My twelve year old son admonished me the other day by stating ,”Mom, you just don’t understand the 21st century!” In essence, I was out of touch with the demands and expectations of the real world. I did my best not to burst out laughing, but rather bit my lip as I listened to him ramble about the intricacies of life in the new century. The last time that I looked, the new century began over 1o years ago. I sure hope that I had “a clue” about what had occurred. What I do understand about this new century is that the world has become more sophisticated and that parents, and teachers, are often left in the dark when contemplating how to ride the technology train of parenting.
Over the last several years, I found that parent-teacher conference time often became more parent focused rather than student centered. With each adoption of technology purchased by my school district, I discovered that what was purchased to be a tool for parents soon became an agent for widening the divide between us and them.Conversations with parents asked me to consider how to reduce this digital divide. I am an ardent believer in the idea that the parent is the first and most important teacher in the life of a child. In my experience, most parents truly want to help their child to be successful, which leads me to ask what could be done to encourage parents to use digital resources?
Ten minute conferences would extend to become 15 and 25 minute conferences as I showed parents how to use the parent portal system, my class website and the on-line bookmarking system for practice, called portaportal. Eyes widen with interest as I explained these on-line systems, yet puzzled expressions revealed that one opportunity to explore a piece of software or social bookmarking system was not enough time for adults to feel comfortable using them. Parents who appeared appreciative of the time that I took to demonstrate these learning management systems, didn’t use them with more regularity after the explanation. Parents were unaware that teachers could notice how many times grades had been viewed. The bookmarking system that I used does not allow the owner to keep track of the viewers and number of times a resource has been used. This lack of participation could cause one to draw the wrong conclusion about parental concern and involvement.
I began to voice these observations to anyone and everyone who would listen. Shouldn’t we do something to help parents understand how to use these tools? Wouldn’t it be advantageous for us to provide some sort of pre-school or mid-year training for anyone who was interested? My concerns fell on deaf ears. Something needed to be done, but what and by whom? * My class load involved the planning and presentation of two intense courses for over 125 students. I didn’t have the time or resources to meet their needs, yet the compulsion to do something did not subside with time. Screecasts that explained how to use the tools the system purchased or the social bookmarking system that I used would have made a wonderful tool for parents and student, IF I had known what they were and IF I knew how to create them.
Screencasts could become a wonderful resource tool for classroom teachers and school systems. As a true believer in the new punctuation, the hyperlink, I explored a trail that led me to discover “The Shamblesguru.” Shamblesguru, the alter ego of Chris Smith, refers to himself as a digital nomad evangelist. The Prezi that he created about Screencasting provides a wealth of resources to help me to further understand how to create a screencast as well as examples of where they are used. He showcases, Mathcasts as part of the “Video in Teaching and Learning” section of this prezi. What an invaluable tool for parents who struggle to help students with mathematics from fourth grade concepts to examples of vector calculus.! (Remember the “new” math of the 1960’s? How cool would it have been to have a screencast to help my parents through the treacherous method of solving algorithms!) The software to create these programs could provide students with the tools that they need to show mastery of the subject as well as to build a school library of resources for other students to use. (I quickly jot an email to my son’s algebra teacher! I am excited and on a roll. Never mind that it’s nearly midnight. I found something innovative, as a result of ‘uberhyperlinking’ for the kids to use!)
Jon Udell, the father of screencasting, considers Tim Fahlberg an innovator. His podcast explores how their shared interest in screencasting/mathcasting is transforming the effectiveness of learning technology. This form of technology is making teaching more effective! It has the power to transform individuals from passive viewers on the sideline to active players in the field of parenting!
So here is my first attempt to create a screencast-“How to Access the Portaportal.” I’m really pleased with it as a first attempt to create a screencast. In the past, I have used screen prints pasted to word documents, coupled with arrows and directions, to help students to understand how to use a site. The possibilities for using this tool are limitless. This method is more efficient and would help students and parents to feel empowered to manage their own learning. Bye, bye baby bird syndrome!
* In all fairness to the system, the state and federal governments evaluate schools on how well students perform on standardized tests. I am unaware of any documentation that is required to show how parents are included in the educational system. This burden that I feel led me to consider how I might transition from that of classroom teacher to one of adult educator. Teachable moments are often serendipitous, yes?