As we continue our attempts in helping adults understand how children are learning– and how they need to learn in school– we tend to forget about one very important group of adults: PARENTS.
At one point, I assumed parents would advocate for finding new ways to engage students in their own learning. Who wouldn’t want their own children to have the best possible learning environment? What I’m finding, at least in our area, is that parents sometimes are the ones more concerned with standardized test scores, with how their child is competing with the next… and the Web is simply something that kids do on their own time.
eSchoolNews posted this yesterday:
“American parents agreed by a wide margin that digital media skills are important to kids’ success in the 21st century, but they also expressed skepticism about whether digital media could contribute to the development of skills such as communicating, working with others, and establishing civic responsibility…
• 67 percent of parents said they did not think the web helped teach their kids how to communicate.
• 87 percent of parents said they did not believe the web helped their kids learn how to work with others.
• Three out of four parents did not believe the web can teach kids to be responsible in their communities.”
Maybe they haven’t heard about students at Wells Elementary School in Wells, Maine who use blogs and podcasts to learn collaboratively. In this Apple Education featured profile, teacher Bob Sprankle is quoted,
“Instead of me teaching the kids discrete skills in isolation… in the process of making podcasts they’ve started teaching each other these skills… Creating the podcasts has completely changed their writing and language skills.”
And maybe parents haven’t noticed that young people are creating groups daily in Facebook, such as “Helping Orphans in Myanmar” or “Relay4Life” where important information, dates, donation websites, and other calls for action may be shared with anyone who joins the group and wants to help. These groups don’t always make the traditional news media… and a lot of parents don’t have a clue what their kids are doing on Facebook. It’s not just about stocking up on friends anymore.
My kids are so much more globally aware than I was at their ages. They have genuine concern for what’s going on in their world, and they want to do something about it. When they can’t find an avenue to help, they blog about how they feel and ask if anyone else feels the same way.
And maybe these same parents haven’t heard about The Pitot House entry on Wikipedia. Will Richardson talked about this particular Wikipedia entry at a conference I attended recently. This entry in Wikipedia was first added by an elementary teacher and her 3rd grade students, not by any historians or community experts in New Orleans. Here’s a real-life experience for these kids… they had to research the landmark and then decide what to tell the world about it. This wasn’t a report that only the teacher would read.
To be certain, there are some concerns about the chaotic nature of the Web. As a parent, I can understand the hesitancy. But as we continue to press educators to open their minds to the educational possibilities of the Web, it becomes more and more obvious that we need to invite all the stakeholders into our discussions… and parents most definitely need to be involved.
Sometimes as an educator, it’s hard to put myself in the shoes of a parent, whose whole notion of education is all about when he or she attended school.
Many parents have freaked out because schools aren’t teaching long division the way they were taught. Throw in technology, communication, and collaboration into the mix, and education doesn’t resemble what they remember from when they were a student. I guess that can be frightening, especially when they don’t understand it. Perhaps if schools helped these parents understand what is being taught, how, and why, parents would be better advocates for modern learning.