make time for it to take place is necessary. Students (and teachers!) need plenty of practice in writing and giving quality feedback. If the students are going to guide their parents with this they need to be giving prompts, asking questions and other feedback strategies.
  • Continue to model effective teacher feedback on learning in class and through eportfolios. My role is ever important and as I model commenting and giving quality feedback this will set an example for both parents and students to follow and use when constructing their own feedback. Just as we use quality exemplars of learning to guide students to success in their learning, effective modeling will set the expectations for others to follow.
  • Facilitate/build capacity for students as teachers/guides in process. This is where I am aiming and the two previous points contribute to this. However I think more deliberate discussions around feedback, parent involvement, knowing how to get better at what you are doing, and students becoming teachers themselves will really build capacity in this area.

That’s what rolls off the top of my mind at the moment. Hopefully no glaring gaps in my thinking…

One thing I have failed to mention so far is that last year while I was completing my research, an honours student was simultaneously carry out a research project around our eportfolios and how they were involving parents in the learning of their children. This research may well answer some of the why questions relating to parents engagement. I have not read the final copy of this research but will hopefully grab a copy of it in the next week and post some of the results. Should be interesting reading.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/torres21/

We don’t have computers at school…

newspaper.jpg

I came across this article in a local community newspaper at the weekend. I have blurred the details of the school but have highlighted the most interesting part for me.

My first thought was, “Yikes! How can a school have such an opposing philosophy on learning in the 21st century than my own?”

The school’s own website (does not seem to have been updated since 2005) states:

We do not have computers in the school for use by pupils.

Then continues:

We believe that the human relationship between teacher and child is the key to healthy learning. Only another human being can respond to expressed interest, fire with enthusiasm, and lead by example.

I have no arguments with those concepts!

Older pupils in the upper school however, not only have access to computers, but are encouraged to use them. Many pupils use the Internet to research Main Lesson topics, and several have had success with web page design. Computing is a useful skill, which can be picked up quickly when it is needed. The life skills that we teach here – social, artistic and intellectual – cannot be so easily assimilated and are vital for a fulfilling life.

I am a little confused now. Do they use computers or not? If not, is it really because, as suggested in the article,

…we don’t think computer literacy is a skill that takes seven years to learn.

Woah there! Computer literacy is forever changing, sometimes on a daily and certainly a weekly basis. Take the release of the iPhone 3G this week. The incredible capability of this and other smart phones has pushed the boundaries of computer literacy to different levels and meaning. What about the continual development in Web 2.0 tools? A site I subscribe to has countless new tools or sites to look at every week.

Are we preparing our students for life in the 21st century if we deliberately plan not to include computers in our learning? I think not.

By the way, could you live without a screen for a month?

Creating and Strengthening the Links between Parents, Teachers and Others

Futurelab is one sight that I often visit even though their RSS feed from their Projects page zips into my Google Reader automatically.

I recently revisited a project named My-E, which initially caught my interest after reading the project pdf:

The central aim of this project is to pilot an idea which aims to strengthen the ‘personal learning networks’ of young people – creating and strengthening the links between parents, teachers and others significant to the child’s learning – and to encourage dialogue within this network that will form the basis of more personalised learning pathways.

While the My-E project is directed at 5 & 6 year old students, it has a number of commonalities with the underlying themes and aims of this ePortfolio project. In fact the whole ePortfolio project was initially based around the idea of creating a community of learners, fostering a greater shared understanding for learners, their parents and staff of formative practice.

Our ePortfolios can facilitate, as described in the My-E pdf:

how digital technologies can be used to document, enable and enhance meaningful two-way home-school dialogue

and additionally dialogue between students.

I looked forward to reading the results of the project which begins classroom trials in August of 2008.