I once was asked to answer questions from a TV report about Ed-tech in the classroom.
“Does your district provide classes or help for parents who are not comfortable with technology?”
We had recently just completed a 1:1 roll out in our schools, and had also moved towards digital textbooks. The implication of the question, at least in my mind, was that the technology was difficult to understand, and the school district should provide some kind of training for parents so that they could work with their children.
It sounds like a great idea. At least at first.
I got to thinking about the question a lot. I tried to think of another area in school where parents might be given instruction about how to use the tools their children are being asked to use. I could not think of a single one, although I am sure they are out there somewhere.
For instance, suppose my child is taking band. Do we teach parents how to play the instruments so that they can help their children during practice?
Do we give parents lessons on modern dance to help their children with a complex dance routine?
Do we train parents for basic academic topics? Do we tutor parents on Algebra, American Government, Calculus, or Physics? No, we do not. To any of the above examples.
Would that type of training even be helpful? I don’t think so. Here is why: Student use all kinds of technology to get to a single answer. For instance they might solve a Algebra homework question by using Wolfram Alpha, or Khan Academy, or Hippocampus.org.
The list is endless.
There is no way a school could say to a parent “here is the only way to help your child with this algebra problem.” It would be an exercise in futlity. The better exercise would be to teach students how to search for help, how to collaborate on questions, and how to use tools like Skype to work together after hours.
Then explain to their parents WHAT students will be doing, how to watch them online, and how to set expectations for technolgoy use at home.
I know that school districts all over the place, and even schools by themselves, give “parent training” on the basics of technology. Usually, these classes center around how to use a computer, how to surf the internet, how to fill out online forms, etc. They help non-technical parents function at a low level in a technical workforce.
Yet, I dont think that these are all that useful for parents to work with their children unless the lessons given to the parents are tied to the lessons the students are learning in the classroom. In most cases, they are not. They are the basics of technology use.
The children have a greater understanding of the technology by what they use in the classroom and with their peers.
Many districts does provide videos for students on how to use the very basics of the technology they are getting and parents could access those videos. Most districts have cyber safety tips for parents as well.
The general education public still does not see technology as an integrated piece of the learning culture, but rather an add on; Tech is not as a pencil, but as a pencil sharpener. That needs to change.
Tech in the classroom is here to stay, and is designed to transform learning when used correctly.
Parents need to get on board and learn how to help their children use technology, as much as they help teach their children how to hold a book and write.
Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.
Feel free to leave a comment. Read his previous columns here.