When I started my 20% Project I had set out to find technology that would work well with specifically a Social Studies classroom. My goal was to find technology that would encourage learning in new and different ways while continuing that process after students left the classroom. I found some really good tools that will work well for a Social Studies classroom, but I also found numerous tools and ideas that would work for any subject area. I found that there are plenty of tools available for use in the classroom as well as numerous resources available to connect with students and parents after the official school day ends. All in all I would say that this project has been relatively successful for me!
One thing that I found very interesting while researching my project was that engaging students required engaging parents as well. In order for home to become part of the learning process it is important that parents become a vital role as well. In my quest to find tools that would help me engage students I also found tools that will allow me to more effectively engage parents and get them involved with what their student’s are learning in their Social Studies class. Originally I thought it would take different tools to engage the two different groups, but I found that in reality many of the tools would work well for either audience. Similarly I found that tools that worked in other subject areas would also work in mine. When I started looking for Social Studies technology I thought it would take on new and interesting things, but what I found was that there is no need to reinvent the wheel when there are so many great tools out there that will work for multiple different areas.
If I had more time to continue working on this 20% project I believe I would start looking at how well different tools work in different settings. Looking for real world experiences and comparing apples to apples with different tools I think it is necessary to narrow down all of the tools I found into a select few that really do the job well. I think it is important to not take on too many new tools at once because at some point it will bog you down and it may all crash. I think a lot of the tools I found have a lot of potential, but I would love to spend more time with each one comparing them and seeing which ones work for multiple roles and which ones best serve the needs of a Social Studies teacher.
My experience with this 20% Project has been a good one. I learned new things and found several new tools and technologies that I hope to one day incorporate into a classroom setting. It has been nice that this project was spread out over the length of the course allowing it to continually grow and develop. In total I spent a good deal of time researching my topic and was able to produce concise blogs about what I was finding. Feeling as if the blogs were just an outlet to organize our thoughts the writing really did not take time away from the research itself and I think that was a huge success for me personally.
I think that projects like this are a great idea that more teachers should be using. The fact that each student got to dive into a topic that they found interesting is huge! There are so many benefits to allowing students to chose what they are studying. Truly the only complaint I have with this project is the fact that it didn’t last longer. I feel like every week I was making more and more progress and I think it would be interesting to see where it would have gone with say a ten week course. I will say that the idea of a 20% Project is something that I will strongly consider using in my classroom one day!
Last week I looked at ways to engage students once they left school. I still believe that the key to success in the education process is to ensure that students are still engaged by what they are learning even while they are at home. However, a large majority of what I found last week about engaging students once they got home pointed towards the need to engage parents and get them on board with what is going on in their child’s learning. With that in mind this week I want to look at ways to engage parents with technology so that they can play a major role in their child’s learning after the school day ends.
The last few weeks I have tried really hard to avoid duplicating tools that I have already found. However, this week I think it is more important to find high quality tools than to find new tools. With that said there may be repeats from other areas of this course.
Similar to my last couple of posts I started this week with various Google searches regarding engaging parents of students with technology. I found multiple sites and article that provided good information and ideas. These two sites in particular really hit the nail on the head with what I was looking for when I started the Google searches!
Ways to Use Technology to Engage With Parents
5 Ways to Use Technology to Engage with Parents
Boiling both sites down to the basics these sites pretty much line up with each other on how to engage parents. Both sites recommend texting tools such as Remind101 or ClassPager to communicate important material with parents by relaying it straight to their phone. ClassPager is a new tool to me and it looks like it has a lot of potential for engaging parents and students! Both sites recommend setting up Educational Blogs to keep parents on the same page with what is going on in class so that they can help students to the best of their ability at home. It initially surprised me when I saw both of these sites recommend Twitter and Skype as means to connect with parents, but the more I read into it the more I really liked the idea. Twitter is a great tool to engage students and why not use it to its maximum ability by engaging parents at the same time. Skype is also a great tool! I know how hard it is to get parents in to school for parent teacher conferences with their busy schedules. Skype breaks down a lot of those constraints to allow parent teacher conferences at any time and any location. I simply don’t think it gets any more effective in engaging parents and pulling them into their student’s learning process!
The newest tool I found this week was Teacher App & Grade Book. There are similar tools out there, but this looks promising. This app for smart phones and mobile devises is a tool that allows teachers to publish grades, attendance, reminders and other important material that can be accessed by parents and students. This tool makes instant access to the learning process simple and easy regardless of when and where you try to get involved. Parents can know exactly how there students are doing and what they need to work harder at every time they pick up their phone!
Looking back at the things I have found and read this week I can’t help but realize most of it is not new. Most of what I found for engaging parents is the same stuff I found for engaging students. Though I was initially disappointed that I didn’t find a brand new, ground breaking tool, I am not disappointed anymore. It doesn’t have to be new and different to engage parents, but instead it just has to be effective. Plus, if you look on the bright side, using the same tools to engage students and parents simply means that as a teacher I don’t have to learn new tools and tricks. I can be effective by learning what I already use and using it well across the board!