Making Over Third Grade!: Parent Tech Night
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Monday, November 10, 2014

Parent Tech Night

As promised, here is the post about my Parent Tech Night.  I am currently the only third grade that is 1:1 with tablets and since there isn't a backpack full of papers going home each week a lot of parents were concerned about what their children were working on in class.  At the beginning of the school year I had three parents who voiced concerns about their kids being in a 1:1 class and how they would monitor what their kids were doing in class and for homework.  I send home weekly parent newsletters in several formats (shared Google doc, PDF email attachment, and as a Kidblog post). This letter goes home in English and in Spanish once I get the translated copy from our paraprofessionals. Despite the weekly letters, I wanted parents to feel that they truly understood what their children were doing in class. At the beginning of the school year I asked parents if they would be interested in participating in Parent Tech Nights and though few parents indicated they would be interested in such an event I thought it would be a valuable tool. Therefore, I arranged for our first Parent Tech Night to occur the week after our first progress reports went home.  Out of 20 students I had 9 families indicate they would attend. I thought that was a great percentage of our families and began the work to create our parent tech activities.

I didn't want this to be an event of me just presenting and parents passively listening - I wanted it to be constructive for parents and an opportunity for the kids to show their parents what they have learned so far this year.  I decided a scavenger hunt would be the best way to do this so I got to work creating what I thought would be an interactive and informative scavenger hunt. I had an hour to fill, and looking back, I can honestly say that next time I need to plan for less tasks or provide more time for families to complete all the planned events. [In the future I also would not plan to have a parent night in the midst of a busy week - in this case, it was the first Tuesday after I was out the previous week AND pajama day (of course I changed before parents came)]. 

I created a Google blog for my class specifically for this parent night and provided some of the scavenger hunt information there as well as a PDF that I disseminated through our Google Classroom. I started the event by welcoming parents and asking them if they knew some basics about using an iPad - how to turn it on/off, how to do a hard shutoff, clear the browser history, and how to address the orientation issues when they freeze (I don't know why but our iPads freeze in one orientation every once in a while). When the majority indicated they didn't know how to do something I demonstrated how to do the task and then after 15 min. I told them I could keep talking (I really could have LOL) but that I wanted the night to be about them so I wanted their children to take charge of the night. I had a QR code on the TV (I hae a flat screen TV and an Apple TV box in my room rather than a SMART board) that took them to the Google Blog page that welcomed parents to the tech night. After they read the page it instructed them to scan a QR code on their child's nametag which then took them to the blog's second page and the first list of tasks to complete. This page sent them to the Google Classroom and the PDF list of tasks. 

Google Classroom Scavenger Hunt Task List
There were a few hiccups as Kidblog was down that night so we improvised and had the kids post to the Classroom or email me.  I wondered the room taking care of tech issues (one student couldn't get the QR reader to work - he had shut of permission to the camera) and taking photos of parents and their kids as they worked on the tasks from the scavenger hunt. The tasks were designed to show parents what their kids were doing in writing, the tech skills they have learned, and to have their children teach them how to check their homework each night in the Classroom. 

The event was supposed to end at 6pm - most parents left at 6:15 and the remaining parents left at 7pm (I can never seem to not hold informal conferences if the parents request it...I really shouldn't do that but in 11 years I have never found a good way to put the parents off to another day/time..if you have an idea that works please share!). 

Based on the parent/student requests to finish the tasks at home or after school the next day (many of those who showed up don't have wifi at home) and on the parent comments in the Google Classroom and emails I think that the event was a success! 

I intend to do a parent tech night each trimester - likely right after progress reports as that seems like a great point for parents to come in and do a pulse check with their kids (and with me). I would like to do one a month but I just don't see that working for me or for the parents this year -- maybe next year -- it is a goal of mine to work towards. 

I think that the event was a valuable tool for all. The parents learned what their kids are working on in class. The students were able to teach their parent some of the tech skills they have learned in recent weeks and were able to share their work with their parents. I was able to share some tech basics with parents, see them interact with their kids (that is always eye-opening isn't it?), and alleviate some of the parental concern about what is going on in our classroom.  All in all, I would say that this event was a huge success and I will definitely be hosting more of them in the future!