Getting parental buy-in for school and class initiatives and activities can be a challenge for teachers for any number of reasons. Some parents and caregivers may have had a negative school experience that makes them resistant to engaging, others are working multiple jobs and are already stretched to the limit, and still others might have been discouraged by a poor relationship with one of their children’s teachers.
This was the case pre-pandemic, but now we have a new challenge that can hinder parents’ buy-in: resistance to the use of technology in the classroom.
Maybe they think their children are spending too much time on screens as it is. Maybe they feel alienated because they don’t have experience with the technology. Maybe dealing with their child’s edtech use is just one more thing that creates stress—as we all saw last year, Wi-Fi issues, inconsistencies in course setup, and frustrations with navigating an unfamiliar learning management system were all circumstances that led many parents to throw their hands up in despair.
In the coming academic year, we will be faced with an entirely new landscape in which many schools and teachers will build on their newfound understanding of edtech, embrace it, and continue to rely on it for blended learning. Meanwhile, some parents and caregivers likely hope that technology and all of its challenges will disappear post-pandemic—that everything will go back to the way it was.
In considering how we can best reach and even convert parents who are still feeling the sting of pandemic learning and blame technology for their struggles, and how to be proactive to ease their stress and irritation, not to mention head off potential complaints, here are some suggestions to begin the year and set up for success. Being proactive is key.
Boosting Parental Support for Edtech Use
Acknowledge the struggles—and showcase the positives: Often parents and caregivers just want to know that their experiences and feelings are validated and understood. Try sending an email or a video at the beginning of the school year that starts by discussing the struggles parents may have experienced with pandemic learning, and acknowledge that some parents might feel like using technology in the classroom is unnecessary.
Then showcase the amazing learning that happened virtually with your students the previous year. If, for example, students had a virtual visit with an author, share a clip of that experience. If students used tools like Padlet or Jamboard for collaboration, show how that worked. Explain that communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking will continue to be a part of the classroom with the support of technology, with the added benefits that students get from interacting in person.
Set clear expectations and norms: Many parents and caregivers don’t know what to expect after the pandemic. How much support will their child need with technology? How much time should their child be spending online for school work at night? What should they do if their child has trouble accessing online materials they need for homework?
Many of our parents were not taught with technology, so they don’t know what to expect when it comes to the intersections of parenting, schooling, and edtech. And the pandemic year likely disrupted any foundational knowledge they had developed.
To head off more confusion, be explicit about what the expectations and norms are. Let parents know how and when technology will be used in the classroom, and give them a concrete sense of how much online work their children might do as homework, as well as how much support they will need from adults at home.
Make the most of back-to-school night: At back-to-school night, offer a short learning experience for parents and caregivers to do with the student in the classroom. For example, you could create an engaging activity rooted in game-based learning or augmented or virtual reality. That way, they’ll experience the excitement of using technology in an engaging way, learn how to collaborate with their child in using technology, and become familiar with how technology can enhance rather than replace learning and personal interactions.
Continue providing resources for parent learning: If your students are expected to do work that requires using tech tools or devices at home, provide parents and caregivers with the same level of support you provided during the pandemic.
If, for example, you ask your students to complete a Flipgrid, be sure that both students and their parents have access to a short instructional video on how to use Flipgrid. Parents will appreciate the effort you make to support them at home, and the gesture will provide them a level of security when their child comes to them for help with their online work.