Engaging the Parent Community

Last week, I stole borrowed a page from my friends and colleagues at UWCSEA East and had students run a session with parents on social networking and other concerns. As I wrote in the school newsletter:

Thao , Tommy and Max did a fantastic job of presenting a student perspective and discussing their own personal use of social networks and other aspects of technology use, both in school and at home. It was great to hear them address the concerns raised by parents as well as share their experiences. According to one of the students, “It was helpful to listen to the questions from parents, and it helped me understand what kind of concerns parents have about the integration of technology into a student’s life.” Another added: “It was good for the students to see the point of view of the parent, so they would understand what the parent is seeing. It good to tell the parent about what we as student are doing on our tablet.”

The parents were also appreciative of the chance to speak to young adults and about the challenges and opportunities that are faced in an increasingly digital environment from their different perspectives. There was also a great roundtable discussion among the parents once the students had returned to class about some of the questions and concerns they have as parents.

One of the big discussion points that came from the parent roundtable (and actually, it has been brought up before) was the need for an online community for parents (primarily) to discuss some of the issues, questions and concerns that go hand-in-hand with the implementation of emerging technologies for learning.

I learned at ASB Unplugged 2010 that they are using a Ning for their parents. If I remember correctly, it is now completely moderated by parent volunteers and members of their PTA.

I’m wondering if any schools have successfully implemented BuddyPress as a community forum? As we are looking to finally start with edublogs, I wonder if this is a path that we can take? I’ve done some initial poking around, but I can’t solve the privacy issue: How do I make a BuddyPress installation so that parents can register themselves (moderated by an admin from the school) and so that the forums, groups and postings are private?

I’m also wondering if BuddyPress is even the way to go? Are there alternatives out there that you would suggest from experience?

How is your school engaging your parent community in discussion? Are you using social networking to improve parent communication and interaction? How concerned are you and your parents with the privacy of that social network? 

—————–
Image Credit: Grade 8 Student by Clint Hamada licensed under CC BY NC SA

Social Networking for Parents

Michelle and I had our first PD session (Parent Development) this morning and had about 25 parents show up! It is by far the biggest crowd I’ve ever had for one of these technology sessions. Our plan was to pick a hot-button issue to get more butts in seats and boy did it work. At one point, we didn’t have enough computers in the lab to accommodate all the parents!

We started with quote from Prof. Helen McGrath (.pdf):

Young people on the other hand see technologies (and especially the internet) as a vital part of their social life and the building of their identity. Mobile phones seem to be the key to young people’s social lives (ACMA, 2007)… (T)he most significant milestones towards adulthood are now acquiring a mobile phone and joining online social networking sites. [emphasis added]

Social networks are now a fact of life and won’t diminish until something bigger and better takes their place. As parents we have the choice to ignore it (not recommended!) or to get involved with our children’s interactions.

We then showed the awesome Common Craft video Social Networking in Plain English

I love the ideas behind this series; I wonder if we could contact Lee and ask him if he could make a ‘student-friendly’ version?

When discussing the benefits and drawbacks, the focus from parents was mainly on the negatives, including:

  • time wasting
  • devalued meaning of ‘friend’
  • online dangers
  • damage to one’s image and the idea of a digital footprint

As we have a very international population, a lot of parents recognized the benefits of staying connected to ‘home’ and to friends across the globe. This did not, however, have as a big an impact as I thought it would.

We spent some time introducing parents to Club Penguin (most had never heard of it) and going through some of the more controversial aspects of the Facebook Terms of Service. Like their children, most parents with Facebook accounts had never actually read the Terms of Service and were a bit shocked to see language such as this:

You specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”).

We ended by talking about what parents can do to help encourage discussion with their children about social networking. They included:

  • Set boundaries
  • Be interested! Ask questions, just like you do with their F2F friends.
  • Ask to be shown their profile page … tomorrow.
  • Ask to be their ‘friend’ with an understanding that you will not actively participate.
  • Remember: Most kids really do use social networks just to communicate with their friends.

I had hoped to spend some time going through specific privacy settings but we ran out of time. I will include the related links in our weekly school newsletter however.

Overall, we tried to stress that social networking sites are the cordless telephone and mall of the current generation. It’s how they communicate and  it’s where they sometimes hang out. When one parent said something about children creating Facebook accounts behind their backs, I related it back to watching R-rated movies: If she’s told her child that s/he cannot watch a certain movie, how does she know s/he won’t just go watch it at a friend’s house? What’s the difference?

Thanks to Kim Cofino and Jeff Utecht for sharing their previous experiences on this subject. It helped us a lot in preparing for our session!

I’ve embedded the slides from our presentation here. I’ve also got an hour’s worth of audio that I will try to sync up to the visuals at some point…

Thoughts on the IB Virtual Community

The IB Virtual Community (IBVC) has just been launched and is currently rolling out to IB schools who request access:

The IBVC offers IB stakeholders the ability to connect, communicate and collaborate with one another. Tools offered within the IBVC include blogs, wikis, discussion forums, file uploading (documents, images, audio and video), individual profiles, the ability to form groups and other social networking functionality.

I’m very curious to get a look at how it is laid out. Thanks to Adrienne, I’ve got a minor interest in design and usability so it will be interesting to view it from that lens. Personally, I think anything will be an improvement over the current system the IBO has for sharing best practice and connecting with others.

The day before the IBVC was launched, ReadWriteWeb had an article on 5 Ways Tech Startups Can Disrupt the Education System. Way #2?

2. It should encourage grassroots adoption

Along with the right price comes the right marketing and adopt ion strategy. As such, many disruptive education technologies are aimed at the individual teachers and students themselves, rather than at the districts-as-a-whole. This is important as this grassroots approach means that the tools pass the “smell test” of teachers in the classroom, meaning that the tools are usable and useful. With a multitude of free tools to chose from, however, interoperability will be key so that educators don’t find themselves locked in to one product or service.

Or, as @surreallyno said on Twitter:

I certainly hope not. I think the IBVC offers a great opportunity for IB schools, teachers and students to connect to one another.

My hope is that this will make it easier to connect, much like facebook made it easier to stay in touch with long lost friends/acquaintances or joining a Ning made it easy to find people with the similar interests. I think this has tremendous potential in increasing the amount of collaboration between schools that, while working within similar frameworks, tend to do a lot of work in isolation.

My fear is that, because of this (hopefully) ease of access, teachers will not share their knowledge or experiences in more ‘traditional ways’ with teachers outside of that community, kind of like how people now post all of their personal updates on facebook and would never consider blogging or Flickr or Twitter. Because the IBVC is not an open community, this might mean that a lot of good ideas will only be shared behind that wall of the IBVC. I’m also curious to know what the terms and conditions for use are. The IBO is quite strict with respect to copyright and I will be interested in knowing their stance on materials that are posted by community members.

How do you feel about the IBVC? Is this something that you or your school will join?