Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Digital Divide Between Parents and School Districts

Something I experienced last year, as I continue to integrate technology into my class, was the lack of parents capable of participating in the ways our school district and I have organized for them. 

Our school district has organized online grade books, blogs, lesson plans, handouts, announcements, assignment calendars, etc. online for parents to stay up-to-date on school happenings. With all these technology based communications in place for several years, our parent survey continues to voice their confusion about how to find information. We feel the resources are good ones. Students fully understand how to utilize all these tools. And no amount of “have your student teach you” reminders seems to work. Last September, for the first time, we attempted a parent training seminar during an open house. Based on parent contact over the course of the school year, it instigated minimal change. 
A class room specific example of this divide came when I started grading essays, saved as PDF, on my iPad, allowing me to email marked essays, comments, and rubrics directly home. My aim was to save paper, involve parents, and try to have my “teacher comments” not fall on deaf ears. Too often returned essays are glanced at for a grade and tossed. I thought that by emailing them directly home, families could sit together, review grades, and make a plan for improvement. Yet, when I grew curious if my efforts were now falling on a different set of deaf ears and decided to ask for a response from families to the latest graded essay, I received replies only from the parents who were constantly involved anyway. 
Some parents were appreciative and responsive to the emails home. However, though I received a higher amount of positive parent feedback regarding communication, the digital divide adapted. I began hearing student conversations (they never seem to know we’re listening) about how they know their parents’ email passwords. Some students were hustling home, accessing the essay, and deleting it before parents had a chance to look at it. 
Similar to my example of students outsmarting their parents with technology, here is a survey -coordinated by the computer protection company McAfee- on how teens are bypassing parental influence as well as how some parents are fighting back.
One way I plan to decrease the digital divide between parents and my use of district technology is informative videos. I recently downloaded Jing, an app that allows you to record video and audio of movements on a computer screen. Hopefully, by making some simple how-to videos on the most important communication pieces I plan to use, parents will be more capable of utilizing them and thus collaborating with their student’s progress at a higher level. 

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