Education is a continuous process that starts even before a child goes to school. It starts at home: the first teachers a child has are their parents. While the student goes through the formal steps within the system — from kindergarten to primary school to secondary school and so on — parents are an important part of the big picture. Current distance learning settings have made this crystal clear.
Read more: Best practices for supporting parents with remote learning
Parents should be very much involved in the dynamics of their children's learning process and have a close relationship with the teachers and the school. Making this happen has always been a challenge due to the sheer number of students and corresponding parents each teacher would need to address in a limited number of hours.
Schools and teachers play an essential role in making parents or caretakers as involved in their children’s learning as possible, but they themselves can also take matters into their own hands if they truly want it. Either way, education technology is here to help.
How edtech strengthens parental engagement in online learning
Embracing education technology in every aspect of a student’s learning is no easy feat. The management team of any school is perfectly aware of this. There are myriads of things to consider, from hardware and software to PD for teachers regarding its use in the classroom to ensuring students have equal access to it.
But school leaders also know all efforts to effectively adopt edtech are well worth it. Teachers are able to design better learning materials, deliver better instruction, offer better support, and overall create more personalized learning experiences for each student. Students get more engaged in their learning process, which can eventually lead to better academic outcomes.
As a bonus, edtech also brings new ways for parents to know about school activities and their children’s progress in each subject they are learning, and generally be more present in their whole learning experience.
There are at least three avenues that support parental engagement through educational technologies. Let's explore them!
1. Learning Management Systems
The shift to online learning has made the school LMS a central piece of the edtech puzzle in an increasing number of schools. While such systems are mainly designed for teachers and students and promoted as complete solutions to support learning, they also cater to parents as well. Through a school LMS, parents can get involved in every aspect of their children's learning journey, at times that are most convenient for them. All they have to do is to provide an email address.
Once they have a parent account set up within the LMS, parents can explore and benefit from the features available for them:
- A bird’s-eye view of learning objectives — From the school year roadmap to expected learning outcomes for each subject matter to specific activities or homework the student must perform, parents can get a clear overview of what their child has to do for school. Teachers can also highlight the areas where parents can contribute, thus offering a clearer idea of what’s expected of them.
- Collaboration features — Chat groups and direct messaging are not just for students and teachers; parents can use these LMS features as well to communicate with parents whose kids take the same classes as theirs, to raise relevant issues and concerns without physically attending PTAs or to speak directly with one teacher or another whenever necessary.
- Student progress tracking — A parent account usually gives access to information such as which courses the student is enrolled in, which assignments are due (or overdue), and the corresponding grades. This can make it easier for parents to know when to step in (or not), raise awareness about something, or give important feedback to teachers.
Of course, these examples only scratched the surface of what a learning management system can do for parents. The best thing is that it allows them to get as involved as they want in their children’s school activities.
Read more: How to keep parents engaged in school activities using an LMS
2. Learning apps
Besides getting a parent account in the LMS used by their children’s school (which is controlled by administrators within the school), parents can also take matters into their own hands when their kids are not at school. Learning can happen at any time, everywhere, after all.
Learning apps can very well do the trick. Many different apps are specifically designed for the educational market, on various subjects, and for various age groups. They can be used by teachers in the classroom but also by parents at home. Once they figure out the best ones for their children and how to use them effectively, parents can share the struggles and the little victories that come with learning.
Here are just a few examples of learning apps parents can use to get engaged in their children’s learning:
- 10,500+ Cool Facts offers inspiring facts about nature, vocabulary, art, history, science, technology, nature, space exploration, and so much more. The app is very easy to use, and it offers plenty of answers to children’s natural curiosity about the world around us.
- Google Expeditions has hundreds of experiences designed for kids of all ages. Children and parents can take virtual trips together to virtually anywhere, in any time period, through various collections of linked VR content and supporting materials. A VR headset is required though.
- Aurasma uses Augmented Reality to immerse children of any school level in whatever subject they’re learning. Users can create “auras” by uploading trigger images of their choices and adding links, videos, animations, and 3D scenes as overlays.
- Our Pact is one of many smartphone apps on the market that help parents and children set limits for screen time and dedicated hours for homework, chores, family time and more.
There are thousands of apps that parents and children at home could use. This not only makes learning fun for kids, but parents can take the opportunity to teach them how to use technology responsibly and sensibly.
3. Educational websites
Educational websites are another great way for parents to be present and engaged in their children’s learning journey. The internet is an unlimited source of knowledge, with incredible amounts of information about anything that could be learned — even by parents.
Sorting the wheat from the chaff might be needed, especially in the case of younger kids, as the internet gives access to many websites that are time-wasters or somehow inappropriate for learning. However, parents can find true gems online. Here are a few examples:
- Khan Academy is a one-stop-shop for parents and children looking to supplement school work with various learning activities. It caters to all age categories and provides support for all sorts of subjects in the form of instructional videos, supporting written materials, or practical exercises.
- YouTube For Kids is just like YouTube, only with parental control. It offers plenty of educational programs and video tutorials that the children love, while also providing a mix of settings and filters that ensures parents’ ease of mind that no inappropriate videos can be accessed.
- Art for Kids Hub has an impressive number of fun how-to-draw tutorials with instructional videos included. Drawing is one of those things that can be a solitary activity as well as group one. And who knows where the next Picasso is?
Just like in the case of learning apps, the number of educational websites seems unlimited. No matter the age of the kids, their passions, or the available time parents have to spend on such websites together with their children, the internet delivers.
Allowing parents to get engaged in their children’s education has a positive impact at all levels. Students feel their learning journeys are important to everyone, not just to them; teachers can quickly identify various issues that might inhibit student learning, and parents get to be a part of the typical school day of their children.
Education technology plays an essential role in encouraging parental engagement, through learning management systems, learning apps, and educational websites, but also through other various options.