Saturday, November 24, 2007

Testing a Hook

I too wonder what is the hook to help educators, administrators, and parents understand our changing world and the impact it is having on schools, students, and learning. Jeff Utecht, in a recent post, refers us to George Siemens’connectivism blog which also always makes me really think. I find George's posts have an amazing ability to identify and explore ideas which have been nagging at me and which I have not yet resolved with any satisfaction. His critical analysis and questioning of the status quo pushes my thinking in new directions to consider new perspectives.

Jeff's post titled, "Shift happened, what's the hook?", was a response to one of George Siemens' posts on Digital natives and immigrants. Is there a difference in our students of today? Or is it our society that is different? How do we respond to it? How do we engage others in understanding it? Jeff wondered

So I’m left thinking; what’s the hook? What is it we tell educators, administrators, parents, school boards, and community members for the reason we need to shift the way we teach? They have been part of this social shift yet they don’t understand it, or refuse to see it. Out-sourcing is part of this shift, so is in-sourcing, so is innovation, and business. We all live in this shifted society but do we understand it? Do we understand what it means not only for us but for our children?

To me, understanding seems to be a key factor. How do we help people understand? During the past month, I have been exploring ways to help parents understand. My last blog post described a Parent Math Night my school held to help parents UNDERSTAND the district's commitment to developing stronger conceptual understandings of mathematical concepts. The evening was a success based on the parents' evaluation of the evening with all parents responding that they increased their understanding conceptual mathematics as a result of the evening activities.

Another attempt on my part was the creation of a wiki, the Learning Hub, for parents and students to use and explore topics related to our classroom studies. Essentially, my decision hinged on my idea that one way to help parents understand the changing face of our world and its impact was to engage them in tools that I was using with their children in my classroom.

I introduced students to the Learning Hub in class explaining it's purpose and encouraging them to share it with their parents. An email, informed parents of the new opportunity to be involved in their child's learning. Created as a protected wiki, parents also received invitations to join the wiki and to participate in a fun project at home with their child. The project was a simple science experiment which was designed by students following their participation in the Technospud O.R.E.O. project developed by Jennifer Wagner. Interestingly, even though a page on the wiki was connected to a classroom project and invited parents to participate in learning with their child, less than a handful of parents accepted the invitation to join and add the results of their experiment onto the wiki. Ok, so basically they weren't interested, were too busy to do the experiment with their child at home, or perhaps they were uncomfortable with the wiki format.

I was certainly hoping for a stronger response.

What to do next? Posting student work was my next strategy. I toyed with the idea of changing the wiki to a private status, which would require parents to join as members in order to have permission to see the contents of the wiki. But, that would not make them any more likely to participate in the wiki. And what I really envisioned was an opportunity for children to learn with their parents, and for parents to be in a position to learn from their children.

I crafted my next attempt following my students' work in creating digital stories for Chris Craft's Life'Round Here global collaborative project. The students had successfully created amazing videos sharing their focused personal passions and views of life where they live. (Another post lies in waiting to share more about their videos and learning gained from the project.) But, just posting the student videos was clearly not going to be enough to engage the parents. This time I decided to ask the parents to use the Discussion tab to reflect upon the students' video. In class, students were posting their own learning reflections to their blogs in Moodle. I promoted the LearningHub discussion tab as a parent homework assignment that provided an opportunity for parents to also reflect on the students' work. In an email I sent to the parents asking them to respond to the videos. I highlighted the power of receiving comments from a real audience which significantly increases student commitment to producing quality work. Our first responses from parents are beginning to appear with parents uniformly impressed with their children's ability to produce such quality videos and fascinated that the students have learned how to create them - and marveling over the change in what students can do today compared to their own experiences.

Slowly, but surely, parents have joined our LearningHub and begun to participate in the changing educational landscape.

What should be the next strategy to further hook our parents? Any suggestions?

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1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, I do not have any suggestions, but I love the learning hub and your work with the students. I've set up a wiki for the work with my students last year. We're developing more this year, but the going is slooooooow.