There’s currently a lot of talk about the importance of engaging parents to raise children’s achievement and to foster a love of learning. No one would dispute the huge benefits of such an approach. For many children without parental support, school is an irrelevance and a lack of engagement, or even the shortest conversation at home about their day propagates this mindset.
Any discussion at home, however brief, serves to show children that what they are doing at school is important, interesting and something to share with interested listeners.
There are numerous ways to develop channels for parental engagement. Many schools run workshops, provide shared learning time, negotiated learning sessions, reading together programmes to name but a few, but what of those parents who can’t get into school? How can schools engage with parents they rarely see? How can they be kept informed? How can they support their children’s learning?
We have made good use of technology to engage parents in their children’s learning. Some key developments have had a positive impact on our work in this area.
The school has two blogs. One was set up several years ago with the support of the SSAT and the other last year by one of our ICT Leaders (@mr_jim). The first blog enabled the whole school community to get involved in the life of the school, it took communication to new levels and conversation beyond the school gate. The blog acted as a social platform, allowing dialogue to grow around learning (and more besides!) We were keen not to lose the vibrancy, energy and enthusiasm the blog was generating but at the same time we wanted to further develop its role in supporting learning. The inclusion of writing rooms alongside children’s forums, parent’s forums and treasure hunts helped the blog attract more and more hits and under the watchful eye of mr_jim it is still run by the children as it has been for the last three years.
The new blog is in its infancy but is being developed as a campus site, with class, pupil groups and headteacher blogs linked through a central page. Several classes are piloting this approach and our hope is that as this develops more work will be posted and shared more readily with parents allowing an online dialogue around their learning to develop. Links with partner schools around the globe means that the children have an ever expanding audience (they’re also global peer assessors!) Access for parents to this online world of learning and collaboration is central to our vision for technology and those who make use of this vehicle for engagement love it.
At Hawes Side we make use of the Life Channel to further support engagement with parents. For many years we had been creating digital content with the children but had few opportunities to present this work. The Life Channel provided us with a digital display wall to share the children’s work and much more. We had a few screens fitted around school and following some simple instruction set up running schedules for a range of films, animations, photostories and powerpoints to be played throughout the day for the children’s benefit. This digital work is also loaded onto the blog so parents have access at home. Parents’ workshops in the use of photostory have resulted in children bringing in films from home to play on the Life Channel. Recently a pupil in Y4 gave me a photostory he had made at home showing 3D shapes all around him (a follow up to classwork). Straight away the film was loaded onto the screens to act as a learning resource for his peers. This is a pattern that is happening more and more, as children take control of the technology and use it to support their learning. We are ensuring that parents aren’t left behind by running sessions to familiarise them with the programmes their children utilise in school (and at home). The Life Channel and the blogs are helping us reach those parents who can’t make it into school for the face to face sessions we run. They are helping bridge the gap between school and home learning making the most of simple to use technologies in fun and creative ways.