Technology has a huge role in supporting the inclusion of parents in our school learning communities. The first step is to simply build on what we already have in place to include parents in the school connecting to their talents and interests. How are parents already involved in our schools? They participate as coaches, tutors, classroom supporters, school board members, etc. By using Web 2.0 tools, we enhance their experiences while improving communication and increasing opportunities for learning for everyone. When parents feel a part of the school where their ideas are being heard and responded to, they are more apt to be supportive and protective of the school in the wider community.
A well-designed school portal/virtual learning environment using wikis, blogs, shared calendars, vodcasts, etc. leads to two-way communication especially in the very busy lives of parents who sometimes have trouble making it to campus. Just think of the little league baseball coach or scout leader wanting to share information about his/her team. Give him/her a Web page in the school portal, a blog, an image gallery, etc. and you will have a parent feeling connected to the school while modeling how to make connections for other activity leaders.
With our telecollaborative efforts to extend the learning beyond the school walls, we shouldn’t forget that many of our parents are subject-matter experts. E-mail, Skype and/or simple telephone calls to interview and gather information really brings parents into our learning circles. Students producing news shows can record interviews over Skype for upcoming telecasts. Parents can watch or listen to media files of teachers sharing online some of their recent lessons. And how about using Ustream for live webcasts sharing panel discussions, parent education presentations, etc. The videos can then be posted on the school Web site for parents not able to attend in person or via cyberspace.
Looking at supporting 21st century learning initiatives, it makes sense to engage parents in discussions from both the parental and employer viewpoints. If we want to shift our schools, get the corporate parents in to discuss the skills they want from their employees. This real world information can only support efforts to change how we teach. From there, get parents involved in big picture curriculum discussions. Use the school portal to educate and also to engage parents in discussing what our learning environments and instructional strategies should be to develop creative, collaborative and adaptable thinkers.