Rebecca Ratcliffe, writing in the Guardian, looks at how schools are using technology and social media to feedback to parents and increase their engagement with the classroom…
Students at Saltash School are busy practising their French speaking skills as their teacher, Ben Rowe, stands at the front of the classroom armed with a smartphone. He types a message into his mobile: “Good use of vocab”. A moment later the classroom computer bleeps and his feedback appears on its screen.
It might sound like a roundabout way to praise students, but Rowe’s message travels wider than the classroom walls.
“The feedback is also uploaded onto an online system which parents can access from home. It means they can see how their kid’s doing and what their strengths are,” he says.
In the past, the only chance parents had to find out about their child’s school work was at the annual parents’ evening or by reading their end-of-term report. But times have changed.
ClassDojo – the programme which allows Rowe to record feedback to his students in a restricted online space – is one of a number of services that allows teachers to communicate with parents more effectively. “Years ago we would have spent the first 10-20 minutes of parents’ evening telling parents about what’s going on in the classroom and showing them their children’s books,” says Thomas Sale, year 5 class teacher and subject leader for IT and science at Mereside Primary School. “Now parents already have a sense of what’s going on.”
Teachers at Mereside blog and tweet about the work students are doing in class. They are also trying new tools such as Evernote, an app they use to share students’ portfolios with parents.
“Children are taking it on board and it’s noticeable that they’re trying harder, especially with presentation, because they know there is an extra audience – their parents,” Sale adds. “It means that, when we do meet parents face-to-face, we can talk in more specific terms about the level their child is at, and what they can do at home to push them onto the next stage.”
Virtual learning environments such as Edmodo – where parents can see what their child has written, what’s been written to their child, as well as what homework has been set or missed – also allows teachers to contact parents more directly.
“Some parents are really busy, they’ve got work and so on, and sometimes if you send a letter it might get lost on the way,” Joe Stewart, Spanish lead teacher at School 21. Not all parents have access to internet at home, so the school also provides paper copies of assignments. When Stewart trialled the use of Edmodo with four secondary classes last year he found that 10 parents in each class signed in to access the programme.
Whether it’s parents or pupils schools are contacting, networking online also brings risks. Paul Dix, lead trainer at Pivotal Education, says the important factor is having a firewall that “keeps the general public out”. “Then you can use social media effectively,” he explains. “You can blog with pictures, for example, without sharing them with everyone out there.”
Is your or your child’s school using online tools like those describe to share classroom work with parents? What do you think about it? Please let us know in the comments or on twitter…