A few months back, I received an email from Jack, an ed tech company director who had finished reading Educating Gen Wifi. He felt compelled to write a post on his blog about the book and sent me a link to it.
Jack confessed that it wasn’t until he was half way through the book that he realised it wasn’t about technology per se but about making schooling relevant in today’s world. Admittedly, the book’s cover and graphic may have contributed to his initial assessment but Jack’s comments were interesting because the premise of writing this was to open up discussion around the nature of schooling in today’s world. Technology has certainly forced us to think about schooling differently but it is the question of ‘why’ that I want readers particularly parents to reflect on.
Parents have a valuable role to play in the learning process but I think they have been under-utilised or overlooked. We talk about school as a community of learners but do we view parents as learners and importantly, do they understand the language of learning?
John Hattie in Visible Learning states that ‘parents should be educated in the language of schooling, so that he home and school can share in the expectations, and the child does not have to live in two worlds.” (p70)
Hedley Beare wrote in 2001, that “part of the school’s formal task is to provide systematic ‘teaching’ of parents so that they know how to ensure that learning-in-family, incidental learnings at home and out of school, and parent nurturing are in harmony with and reinforce the student’s formal learning programme.” (Creating the Future School p190).
When we educate parents, we move them from learner to learning partner. Silverton Primary School in Victoria is a good example of how parents have become partners in their learning journey. In wanting to create a 21st century learning experience, the leadership team recognised the vital role that parents could and should play. They encouraged parents to observe and discuss what happens in the learning spaces. The school sent research literature home so that strategies were not seen as experimental but grounded in good theory and research. Parent and student voice has become a common feature of their newsletters.
Silverton is just one example – there are other examples in the book but ideally this should be happening in all schools. How do we work together to build a language of learning that extends across home and school? How do we utilise technology beyond communicating with parents to changing how we collaborate with them?
According to Michael Fullan the research is clear. “Nothing motivates a child more than when learning is valued by schools and families/community working together in partnership. These forms of involvement do not happen by accident or even by invitation. They happen by explicit strategic intervention.