The 8 Edtech Questions Every Parent Should Ask Schools This Year
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The 8 Edtech Questions Every Parent Should Ask Schools This Year

Edtech has created learning opportunities for kids to gain valuable experiences through a teaching style that speaks their language as digital learners. Many districts are embracing a non-traditional approach to educating children through the infusion of technology--and parents are expressing a mix of emotions.

Recently, I engaged in a conversation with a few parents on Facebook who expressed apprehension to this new approach to learning through technology, and how it impacted learning for their children. Most were striking it down, and calling for an end to Common Core, because in their opinion, it excludes the “basics.”

Now, I would agree that there are definitely still some broad areas of concern with the implementation of technology in education, but this change is not all bad. True technology integration speaks to preparing our students to be entrepreneurs and leaders, by developing creators, critical thinkers, and problem solvers.

Parents are huge stakeholders, and have an extremely important voice in the edtech discussion. As parents, we want to be a voice, but don’t always know how to begin the conversation. So, here are eight questions to get you started.

1) What technology goals does the school have this year? Is technology a top priority, and listed in the district strategic plan? Each school should have specific goals related to technology that should be aligned with a districtwide plan. Perhaps a goal would be to increase the amount of devices in the hands of students and teachers within the next few years, or, creating more technology enriched lessons that reach redefinition levels in the SAMR Model that infuse STEAM based scope and sequence curriculum.

2) How does the school/district communicate with parents and community? How will you receive important information? Find out whether you will receive electronic newsletters, emails, or automated phone calls. Or, find out whether information will be communicated through a district or school website, or through social media sites like Twitter or Facebook. You’ll then know what to check on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.

3) What type of devices will my child be using? What type of access will my child have to technology tools? Will students have access to carts, 1-1 devices, or a computer lab environment? Districts have a wide variety of technology devices to choose from, including MAC or PC, Chromebooks, or hand-held devices. Knowing the type of device your child will have access to is key to knowing how you as a parent can support them at home.

4) What digital citizenship curriculum are students exposed to? What’s your policy on cyberbullying?Will you provide opportunities for parents to learn more about raising digital citizens? What can I do as a parent to prepare my child to compete in the global society? With increased use of technology inside and outside of the classroom, it is important to educate students and parents on being good digital citizens. Intentional lessons on teaching digital citizenship through platforms like Common Sense Media and Netsmartz are important and necessary. Districts should take an active role in promoting good citizenship with zero tolerance for cyberbullying--and you, parents, can help stress that.

5) What is the campus policy on cell phones and personal devices brought to the school? Be proactive and be aware of district and school level policies on personal devices. Ask for information in writing, so that you can discuss the policies in great detail with your children.

6) What online tools/apps can I download at home that will help me support my child? Many schools pay for online subscriptions for learning that are also accessible to parents at home. Find out what’s available, and how you can lend your support, by providing an opportunity for your child to continue that learning at home.

7) My child is interested in coding, robotics, etc.. How can the school support him/her? Many schools participate in the Hour of Code, which provides introductory lessons for students interested in coding, and usually sparks the interest of students who have not been exposed to it. Coding has many benefits for students, including creating problem solvers, creators, and analytical thinkers.

8) How does the technology enhance what my child does in your classroom?What opportunities do teachers have to learn ways to integrate technology? Teachers should be able to express why they are using specific technology tools in their classrooms, and how it is helping students reach learning goals, and higher level thinking. School districts should provide ongoing learning opportunities for teachers to enhance their teaching toolbox.

As strong of a proponent for technology as I am, I also understand that technology has it’s place. Technology is never a teacher replacement. The true power of edtech is the ability to facilitate and extend children's awesome natural abilities and drive to create, explore, experiment, evaluate, draw conclusions--in short, learn--independently, building curious and confident learners.

The educational agenda should be to prepare our students to compete in a global society. We need to believe in developing a society of entrepreneurs, and not teaching a set of skills to get a job. If your child is at a school that is not teaching fundamentals as a starting point, and the focus is just technology, then you should meet the principal at the front door, with a letter of complaint.

But before you jump to conclusions, realize that the method/process of how it might be being taught in this digital age is different than the way we were taught, and that is okay. Education is evolving, and believe me, that is a good thing. We live in a technology-driven society, and we all rely on it and benefit from it--so why do we want to go back to basics when it comes to education?

Embrace it folks! Technology’s here to stay. And it’s not going anywhere--so get your questions answered.

Patricia Brown is a technology integration coach, a professional development specialist, an adjunct graduate professor, and an edtech consultant. She is also an official EdSurge columnist.

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