Enabling Parents in the Digital Classroom

February 19, 2021

Remote education means that parents have become much more involved with their kids in the “classroom” (a word that is now synonymous with living room, dining room, and kitchen.)

In many cases, parents have taken on the roles of teacher aides. The teacher sets the lesson plan, delivers it digitally to the student, and the parent — who may be simultaneously working remotely from their own home office — is left to manage behavior, help navigate online learning, and keep their child on task and off of YouTube.

This presents a challenge for districts, as schools must supply not only teachers and students, but the parent community as well, with the resources to support learning. How do we enable parents to help maintain the level of education that's required for our children at each developmental stage, without sacrificing quality through distance learning? 

Districts need to have tools, programs, and partnerships that empower their parent community. Here are just a few ways that districts can better enable and educate parents in the digital classroom.


1. Leverage Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs)

School districts often hire teachers on special assignment (TOSAs), or Instructional Technologists, to specialize in training and instructing teachers on technology systems used in schools. Sometimes, this role is focused entirely on training while other times, a TOSA may serve as a tech administrator or system manager.

In the age of remote learning, districts can leverage professionals in TOSA roles to provide training and technical support to the parent community as well as teachers and staff.

Teachers may be the first point of contact for many parents, fielding questions about technical issues or navigating school software. Your teachers already have their plates more than full with remote lesson planning, so directing parents to a TOSA can take some of the burden off when it comes to parent questions and quick fixes, such as when a student’s audio stops working or a parent can’t log into your district platform.


2. Document Your Remote Learning Strategy

With everyone physically spread out in different locations, there is no such thing as too much documentation. Clearly document your district’s remote education strategy, with written guides to help parents understand what’s expected of them, what’s expected of their child, and what they can expect from teachers and school staff.

Make sure parents have contact information for key faculty members. Provide step-by-step guides for using your school’s remote learning platforms. Create troubleshooting guides for simple or common roadblocks, such as how to request a password reset or how to do a restart on a school-provided tablet. Post documentation online covering frequently asked questions (FAQs), and update it regularly, as the remote learning landscape changes quickly.

The more clarity you provide in writing, the better equipped parents will be to navigate the world of distance learning and understand what your school has in place to support their child.


3. Involve the PTA as a Resource for Parents

Your district’s PTA should be involved and aware of your remote education strategy and all of the programs and resources available to parents. The PTA can become a valuable source of support and helpful communication for parents, taking some of the burden off of teachers and faculty to field parent questions or concerns.

For example, your PTA may be willing to hold virtual meetings to answer simple questions, review documentation that the school has sent out to parents, or gather parent feedback to relay back to the appropriate district staff members. Consider asking the PTA to conduct a survey across the parent community, to get insights into the needs, questions, and challenges that parents are facing during distance learning. 


4. Provide Tech Tools to Parents

Because the teacher can’t be there to help in-person, it often falls to the parent to help a child access a document, monitor their internet activity, or login to their learning tools. Districts need to find ways to provide parents with tech tools for classroom management. This may mean giving parents access to tech solutions that help them control their child’s access to certain websites or internet content. 

Your parents are now helping to manage the classroom, by default, and many of them are also working full-time themselves. It’s important to equip them with technology your district has available to aid them in classroom management.


5. Ask Your Tech Vendors for Parent-Facing Content

Your district’s tech vendors should be providing parent-facing content about their technology solutions. If they haven’t sent you this type of content already, ask for it. A good EdTech vendor will offer their own content for parent audiences, outlining how the district is using their product, how it affects the students, and more. 

Leverage content from your tech vendors as much as possible, to reduce the workload for district staff while providing parents with helpful guidance on the technology tools that they need for their child’s success.


Remote Learning is a Team Effort, and Parents Are Varsity Players

Remote education has challenged all of us — teachers, staff, parents, and students — to grow and stretch out of our comfort zones into new territory. Successful distance learning that keeps our children on track for their stage of growth requires a joint effort between teacher and parent, to give each child the support and guidance they need to succeed. 

When it comes to educating our children safely and virtually, remember that your parents, teachers, and faculty are all on the same team. Keep your parents involved and in the loop as much as possible, to help keep your whole team on the same page.

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