It is often difficult to schedule parent conferences. Some parents are deployed overseas, others work two or three jobs and just can’t make it into school during conference times, and some parents have such awful memories of their own schooling that they avoid coming back to school like the plague. The dilemma is, of course, we all know students tend to be more engaged in school when there is good communication between the teachers and the parents.
I was perusing Larry Ferlazzo’s blog and came across a posting entitled “Online Tools for Real-Time Collaboration.” And I began to wonder…could these tools be used to strengthen school-home communication? Could parent conferences and student-led conferences be conducted with these tools? Hmmmm…I wondered some more–I do a lot of collaborating with colleagues when crafting presentations and writing articles using iChat and Skype using the screen share capabilities of each application. Surely there must be ways to utilize these online tools effectively to increase parent communication.
I can only wonder about this possibility because I don’t have my own classes anymore. But if I did, I know I would be experimenting with some of the tools Larry mentions as well as Skype!
- Start with a pilot program that I had cleared with my administration
- Explain to all parents what I wanted to accomplish with online conferencing
- Ask for a couple of techno-savvy parent/guardian volunteers who were willing to experiment and give me feedback
- Start with conferences that I knew were going to be very positive–I wouldn’t want to be dealing with possible techno glitches during a potentially stressful conversation
- Survey the volunteers for the positives, minuses of online teacher-student-parent conversations and ask for suggestions to make them better
- Try a second round after having made adjustments to my first protocol
I know that this solution to reaching more parents wouldn’t work for everyone because both ends of the conversations need computers with cameras. However, in the near future this equipment will be ubiquitous in homes and public libraries. There are possibilities for us in education to take advantage of the applications designed for business–we just need to experiment.
I’m really curious to hear how others might be using these online conferencing tools! Has anyone out there tried online conferencing with parents?