As we start this school year, one of my goals is to invite parents and families to participate ‘virtually’ with our class activities through social media tools. Last year I realized that while parents were very willing to provide their support, they may not have been aware of how best to do so. I have been thinking through how I use different tools with my class as I prepare a presentation for September.
Our class blog is our portal to the world, and an indispensable learning tool. In addition to providing information and forms, our class blog has been the impetus to some incredible learning opportunities.
On any given day, checking our blog provides a window onto our learning in a variety of different ways.
- After a special activity or event, I can post photos and/or videos so that parents have an opportunity to attend virtually.
- After introducing a new topic, as a class we summarize our learning and I record it on the blog.
- One or two interested students write a review or summary of the activity/presentation
- After a presentation/field trip/activity, students write a written reflection. Each student selects their best line or phrase, and we weave these together as a collaborative post.
- We often find articles of interest in the news or on TV that link to our current units of study. After discussing them as a class, students reflect and provide comments about their opinions. These are then a starting point for new conversations.
I often use short videos to introduce or complement a lesson. Students always ask to watch them again, and posting them on the blog means they go home and view them with their families. Links to websites we use during class are also added to the blog. It’s easy for students to access the sites during class, and then they go home, use them and reinforce their learning.
These learning focused posts are a great way for parents to connect with their kids. Instead of the dreaded “What did you do at school today?” with the inevitable response of “Nothing”, parents get to see what has happened during the day and are ready for dinner table conversations.
Sometimes, I find out about activities at the last minute or on weekends when it’s too late to let parents know. Since all my families are subscribed to the class blog, it’s a simple matter to post the information there, allowing those interested to take part.
Each year our school identifies specific goals. Linking goals to certain class activities informs our family and community about how we are working to achieve them, and raises awareness in a friendly, fun manner.
Our blog has a worldwide audience, and is an easy to use source of information. When we have a question, we can ask for feedback , data or for answers from experts . These are the starting points for continued conversations that lead to more connections, such as Skypes with the experts and further learning.
In addition to our class blog, occasionally we post on the Millgrove School Blog, or the Parkland School Division 184 Days of Learning site.
Each and every day our class blog provides us with relevant lessons in digital citizenship. From our first day of school, each time we write a blog post students are reminded of how to be good digital citizens. They recognize the importance of copyright, and we practice how to properly cite images and ideas. Wherever possible, we use our own pictures to illustrate our writing providing us with many opportunities for fun and creative photo shoots. Modelling responsible use of images everyday means that students have a firm understanding that it is necessary to always have permission to use a photo, and think carefully about the appropriateness of their choices when doing so.
When I use children’s photos, my practice is to not identify them by name (with the exception of when requested by the parent). Students are aware that this helps keep them safe, and are then more thoughtful about their use of pictures on the Internet.
Another important aspect of digital citizenship is the responsibility of sharing. Being a connected classroom means that we learn from others, and that others also learn from us. It is a very special moment when we realize that our actions as described on our class blog can inspire others.
How Can Families and Friends Help?
- Subscribe to our class blog. Scroll down on the right side until you see Subscribe by email, enter your email address and click on create subscription. It’s that easy!
- We love it when we get comments on individual posts. Our class blog is our home page on our class computer and we see it every day. It’s exciting to hear from you! You might suggest a link to a post, or describe a connection from your experiences/work for us.
- Discuss the posts with your child. Ask them about the activity described, come up with new questions about the topic, and think about possible extensions and connections.
I know that Tracey Kratch is designing a Digital Volunteer program that has some exciting ideas for including families. I would love to hear any ideas you have for sharing with parents, and opportunities to invite them to participate!