We had our first Coffee Morning session for our parents today and it was a total hit! This is the first time I’ve actually done something like this, so I have to admit that I’m very pleasantly surprised with how things worked out. I’m very comfortable with teacher concerns, but I’m really not used to presenting in front of large groups of parents…

Basically, we invited all of the parents to an open dialogue session to discuss what we’re doing with technology in the classroom. We advertised it in the weekly “Panther Paws” bulletin that goes home to parents via e-mail, I posted it on the new Learning Hub blog, Connect 2.0, and we asked our very well connected parents to spread the word. In the end we had about 30 parents show up for our hour-long session, which was perfect.

We started off the session with a short introduction by our fabulous Principal and Vice Principal describing their experiences at the Learning 2.0 Conference and how they have come to realize just how important 21st century literacy skills are for our students. They did a great job emphasizing how quickly technology changes and how intimidating it can be for all of us to keep up, but that we believe it’s just as important to educate the parents as it is to educate the students so that we can maintain a strong school-home connection.

Next, Justin and I showed the Did You Know 2.0 video:

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After the video was over, we asked the parents to turn to their neighbor and discuss something that struck them as they were watching. We gave them about 5 minutes to chat and then asked them to share.

The response was amazing. Just this one 8 minute video encapsulated everything that Justin and I wanted to express, and the message got through loud and clear: the world our students are growing up in is radically different than the world their parents grew up in. One group of parents shared that they noticed a key date in the video was 1995, and that was the year they stopped working and became full-time mothers. They realized that, had they still been working full time, many of these ideas would not be so “out there,” but now that they’re out of the working environment, they really feel that technology has passed them by. This is exactly why we are hosting these sessions!

I then shared a little story about my personal experiences with blogging and told them about how I spent my day off on Monday to give them an idea what an average day for a globally connected educator looks like – the key point being that if this is how I spend my days today, imagine what our students days will be like when they’re my age (I’m 29).

We talked about blended learning and our philosophy that technology is just another tool like a pencil and paper. Classroom management came up so we explained some simple things like having students “lower their lids” when the teacher is speaking and they have the laptops out. We shared our web-based learning portals where all the “teacher approved” web-links are bookmarked for students so that they have a safe and welcoming entry page every time they go online.

We shared the Connect 2.0 blog with the parents and invited them to actively participate in the discussion online via the comments section. Each time we have a session like this, we will post a recap on the blog, with links to key information that we shared so that parents can review key points and share the information with the rest of their families and other parents that were not able to attend.

By the end of the meeting, parents were asking for the coolest things:

  • free, lifetime e-mail address provided by the school to ensure that they are always part of the ISB network of learners.
  • online resources to help their children learn about American history because we don’t cover it in every grade, but they want their children to be prepared when they return home.
  • links to all the teacher and student blogs so they can follow what’s happening in the classroom on a regular basis – and an easy way to track all that information.
  • if they can come to our extensive teacher training sessions on technology so they can learn along with the teachers (we offer flexible PD every afternoon after school).
  • help setting up their very own family blogs! We even had one parent that had already set up her own blog!

This is exactly the kind of stuff I want to be doing – and it’s exactly the kind of stuff that parents should be asking for!

We are going to run these sessions once a month for now, but I’m thinking they can definitely grow into something more. If our parents are willing to be involved and active in this aspect of their child’s learning, just imagine what kinds of great conversations can be going on at home about using these tools appropriately. It’s going to be like I can be teaching them all the time! How exciting!

10 thoughts on “Parent Coffee Morning a Success!

  1. Our PD program is a one-on-one, on-demand model but we’re looking to revise and perhaps completely change that model. I’m interested in your comment that you offer DAILY PD afterschool and that you have offered parents the opportunity to come in. That’s a fantastic idea. Do you have topics prearranged? And are there any incentives offered for teachers to attend (other than being a better teacher? We have issues with teachers not attending “general” tech talks.

  2. Alecia,

    We do lots of one-on-one training for the teachers, as well as grade-level and team-based training, but we also run the more general sessions after school.

    The after school sessions can be anything from best practices in managing e-mail to introducing RSS to podcasting your professional development. The sessions are announced via e-mail every week and can be repeated based on demand. The topics are usually issues that the tech team thinks are important, but we also encourage people to submit ideas that would be helpful so we can adapt our sessions based on participant need.

    We usually have about 30 teachers attending every day. We don’t offer any formal incentives – most teachers are aware that they need these skills to effectively facilitate technology in the classroom and the expectations for teachers at ISB is that they will continue to develop professionally throughout the year.

  3. I love this idea of the Parent Tech Coffee. I’m trying to craft and wrap my brain around how this would look in our district. We are not nearly as tech-savvy as your staff, but I can see the necessity of bringing parents in. What a great idea and thanks for sharing!

  4. @Josh,

    Thanks! It’s probably time for an update on this blog about how these Coffee Mornings have been going… We’re on year 2 already and regularly have at least 20 – 30 parents in attendance. We get lots of positive feedback and it seems like this is a good way to keep parents informed in a positive and constructive manner. Personally, I don’t think you need to have a tech-savvy staff to run these kinds of mornings, it’s just an opportunity to learn together and to discuss what types of experiences our children need to be having in school. Give it a go! I’m sure it will be great!

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