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Want classroom technology to succeed? Train parents first

Parents—the lynchpin to student achievement.

It’s no mistake that the federal Every Student Succeeds Act emphasizes community and parent engagement. The growing popularity of community schools shows that parents who participate in and support their children’s learning make incredible contributions to their academic success.

Ditto, it turns out, for the use of technology in the nation’s schools.

Take the School2Home program in California, for example. In a recent post on Edutopia, journalist and project-based learning advocate Suzie Boss details an initiative in which low-income students receive take-home learning devices, such as laptops, as well as special training and curriculum to extend the benefits of learning beyond the four walls of the classroom.

The program, which is currently active in low-performing middle schools in 10 districts throughout the state, distinguishes itself by actively bringing parents into the learning process.

Before students can take their devices home, parents must complete several hours of dedicated education technology training. Topics start with practical technology skills and usage and advance to higher-level philosophical issues, such as digital citizenship.

Meeting parents where they are
“Once we get to 80 percent of parents trained,” School2Home’s Director Agustin Urgiles tells Edutopia, “you see a transformation of the school culture.”

At Winters Middle School, one School2Home participant, program administrators set a goal of 100-percent parent training.

Administrators knew it would be a challenge to get every parent on board. To make it easier for parents to attend training sessions, the school provided child care for night and weekend classes, held classes in both English and Spanish, and called parents individually—in some cases, even going to their homes—to ensure they were trained.

More than 350 Winters students and their parents are now fully trained on the technology.

Assistant Principal Micah Studer says the program’s success is evident by the practical ways in which students and parents think of and use the technology.

As he tells Edutopia, “We don’t want kids to think this is flashy. We want technology to be an everyday tool.”

To be sure, School2Home isn’t the only program providing education-based technology training to students and their parents. But it is a quality example of the impact parent engagement can have on school and student success. It should also be noted that these types of programs don’t have to be reserved for poor or low-income school districts.

As you integrate new technologies and innovations in your schools and classrooms, what steps are you taking to turn parents into productive allies in those efforts? Tell us in the comments.

As you implement new technologies in your schools, have you thought about how to bring parents into that conversation? Here’s one way to include that feedback up front.