We want your help
Dr. Howell Wright

Parent faces say it all. Since their kids were in kindergarten, they’ve been through half a dozen rounds of homework assignments, projects and solving the logistics of getting things to and from school. But many of our parents haven’t had much experience with teaching practices that weren’t in use when they went to school. They’re concerned.

Parents’ concerns revolve around safety and privacy when using websites in the class—issues that seldom come up when we’re just working on paper or reading out of textbooks. If educators don’t handle the questions properly, the fear factor will take over and those concerns will turn into objections. Our job is to paint a picture of what goes on in our classrooms. We need to be both clear and reassuring about how we will use our educator expertise to teach the content and meet the particular learning needs of their children.

Sometimes educators believe parents are overly concerned about our uses of technology, but I don’t think that’s true. I’ve lear ned t hat any t hing new— whether it is a new curriculum, new support materials or a new kind of instructional strategy—is going to generate parent questions.

Still, when it comes to the Internet, most parents didn’t use much technology in school so they don’t have a context for understanding how technology and web - based instr uctional tools fit into teaching and learning. That’s not too difficult to address. But many parents are extra concerned about safety and privacy—issues that seldom come up when we’re just working on paper or reading out of textbooks. Parents want assurances that their child is safe. And who can blame them?

There are a lot of new technologies out there that are exceptional instructional tools. Many of these technologies are Web 2.0 tools that include Wikis, Voice- Thread, Google Docs, Animoto, U-Tube, Diigo and more. While RISD utilizes these wonderful learning tools we filter all web based products.

RISD has provided professional development for teachers involving Web 2.0 tools and purchased tech tools for students and teachers that will allow for technology to be a viable instructional tool. One of the biggest questions for parents is, “How can I help my student? I don’t know how to use this Web program myself.” I encourage parents to have their children teach them how a Web 2.0 tool can be used in school and as part of an assignment.

Parental fears spring from caring and concern. As educators, we need to respond to those fears proactively and w ith respect. When we do, things usually work out. It’s not my place to unilaterally dictate anything. Philosophically, I believe it’s my place to use my educator expertise to promote the most engaging, rigorous lessons supported by good instruction; even when it requires new innovations. At the same time it is also my responsibility to provide a safe and inviting learning environment for our students.

Embracing t he quest ions– anticipating the questions –flooding the home/school communications channel with continuous information–trying to establish a two-way exchange whenever possible: these are the ways to help parents learn to trust us in our teaching role and to encourage them to learn about new tools and technologies alongside their students.

We want to provide parents the best education for their children and we want our parents and community to be actively engaged with student learning.

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2011-09-01 digital edition

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