What Tech Parents Don’t Know but Should

It is not uncommon to ask parents what they know about what’s happening in the classroom and to discover that they really don’t know at all, or are satisfied with very little feedback. For instance, one of the simple questions parents should ask of their children daily, “What did you learn in school today?” often isn’t asked out of frustration, due to the feeble responses it gets. The follow-up question often doesn’t get asked either, and if it does, the response in this century is scary. That follow-up question to children by parents should be, “What tools did you use at school to do those things you did today?” The frightening final statement from parents is an ancient one, “He/She gets good grades… and that’s all that matters.”

To carry this scenario to the next level may be troubling, as well. Ask parents more about specific technology used in their children’s classrooms, and you may get responses such as, “Well, they don’t have tablets or other devices, but they can bring in whatever they want. No one does that though. And they can’t type anyway. I learned how to type, but my kids can’t. All they do is point and tap the screen with their pointer fingers. I did hear that there’s a way to write on a screen, and that would be better… I think… if there is a way to do that. But my kids use pen, pencils and lined notebooks to do their work. When they need something typed, I do it, because they know I type fast.”

And then there’s the cloud. Students may know about it, and adults with specific needs as well, but parents may only know the option is a possibility when uploading pictures take on a smartphone, or when a computer crashes, and all data and images are lost. At that moment, when the computer expert in the family, or repair center technician says, “Why didn’t you back anything up… to the cloud, online storage place—you know that there’s free space for that, and more space if you need it can be purchased. Sorry, your computer is toast, and all your data is gone. Sorry you didn’t know. No one told you?”

We are certainly in a much better place technologically speaking in schools and in classrooms, and more parents are using smartphones and tablets for communications and amusement, but we are missing an opportunity to educate beyond the small percentage that are native 21st century tool users. Those questions are of a past century and their answers unfortunately are as recent as today. None of it is satisfactory, and none of it is acceptable.

So, how do we instigate change? Well, that’s easy. We need to educate parents in the tools their children should be using today and every day, and not what their parents were comfortable with in their own schooling. Those parent lessons should also teach how they, as parents, can instigate change at the local level—in the use of new teaching and learning tools in schools and classrooms. This problem is universal, and can be seen in the most highly-funded school communities and in the very least.

Those questions, asked of parents, about what their children do in class and the tools they’re using, can be a good barometer for which century their kids are living in at school.  It is also an abrupt awakening for us—those who speak, write, and support education change through the use of technology—that there’s a very vocal and intelligent group of under-informed education technology supporters out there, who just need help time-warping into this century for themselves, their children, and education change. We need to inform parents more about what they should know about learning today to help create the appropriately staffed, equipped, active and educationally content-rich environment for our children.

Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
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