digital divide

Family tech nights can narrow the digital divide

By recognizing the power of families learning together, districts can make a significant difference in school engagement

After introductions and an icebreaker to build community, we usually have an agenda for the evening that includes goals like these:

  • Establish email accounts for parents who had never used email.
  • Demonstrate how to access their students’ attendance and academic records.
  • Show them how to navigate the district’s webpage and switch it to the Spanish version.
  • Create a webpage scavenger hunt to allow parents to practice locating essential information.
  • Assure parents who had no computer experience that we were all in this together.
  • Show how to download relevant mobile apps like Canvas, Seesaw, etc.
  • Discuss principles of digital citizenship.

For an example of how to build a technology learning community, click here.

Embrace parents as learners
The new normal is that educational technology extends far beyond the classroom. Parents, especially those who haven’t used a lot of technology, often assume that younger people are just good at tech because they grew up with it. But research is starting to show that this is not necessarily the case. When schools explicitly teach digital citizenship and systemically integrate technology, students, in turn, can share these ideas at home.

Educating families and providing opportunities benefit families in multiple ways:

  • Students and parents can access school and classroom sites together.
  • Students and parents can figure out strategies to mitigate challenges like limited connectivity and/or mobile only connectivity.
  • Students and parents can better communicate with educators.
  • Students and parents can learn together and break down the one-way learning dynamic that sometimes occurs in families where parents have limited tech experience.
  • Parents can learn additional skills like accessing billing accounts, health records and job opportunities.

Embracing parents as learners—especially those with minimal technology experience—can cultivate a broader culture of involvement at school and can develop skills that can help family members outside of school. There is no one best way to take advantage of family dynamics and the emergence of technology in schools. However, recognizing the power of families learning together can make a significant difference in school engagement and a greater success outside of school for all family members.

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published on the ISTE Blog on October 17, 2018. Find more articles like this one at ISTE is a worldwide network of educators who believe in the potential of technology to transform teaching and learning.]

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