I recently was asked to answer a questions for a tv report about edtech in the classroom. My answer was never used in the report, so I thought I would share it with you.
“Do you provide classes or help for parents who are not comfortable with technology?”
Our district has been moving steadily towards more and more digital tools. 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 in marching band. Do we teach parents how to play the trumpet 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? No.
Even more basically, do we do this type of thing for basic academic topics? Do we tutor parents on Algebra, American Government, Calculus, or Physics? No, we do not.
Would ed tech training even be helpful for parents? 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 a useless exercise. The better exercise would be to teach students how to search properly for help, how to collaborate on questions, and how to use tools like Skype toward together after hours.
Then explain to their parents WHAT students will be expected to do, how to monitor them online, and how to set expectations for technology use at home.
I know that some school districts 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 are meant to help non-technical parents function at a low level in a technical workforce.
However, I don’t think that these are all that useful for parents to work with their children unless the lessons given to the parents are directly tied to the lessons the students are learning in the classroom. In most cases, they are not. They are simply the basics of technology use.
The children probably have a greater understanding of the technology just by what they use in the classroom and with their peers.
Now to be fair, our district does provide videos for students on how to use the very basics of the technology they are getting. And parents could easily access those videos. And we help parents with topics like cybersafety.
But how to use devices in class? Not now, not yet.
I think that this type of question is part of a larger issue: People still do not see technology as an integrated piece of the learning culture, but rather an add on. Therefore, tech is something of an afterthought.
Instead of that laptop being an extension tool like a pen or a pencil, to is something ADDITIONAL to the learning experience, not included in the learning experience.
I hope that mindset changes in the very near future.
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.