“Parent Teacher Chat” On Twitter — Guest Post

For people who are not familiar with Twitter, there are many organized opportunities for discussion called “chats.” These are scheduled times when people with interest in a particular topic can communicate and share at the same time. One of these is called Parent Teacher Chat.

I’ve invited Joe Mazza, one of the chat’s organizers,  to write a short guest post describing it.  Joe Mazza is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, and Principal at Knapp Elementary School in suburban Philadelphia.  He is currently completing his dissertation working alongside international family engagement scholar Dr. Joyce Epstein studying social media’s impact on home-school partnerships. He writes a blog called eFACE Today where he shares electronic Family and Community Engagement strategies.  Follow him on Twitter @joe_mazza

You can read a longer post about this topic at his own blog.

On Wednesday night, 12/7 at 9EST, #ptchat (Parent-Teacher) returned to the schedule of much anticipated weekly education chats. Teachers, principals, parents, directors and others around the Twitterverse came together to discuss a popular topic here at the end of 2011: Which websites or mobile applications can help parents support classroom instruction. Questions were posed to teachers in elementary and secondary settings such as…If you had to bookmark 10 websites on your student’s home computer, which ten would you choose and why?

A great deal of resources were shared during the hour long chat, and I will be blogging about many of them in the coming days to lend a helping hand to parents looking to maximize online time for their children. Khan Academy, Study Island, Starfall and other sites were mentioned and described, but there were also some notable mobile/tablet apps recommended.

Aparna Vashisht (@Parentella) and I moderated the chat, and we plan to gauge the feedback of all who contributed during #ptchat with a poll to identify a topic for next week’s chat. Current ideas include what teachers would like their students to be focused on during winter break, as well as snow day activities and more targeted approaches for using sites like Khan Academy.

Opportunities to engage families and communities using technology (eFACE) are growing on a daily basis as educators around the world share what works for their respective settings. With more and more families gaining access to today’s technologies, the percentage of families in schools without access to technologies continues to decline. Using social media and other technologies are just another way schools are using to “differentiate for their families” in order to partner with as many as possible.

Just this evening, I used Twitter to share the archive of last night’s #ptchat as well as resources for Khan Academy and Kathy Schrock’s Bloom’s Taxonomy for iPad Apps.

Thanks, Joe!

“Digital Parent Engagement”

Lorna Costantini has developed an excellent presentation on how schools can use technology to connect with parents.

Check-out her Digital Parent Engagement – k12Online Conference 2010 presentation.

This is how she describes it:

This video shares some of the best practices of innovative teachers and parents who are using digital technology to form strong positive working relationships and give parents tools that they can use to support their child’s learning.

Providing Families With Free Computers & Internet Access In The UK

I’ve written about the family literacy project at our school where we provide computers and home internet access to immigrant families to help with English language development. This effort was developed together by families and school staff.

I recently learned about a a government program in the United Kingdom called Home Access. This is how it describes itself:

Get On In School: Get Online At Home

Home Access is a government drive which will help low-income families to get access to a computer and the internet to get online at home.

If you are a low income family in receipt of certain benefits you could qualify for a grant to buy a computer and/or a minimum of one years’ internet access. The programme is aimed at those that need it most and targets families that do not have access to a computer or the internet at home.

Depending on what you need, the grant allows eligible applicants to buy one of the following packages:

1. Full package (a computer, one year’s internet access, service and support)
2. A computer with service and support only
3. One year’s internet access

I don’t know how extensive, or successful it is (if anyone does, please leave a comment). Depending on how a program like this is structured, it can certainly be an effective tool for parent engagement.

Home Computer Project Expansion & Assessment Results

Some readers of this blog are familiar with our school’s Family Literacy Project where we provide computers and home Internet access to immigrant families. This effort has been recognized by the International Reading Association. Students with home computers (who use our website for one hour each day), typically have a three-to-four times greater gain in our cloze and fluency assessments over control group members.

The Sacramento Mutual Housing Association
(SMHA), one of the most respected affordable housing organizations in California (if not in the United States), began piloting a similar project in one of their developments.

They hired the bilingual aides — Xee Vang and Kou Vang — who help in our school’s project so that they could work with SMHA immigrant residents to lead an on-site computer and English literacy program at the development’s computer lab.   Families attended a three-month,  twice-weekly,  two hour class to learn English and develop computer skills.   The twelve families who graduated from the program are receiving their own computer and will be able to continue to use the wireless network at the site, with similar “homework” expectations.

In our project at Burbank High School, we never really followed-up on parent English language assessments — it was hard enough to find the time to regularly do ones with students.  And we have never really looked at assessing computer skill development, either.  In the SMHA project, however, both were done — in fact, the primary emphasis of the course was on adults, though younger family members also periodically attended, and the results were pretty darn impressive.

Almost all of the participants in the program were Beginning English Language Learner adults — half  of them were Vietnamese and half were Hmong.  The average initial English assessment scores were 69.7% and by the end of three months they stood at 98.8%.    And in the computer skills assessment, the first scores averaged 14.2%, while the final average was 95.6%.

Here are links to some of the projects created by participants:

Group Projects

Individual Projects

SMHA begins a second class later this month at about the same time we’ll be starting-up another year of our school-based effort.  Wish us both luck!

Connecting Parents And Schools In The UK Using Technology

BECTA, the government agency in the United Kingdom whose job it is to help schools use educational technology effectively, also looks for ways to use technology to connect schools and parents.

They have a website titled Inspire Parental Engagement, and a YouTube video titled Engaging Parents: An Overview.

It’s interesting to see how the concept of parent engagement is viewed in countries other than the United States.