Social Media and Mobile Aren’t Just for Brands; How Schools Engage Parents and Students in 2011

Some of my earliest recollections of my elementary school’s technology in the early 80′s include the “ding” from the film strip projector and playing the original Oregon Trail on an Apple II in the school library. Each generation has its own memories for how technology shaped their learning experiences. Smart boards and iPads will probably be my first grader’s earliest reference points.

Recently, I received the October newsletter from my child’s school. As I took a quick read through what the various grades were working on, I noticed something very cool – a QR code. The fifth grade students spent the first month of the school year studying ecosystems and developing posters depicting their findings. The posters were hung on the halls of the quad, but the teacher also created a QR code for parents to scan so they could see all of the work without taking a step into the school.

Obviously, QR codes are nothing new for retailers, but I thought this was a great use of technology to engage parents with their children’s learning experiences. Instead of finding a rumpled poster shoved into the bottom of a backpack, a parent could instantly admire their child’s work.

Despite being impacted by budget shortfalls within the past few years, it seems school districts are still finding inventive and cost-effective ways to leverage technology to connect with parents and students. My district broadcasts school board meetings online with a moderated chat room so attendees can discuss and ask questions. Video conferencing also makes it much easier for traveling or deployed parents to still be included in their children’s parent-teacher conferences.

Most teachers have class webpages for parents to keep track of assignments and important dates and use email for weekly updates. And although there may be privacy concerns, some teachers also use Facebook groups to share day-to-day happenings and photos. Teachers are also using new technology and social media to expand the level of engagement with students. Blogs and podcasts are replacing composition notebooks and allow students to share knowledge with each other and their teachers in real-time both inside and outside of the classroom.

Being reintroduced to the elementary school experience, I’m looking forward to seeing how technology influences my experience as parent as well as my kids’ educations. It will be fun reminding them what it was like back in the “old days” of the 20th century.