George Lucas Educational Foundation

Forest Lake Elementary School

Grades K-5 | Columbia, SC

Technology Provides Parents a Window on the Classroom by Linking Home to School

At Forest Lake Elementary, parents stay informed and participate in their child's education with assignment trackers, student blogs, and other online learning tools.
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Technology Provides Parents a Window on the Classroom by Linking Home to School (Transcript)

Teacher 1: You can underline what's covering the polar bear. Mm-hmm, you're right.

Narrator: At Forest Lake Elementary School, technology is at the core of the learning process.

Teacher 1: Do you wanna use the pointer and make it go up a little bit more?

Student 1: I'm creating a battle on the game code Medieval Two, and we have to research what kind of people they had there, and like the terrain of the land and stuff. Like when I--

Narrator: In history class, Ian uses game software to recreate Revolutionary War battles and a Blackboard account to make daily journal entries. Technology also provides a window on the classroom for parents. By accessing her son's Blackboard account at home, Ian's mom can see what he's doing in class every day. She can also check on upcoming assignments, and his teachers' recommendations for extra credit work.

Anne Graybill: Right now I'm on my son Ian's Blackboard account. He's my fourth grader. He likes me to read what he's written sometimes, and this is just an example. It's a little, I guess, blog. And he's just talking about all the different things that they did today with their particular group. "We are at peace with the French and the Swedish, and the Dutch want to be allies with us, but we haven't decided if we want to be allies with them yet." So that's actually other groups in their class, and he's just kind of writing down, "One of our most important seas is off the Gulf of Mexico. We need to transport goods from Florida." It's amazing, you can see the facts that are woven in, just from him writing this journal. So I love to get on and read that kind of thing. And then also, here's an example. Study Island is a really fun place that they can study for their different reading and grammar skills. You'll see here, it says, "Online Learning, Extra Practice and Early Finishers," so this is a place where their teacher, Mr. Durden, has placed several links. Also, if he forgets an assignment, he can go on Blackboard and find out what it is, instead of having to bother the teacher or call a friend. He can just go right online and find it out.

Narrator: Blackboard accounts cost just two dollars and fifty cents per student for the year. They're paid for by the school district, which also contracted with a local web team to design a special portal just for parents.

Anne Graybill: It's pretty easy. You can sign into the account and you can keep up with their grades. And it's a nice way to keep track of how your children are doing, and not let it get away from you, where you don't find out till a week before the nine weeks ends, "Oh no, they're making a C or a D or whatever." So, and they actually email me any time a new grade comes up, so I can go on there. I probably go on there, maybe three or four times a week. Maybe more than I should, but it makes it very easy to be able to see how your children are doing.

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Video Credits

Produced, Written and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis


  • Karen Sutherland

Associate Producer

  • Doug Keely

Camera Crew

  • Michael Epstein
  • Perry Goodfriend

Video Programming Producer

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Michael Pritchard

Original Music

  • Ed Bogas

Support for Edutopia's Schools That Work series is provided, in part, by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

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Comments (3) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Paul Sedunary's picture
Paul Sedunary
Manager, Curriculum and Innovation, Catholic Education Office Melbourne, Au

I would be interested to know if there been any evidence to demonstrate the impact of this type of parental engagement on student learning at Forest Lake.

pottsedtech's picture
4-6 teacher interested in all things technology, curriculum and creative

What this school is doing is wonderful- so much ideal technology available and integrated (though who placed the IWB so high?)
Blackboard is a useful tool but one that my school doesn't have the opportunity to fund.
Are there free, online grading tools that teachers can use and parents can access?

maria Concepta Mmeka's picture

How can teacher or school gets involved in developing black board for all the students if the organization is a private school?


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