In my last post, what started as an endorsement of The Incredibles2, and their recent sneak peek trailer, ended as a declaration that parents need help supporting their children with school work at home. Think about how frameworks have changed over the last ten years (but certainly since parents were in school). When parents were in school, there might have been weekly newsletters or emails indicating what happened in school this week and how parents could support students at home. Then teachers developed websites where parents could check assignments and look at support resources. In the last few years, learning management systems came onto the scene and replaced websites. Teachers can now, with a few easy clicks, easily store everything they want to in a digital classroom for students to access. Unfortunately, parents often can’t access this resource. Even when Google Classroom added parent email capability, it only sort of helped.
A most basic example of this is with tracking assignments. Parents probably start the homework routine with the question “do you have any homework?” Some kids probably know/remember/recorded what they have to do and get right to it. For those of us not blessed with professional students, the answer is often “I don’t know,” followed by a groan (and sometimes it’s the student)! An easy solution to this is to use a calendar program and share the link with parents. In my classroom, this is Google Calendar (which I couldn’t get by without), but other calendar programs probably work the same way.
Here’s my system:
1. Create a free Google Calendar with the name of my class.
2. Add my assignments to the Google Calendar. I like the “Schedule” view for an assignment calendar because it looks like a list rather than a calendar, but you can choose among several different views. If you want to provide an agenda for each day, consider starting your “assignments” with numbers, like “1 Review Homework” followed by “2 Forces and Motion Lab” so they will stack up in numerical/chronological order.
3. Go into the calendar settings and make the calendar PUBLIC. This will allow anyone, whether or not they use Google calendar, to instantly see your assignments. Share the URL with parents (and students!).
You can also share the calendar with individual email addresses. Or embed the calendar on a website. This way, parents can add your calendar to their digital calendar. Then the assignments come to them without having to do anything special. If you’re trying to support student learning at home, what could be easier for parents than just seeing what the assignments are inside an existing calendar? Of course, parents might need to be shown how to do this. That is a great task for Open House, right?
If you want to learn more about Google Calendar, check out this post I wrote about it earlier this year.
The system you have in place might look great to you. Take a minute and think about it, though, from a parent’s perspective. Can they access the information? Without an account and a password? How many clicks does it take to get to the vital information for all the classes their children take? Is the system convenient for parents (whose help you probably need) or is it convenient for you? Have you taken steps to teach parents how to make this system work efficiently?
When we make decisions about the way we will support students outside the classroom, we need to think about the classroom that happens at their homes. A fellow Ohio technology enthusiast, Mike Daugherty, addresses this with his website on a page called Help @ Home. Mike is a K-12 Director of Technology and an endless supplier of tips and strategies. He was selected as a Google Certified Innovator in part due to a project that aims to help parents understand and navigate technology advancements that we discretely teach to our students. Of course, this thinking fills the gap that I have now described in two posts. If you are feeling that gap, subscribe to his email updates on his website. And, of course, follow my blog for continued conversations about this topic.