October 23, 2006

Internet (and social media) Safety Skypecast

David Noble is hosting an internet safety skypecast tomorrow night which I hope to be able to join. I'll be very much a listener, I'm sure, although the chat I was having with parents at the Primary school a couple of weeks ago was an incredibly interesting one.

First, there were disappointingly few parents present - something which happens the world over as far as I can understand. Second, parents' knowledge of 'simple' tools - or the existence of them - such as Instant Messaging, Skype or social network/personal web pages is very vague or non-existent.

With these being the enthusiastic parents, the only way I can see forward is for these parents to bring their parent peers in on this, explaining things on terms they understand. Clearly the outreach of a school is limited, especially if at any point the parents attended and possibly had a negative experience of schooling. Also, I'm not sure if parents' perceptions of 'computing' in schools doesn't have more to do with databases and spreadsheets than the messy world of social media.

I was happy to see, too, that these parents did not want to turn the computer off and rip out the internet connection. They saw the benefits and the unrelenting requirement that their offspring be au fait with this connected world.

But with all the stuff out there to help them why are they not finding it? (Why did I not know about these super resources until I went to an expensive conference and heard about them?) What material do we choose? What approaches work best?

Big questions, and I hope that the Skypecast might touch on some of the answers - if you guys don't get in on the comments here first, that is ;-)


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It seems to me that UK education generally could do more to encourage parental involvement. Here in Denmark we go to two meetings a year at which the teaching plans for the class are discussed with all the parents. If something extraordinary needs to be discussed such as a school trip or bullying then extra meetings are called. This is in addition to two meetings a year between individual parents and the teachers to discuss their child's progress. There is a great deal of dialogue between parents and teachers therefore and meetings are generally well attended (80% +). I am sure that the level of expertise of these parents with new technology is not much better than the parents you are talking about but I think that the basis for discussion with parents is probably stronger here than in the UK.

I just visited the Summerhill website and was rather shocked that parents are actively discouraged from becoming part of the school. Smacks of brain-washing to me though I start from a point of being sympathetic to the aims of the school.

As a parent here in DK I have the right to sit in on any of my daughter's classes as long as I give notice of my intention. From my perspective here in Denmark it seems to me that parents in the UK are not encouraged to get involved with their child's education except as a conduit for homework help. In my view this arm¨'s length relationship is all part of the risk assessment culture prevalent in the UK.

Wow! A long way from the original point that parents are not very tech savvy.

I think you're being a bit unfair and I wouldn't look to Summerhill as a typical example or indeed an example of good practice.

The level of parental involvement in the UK is very similar to what you have in DK in terms of numbers of meetings per year and level of attendance. There are, of course, many opportunities to come in and meet your child's Guidance teacher, too.

Where things differ is the involvement of parents in the classroom. This does occur in the primary school on a frequent basis, but with relatively few parents - that's normal, I think. Parents need to have their lives, too. In secondary it doesn't happen at all. I would quite like to see more of this happening, though, as it would show parents what it is we are trying to achieve in school.

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Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

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