As kids are now back to school and families prepare to meet with teachers during open houses and parent-teacher conferences, technology should be on your mind. Although it’s always great to start these conversations at the beginning of the school year, this is a topic you can address at any time throughout the school year. The iPads in the corner of the room, those Chromebooks in the library - how are they being used during the school day? And how can families ensure that technology is being used in a purposeful manner at home?
Screen time: It’s not just quantity, but quality, too
When parents talk to their teachers about technology in the classroom, the conversation often focuses on one area: screen time. Although it’s an important factor to include in discussions with teachers and school leaders, families should also consider quality use of screen time. Quality use of technology can include interaction with peers in both face-to-face and virtual spaces, as well as opportunities for students to demonstrate understanding through the creation of multimedia projects. Instead of only counting the minutes a child encounters a screen, the types of interactions they have with a device should be considered.
The quality use of digital tools in the classroom can take many forms. Students can capture their ideas with video recording tools so teachers can hear and see their thinking. They can snap pictures of their work to create digital portfolios to share with teachers, peers, families, or even a larger audience. And in a classroom with just a few devices, students can work collaboratively to create movies, publish websites, and share their learning with the world.
Questions parents can ask their child’s teachers about technology include:
- Are children creating and collaborating?
- Are children exploring new worlds and making connections to other children across time zones?
- Are children learning how to navigate online spaces with digital citizenship?
- Are children being exposed to a variety of online formats, like blogs and infographics?
Find ways to use technology for continued learning at home
When speaking to teachers about technology use in the classroom, you can also be thinking about ways you can support your child’s in-class work during after-school hours. Ask about curriculum goals in your child’s classroom, as it can help you inform how you use technology with your child at home.
Questions parents can ask their child’s teachers include:
- What can my child watch on a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu to extend their thinking about a topic they are studying?
- What types of games or online reading materials reinforce a strategy my child is exploring in the classroom?
- What podcasts can we listen to as a family to listen to stories come to life or learn about new topics?
- What YouTube channels provide educational content that connect to subjects my child will learn about this year?
If you’re concerned that your child doesn’t have regular access to tech-rich learning experiences during the school day, carve out time to leverage digital tools outside of school. You can use devices you have at home strategically to connect your children’s use of technology to their learning goals. This could include finding a podcast on a topic connected to a topic your child is learning about in science or social studies classrooms. Alternatively, many community-based libraries provide tablets and Wi-Fi hotspots for the public to check out. These spaces often provide children with access to computers and wireless technology onsite.
As parents, try placing “tasks before apps.” This can include both finding successful and quality use of technology in classrooms, as well as extensions at home. Directing your children to online resources that help them understand their world is a great place to start. From TED-Ed videos to Khan Academy tutorials, the possibilities are endless. To make this school year a success, start the conversation with your child’s teacher now on how you can both leverage the power of technology to help students create, collaborate and explore the world!