The 20th Century Classroom
I was recently privileged to participate in an education technology chat (and online moderated dialogue, #edtech) about The 20th Century Classroom. I expected to share the perspective of how technology can inspire and increase parent participation in school – since that’s what we do at VolunteerSpot. Instead, I found myself drawing on my roles as an elementary school mom and former PTO Board Member, fundraising for my school and approving funding technology requests for our teachers.
At our school, like most, parents fund key technology purchases through the proceeds from school carnivals, auctions, product sales, and underwriting campaigns. We do it because we want more for our children than what state budgets or tuition alone can provide. What became clear to me in our 20th Century Classroom conversation is the power we have as parents to influence purchases and support, and our teachers in integrating new technology into their practices and lesson plans.
In my 3-year tenure on the PTO board, some of the teacher technology requests we funded included digital cameras, portable laptop stations, projector microscopes, and document cameras. All these items were easy purchases for me, thinking in my mind - YES, our kids need that, and YES, we should fund it. Why? Because I knew what these things were. I was familiar with their benefits or used them myself at home or at work.
When the school was fundraising for interactive whiteboards this last carnival/auction season, I have to admit, I didn’t get it. I knew what a whiteboard was and had used whiteboards with print capabilities long ago. We had computers in the classrooms, so why an interactive whiteboard? In my research for the 20th Century Classroom discussion, I learned why – and WOW! The ability to bring the whole world to the classroom through interactive lessons, podcasts and web access on the wall where all the kids can see. The teacher can quickly change from math to reading to social studies and access Best-in-Class curriculum and resources from the web. That students and parents can access lessons and material archived once it’s gone from the board. It’s a game-changer for empowering teachers and giving our kids the best possible, relevant and engaging learning opportunities.
Then it got better! Promethean offers an interactive whiteboard on WHEELS! This means classrooms and learning specialists can SHARE this awesome resource with our kids from class-to-class and extend our school’s technology budget. I’m an evangelist now and I’ll be fundraising with a purpose - to get more awesome learning tools like these into our classrooms and get our teachers trained in how to use 'em!
From Active Parent to EdTech Evangelist
How did I go from an interactive whiteboard skeptic to evangelist? I saw the Promethean in action and heard teachers talk about how this kind of technology changes how they teach and reach our kids. So here’s my big take away for principals, school boards, parent organizations and teachers: Get parents pumped about the technology you want by helping us experience it! Let us know how it helps you do your job better and helps improve learning outcomes (while saving time and money, even better). If you can do that…we will work (hard) to find ways to fund it!
Easy Actions to Engage Parents in Supporting and Funding Education Technology
- At Back-to-School Night, host a ‘Cool Tool Open House’ corner in the auditorium. Have demonstrations set up showing current technology teachers use and also the "wish list" technology you hope to purchase with parent fundraising this school year.
- Use (yes, actually use) the technology during PTA meetings and setup demonstration sessions at every school event (carnival, book fair, field-day, Auction, etc.).
- Take advantage of having parents at school during parent-teacher conference days and host a technology "petting zoo", while parents wait in the halls for their turn with the teacher.
- Teachers, send home samples of work made possible through technology purchases and add a note - “Thanks for funding our new XYZ from the fall carnival proceeds. Check out the cool work Jr. did today!” Have samples and signs ready at Open House, too!
- Show pictures (and video clips) in the school newsletter & website highlighting how new technology works, how our kids use it and why it’s helpful. Remember, the technology is new for us parents too and we need guidance.
My eyes are opened! I’m a mom on a mission – to help our schools and teachers embrace (and afford) more technology! Special thanks to Sloane Berrent, The Causemopolitan, Kevin Prentice of Swift Kick Online, Adelma Stanford of Promethean USA, and the awesome #edtech community for joining last week’s online conversation.
Now….if you want to talk about boosting parent participation rates at school...I’m ready!