4 ways educators and parents can use tech this school year

Teacher and studentsBy Kerry Gallagher

Since we all use technology to learn, communicate, and create every day outside of classrooms, our students need opportunities to practice while they are still in our schools. Whether you are a parent or a teacher, look for a few key opportunities for your learners to use technology as an integral part of their educational experience.

Open up the classroom

As adults we are still learners, but we don’t have to be in a classroom in order for learning to happen. The same is true for our students. While their formal schooling happens primarily in classrooms, they are learning 24/7 from the media they consume and the adults they observe in their lives. Why not use technology to connect them with adults who can share valuable positive expertise and life experience?

Consider using Google Hangouts, FaceTime, Skype, and other video conferencing tools to make those connections truly personalized for your students. Start by reaching out via email or social media, coach students through the process of proposing and scheduling an appointment, and then help them plan for the formal interview. Your learners will find out that adults want to listen to their ideas, answer their questions, and be a part of their learning.

Students as creators

Professionals share their new discoveries and innovative ideas with one another by creating and sharing original products. Those products can be in the form of videos, infographics, online articles, podcasts, and more. Why not give our students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning by creating similar work? Here are a few examples:

While traditional test-taking skills have dominated the educational experience for generations, technology in schools allows our children to develop skills that will translate directly to their professional lives. As a teacher or a parent, encourage your learners to show what they know by using the tech tools at their fingertips to create something they can be proud of.

Transparent teaching and learning

Teachers have been posting grades and assignments online for a while, but open online learning platforms with live updates are newer. Parents no longer have to wait until scheduled end-of-quarter or mid-quarter updates. They can sign into a secure portal and check their child’s progress anytime. Now, this takes some getting-used-to for both parents and teachers. Teachers cannot expect busy parents to be checking up on their child daily or even weekly. Conversely, parents cannot expect overtaxed teachers to turn around and post assignments or grades for work handed in instantly. As long as parents and teachers take time to get to know one another, online platforms that are updated live ensure there are no surprises, and misunderstandings can be sorted out before grades close for the semester.

Social media smarts

Whether you are a school leader or a parent, taking an interest in your school’s digital footprint is worthwhile. The educators and parents who are connected to a school are helping to build the reputation of that institution with every Instagram picture, Twitter tweet, Facebook post, and Snapchat snap they publish. School leaders can share and encourage a positive school culture with social media. If we want our children to feel empowered to be positive digital citizens we need to model that behavior every time we tap the ‘Publish’ button.

Not sure where to start? ConnectSafely offers an extensive collection of parent guides to the most popular social media platforms including Snapchat and Instagram. Additionally, educators can learn more about how to help themselves and their students use social media well with the Educator’s Guide to Social Media.

It is worth noting that no matter which of these strategies your school is using, data privacy concerns are universal. Be sure to check out ConnectSafely’s guides to student data privacy. There is one for parents and another specifically for teachers. We all want to both empower and protect the children in our schools.

Kerry Gallagher is the Director of K-12 Education for ConnectSafely.org, in addition to her full-time role as Digital Learning Specialist at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts.