Posts Tagged With: parent engagement

Ed Reform – What About Parents?

When I think of parents and the degree to which they understand how education is changing, I’m reminded of this quote by American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomski:

IMG_0061Earlier this week I gave a presentation on Learning Commons to parent council chairpersons at a gathering organized by our district’s School Board. We provided the presentation so that parents would better understand our district initiative to bring our school libraries into the 21st century, and by doing so provide our students with a more relevant and engaging learning experience. As I demonstrated how a Learning Commons could be used to flatten the walls of our classrooms, give students more responsibility for their own learning, and encourage creativity and innovation, the parents in attendance seemed to welcome the opportunity to learn more about the changes to their child’s daily experiences in school. I came away from the evening, however, with a sense of concern with the disconnect between what parents think we are doing in our classrooms and what we are actually doing. Most in attendance had never before heard of the ideas I shared in my presentation.

As learning begins taking on a very different look, we have to remember to bring all our stakeholders along with us – especially our parents. As the first educators of their children, we can’t leave them out of loop if we are to make any significant progress with changing the educational experience for our students. Most people resist change when they don’t understand.

Here, I believe, are some of the reasons why we need to make a conscious effort to include parents in our conversations about education reform: 

  1. Most parents can only imagine learning through the lens in which they experienced it themselves.
  2. Most parents are digital immigrants, which makes them nervous about the use of technology and innovative approaches in schools.
  3. Most parents still want to know how their children are doing in relation to everyone else – with a number.
  4. Most parents don’t have the time to be directly involved in their child’s learning.
  5. Most parents turned out just fine with their schooling experience. What was good for them must be good for their children.

…perhaps some helpful ideas:

  1. Organize parent information sessions on a regular basis.
  2. Use the power of technology to share information with parents and collect their input.
  3. Invite parents into your classroom – often.
  4. Hold student-led parent / teacher conferences.
  5. Reassure parents that safety concerns are being addressed.

What are you doing to make sure your parents know what’s happening as things start to change in your classroom?

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Community Engagement, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Keeping Parents in the Educational Transformation Loop

As we continue to transform education we can’t forget to engage our parents, who are digital immigrants having come from the industrial age of education. The transformational conversation must include them as well.  I have heard of some schools hosting technology evenings for parents.  That’s a great idea. Here’s my February message to parents for our school newsletter: 

After 21 years as a teacher and administrator there has never been more to consider. How we educate children appears to be at a “tipping point”, where a focus on appropriate skill building has become extremely important. Researchers around the world have identified the need for competencies to be more central in the education of young people if they are to be active participants in society. Competencies enable students to understand their world, engage fully in their education, relate well to others, manage their lives wisely, and contribute positively to their communities.

 Many people ask why we need a different model of education for the 21st century.  Aren’t many of the skills we are talking about the ones that have been important throughout history? And do we, only 12 years into the century, really know what skills our students will need for their future? The answer to these questions is that the past few years have seen a very different world than before, especially in the area of globalization, which has been encouraged by advances in technology. We have moved from the industrial age to the service age and students who are now entering our schools will end up in the service sector, having jobs in many different fields over the course of their working lives.  While we don’t know what new jobs will emerge, these students will need to be able to learn new things and adapt to new situations as the world continues to change.  They will need to be innovative and creative and will need to be critical thinkers and problem solvers.

The big difference between 21st century education and education that went before it is the embedding of these skills into the curriculum.  A few short years ago we didn’t do much problem solving or decision making.  Those skills weren’t seen as important because when we left school we went to work where we were told what to do – and if we had a problem or if a decision had to be made we were expected to take that to someone higher up rather than make it ourselves.  In today’s world there is more scope for autonomy and decision making at every level – we are all expected to be self-directed and responsible for our own work and autonomy, mastery and purpose are the factors that lead to more personal satisfaction with our work and therefore to more motivation and ultimately a better performance.

The 21st century competencies depicted above are not ones that were covered in yesterday’s schools. Academic rigor was defined by the “3 R’s” and the coverage of a large amount of content – and knowing this content was more important than understanding it.  Today content is not so important, as information is changing constantly, so today’s students need the competencies to be able to apply previous experience to new situations and they need the ability to be lifelong learners because they will need to keep learning as the situations they find themselves in change.

Today, schools (and teachers) need to be engaging students in more inquiry and project-based learning. They need to be encouraging students to develop higher-order thinking skills.  They need to be guiding students as they direct their own learning.

Without a doubt technology can be used effectively to promote the building of 21st Century competencies. But just putting an interactive whiteboard into a classroom or giving a student a laptop is not automatically going to bring about the changes in learning that we so obviously need. We need to rethink how students learn and we need to rethink what they are learning.  By ensuring that 21st Century competencies are embedded into all curriculum areas, all teaching, all assessments, and into the professional development teachers receive, our children will have the best chance to be prepared for the society they will enter as adults a few years downs the road.

Categories: Community Engagement, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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