Do-it-Yourself Teaching with Bianca!
Parents today are busy, there’s no denying it. Often parents work long hours, returning home to their children tired, stressed and grumpy. The dinner needs to be cooked, the house tidied and the washing done. There is little time to sit down and chat with the kids about homework and how they’re doing in each one of their many classes. Often us teachers find ourselves battling both parents and students because of this busyness. It can become quite an unhealthy relationship – I know because I am one of those busy parents trying hard to get all of the notes signed, fees paid, library books returned … I fail to check my kids’ homework often. It doesn’t mean we’re not interested, it just means we’re struggling to balance everything.
My school has elected not to release the parent codes en masse. Why? We already have a number of avenues for parents to contact teachers (email, school phone, school fax, snail-mail letters) and therefore contacting teachers via edmodo is considered superfluous.* This is a justified argument if the premise for issuing parent codes is ‘parents need to be able to contact teachers’. However I feel that parent codes offer so much more to parents, teachers, students and the school administration. I hypothesis that issuing parent codes could actually decrease the workload for teachers and school admin, as well as improving student learning outcomes and parent satisfaction. If you’ll entertain my thought pattern for a moment, I will illustrate my hypothesis with an anecdote.
On Tuesday night we had our Parent/Teacher night. These evenings are hard work for us teachers as we spend four hours talking to parents about their child’s progress in our subject. One of the most frequently asked questions by parents is ‘What homework and classwork is being set? Is my child doing it?’ Sure enough I was asked this many times on Tuesday night. For a couple of my students homework just simply isn’t being done. Luckily I was sitting with my laptop open to the edmodo assignments page and very quickly could show these parents which tasks had and hadn’t been completed. The cool thing is that I didn’t have to create this gradebook myself – edmodo did it for me like magic! (You can find information about the edmodo gradebook system here )
To the surprise of my students – they attended the meeting with their parents – I offered their parents the parent code for our edmodo group so they can see the assignments that are outstanding as well as the results gained for completed tasks. The parents were very interested in this system and quickly gave me their email address to provide them with the parent code and sign-up link.
Today I received an email from both parents – both were equally delighted with this feature of edmodo and thanked me for giving them a window into their children’s school life. The funny thing is, since I gave out the codes both students have been very conscientious and completed all of their recent homework tasks!
Why does this support my hypothesis? Well parent codes help parents keep in touch with what is happening in the classroom and how their child is going in relation to class work. If parents are more aware, they can communicate more openly with their children about upcoming tasks and support them with their learning at home. This at-home support (plus a healthy dose of ‘Oh no, Mum’s watching!’) gives students the impetus to complete set tasks to a level that reflects their capacity. Homework being completed means there’s no need to contact parents via official warning letters etc – less administration!
Of course I know that the very concept of homework is contentious however I am putting this debate aside for the moment simply because in my school (and in the schools of many teachers I know) homework is a reality. As a busy parent I know that having online access to the work my sons need to complete (or have completed) as well as the ability to quickly drop a brief note to the class teacher about any issues I might have, would be just awesome. Let’s face it, we live much of our lives online now, it just makes sense that parents can quickly log-in and check how their kids are going. As a busy teacher I don’t anticipate (nor hope) that parents will be using their accounts to contact me too frequently – I simple do not have the time to answer constant questions from parents. I do hope that the parent accounts are used by parents to get a rare glimpse into the unseen world of the classroom – and maybe use this opportunity to further support their children’s learning.
How do you use edmodo parent accounts?
* I must also note that the use of edmodo is not universal at my school and a further argument against issuing parent codes could be that parent expectation may outweigh teacher usage at the current time. I predict that over the next 12 months the use of edmodo will be close to 100% at my school.