There’s a lot of guidance out there on how to talk to parents about student privacy, the home-school connection and acceptable use policies. And it’s valuable information. But what if you shared a new story this year? One that informs parents and excites them about the opportunities your school provides?
Here are five tips for changing the conversation about school technology:
1. Talk about the possibilities
Think about all the ways technology engages students and fosters learning. It allows you to bring astronauts into your classroom and lets students conduct real scientific research. Software can adapt lessons based on student progress and differentiate learning so all children can start where they’re at. Free collaboration tools allow kids to solve real-world problems with peers around the world. In fact, tech does so much more than allow students to passively consume content; it enables them to be creators — filmmakers, bloggers, designers and engineers — who share their work with a global audience.
2. Inspire with your stories
Next, consider sharing some specific ways your students are learning with technology that parents might not be aware of. You might stress the point that tech allows students to pursue their passions, which engages them in their learning. If you have a student who comes alive at the chance to make a video about a math concept, a budding writer who can’t wait to post his fan fiction online or a gamer who demonstrates perseverance as she creates a challenging level using Super Mario Maker 2, share these stories and illustrate how they connect to learning.
3. Talk about meeting the needs of all learners
Every student has a hurdle. They may have a disability or struggle mightily with reading. Some can’t sit still and others can’t stay awake. Some don’t get math and others just want to draw or dance or climb a tree. Whatever the issue, technology can help teachers reach all students. Built-in accessibility tools allow struggling readers to listen to a story and struggling writers to record their thoughts. Shy students can give feedback in a shared doc instead of speaking out in class. Artists can tell their stories using sketchnoting or comic-creation tools instead of putting words on paper, while musicians can demonstrate their learning by composing a ballad about a historical event.
4. Cite the data about the skills of the future
According to the World Economic Forum, in just five years, more than a third of the skills we believe to be essential for today’s workforce will have changed. As machines take over more of the tasks that humans have traditionally done, workplaces will require higher-order thinkers who can bring an analytical approach to solving complex problems. That is, students need to know how to analyze data, design solutions and be computational thinkers. They will also need cognitive flexibility, creativity, logical reasoning and visualization, among others. Skills — not job titles — will define the roles of future workers and most of those skills will be honed by creating, problem-solving and collaborating using technology.
5. Remind parents that this is not the future — it’s the present
Let’s face it, the more school resembles the workplace, the more prepared students will be for the jobs they seek. It’s essential that we not only equip schools with the tools they need to get the job done, but train students in the skills they need to work and to be good citizens — not in the future but today. That means preparing students to stay safe, solve problems and become a force for good. It means giving students practice using social media, sharing opinions on blogs and videos, making their voices heard to elected leaders, and learning how to balance their time on and off line.
Diana Fingal is the director of editorial content for ISTE and mom to two teenagers.