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Frimley School - Engaging Parents and Whanau

The move to engaging the parent/whanau community with their own children's learning through digital media has been a process which has evolved over the last three years. We still have some way to go before it becomes ubiquitous but as a school we are well on the road. This story documents that process.

Frimley School - Engaging Parents and Whānau in our Community

Goal:
For parents and whānau to actively participate in their child’s learning through engaging with the school website and blogs.

Background and Context:
Our school of over 500 has had class websites for several years but have found them too difficult to maintain as the tool we used was not as user friendly as some others. We had been getting comments from children and parent on various parts of the site but wanted to make the pages more meaningful and encourage greater participation from whānau and the wider school community.

Rationale:

  • to provide a window into the classroom learning for the parents and whånau of children in the class
  • to showcase student learning
  • to share the process of formative practice
  • to encourage the parents and whånau to participate in their child’s learning


What did we do?
First year:

  • the process began with one teacher establishing both a wiki and a blog to trial how they functioned and which format best suited the needs of the class and the purpose
  • class teacher spoke about the blog to parents a learning conferences and provided the link for easy reference, encouraging them to make comments
  • the children got hooked
  • blog commenting and interaction was limited to teacher and student comments, no parent/whånau involvement apart from some viewing the blog


Second year:

  • in the second year, more teachers were encouraged to begin their class blogs and trial possibilities, with support from specialist staff
  • Cluster Facilitator began to work 1:1 with teachers throughout the school at all levels to help them establish and maintain their own class blogs.
  • some of the teachers become really motivated and engaged with their blogs
  • other staff members began visiting and commenting on each others blogs
  • two teachers were involved in a quad-blogging trial with other schools within our cluster
  • two classroom teachers ran an “Introduction to Blogging” workshop for our cluster schools
  • towards the end of the year, some other staff not blogging became keen to start their own
  • we were able to organise one-to-one sessions for all staff, with the Cluster Facilitator, covering blogging among many other topics
  • eLearning team ran two evening meetings for parents/whånau about internet and eLearning. Numbers attending were small but those who attended were very interested in how they could become involved.


Third year:

  • one-to-one sessions for all staff with the Cluster Facilitator continues to provide strong support and continued growth in learning for teachers
  • Junior School teachers are particularly excited about sharing their classroom learning and blogging is really taking off in that area
  • Junior Discovery blog
  • Room 8
  • every class now has a blog, although there is variation between teacher ability to manage regular updates
  • anywhere anytime mentoring is happening between staff to share knowledge and ideas
  • there is much discussion happening amongst staff about ways to encourage parent/whånau involvement (*see Voicethread comments)
  • Room 10 - feedback from parents on how helpful it is to have homework sheets and class newsletters available
  • Senior and Middle team extension children being trained up to assist classroom teachers with updating blogs
  • Accelerated Maths blog initiated - parent evenings to introduce them to the programme and share website and links



What have we learnt?

  • Blogs have been easier (than wikis or current website) for teachers to learn how to use for the purpose of showcasing learning, so we have encouraged all teachers to persue this format
  • Parent commenting and conversations about learning are beginning to appear and provide encouragement for classroom teachers (see photos below)
  • Emphasis has changed from showcase only to showcasing and diarising the learning that happens in classes throughout the school, eg: Room 17’s progress from creating to sharing their “Edible Fashion”
  • It’s great to see more parents getting involved through blog conversations but overall the numbers are quite small and progress is very slow.
  • We are hearing that parents are looking at the blogs and websites and giving verbal feedback to children and to some teachers. We now want to encourage them to make comments.
  • Teachers need to make sure their blog settings allow for anyone to comment without having to log in or complete.
  • Many classes are using a projector in the mornings as children and parents arrive to display their websites and encourage sharing
  • Decile 3 school, many homes without internet
  • Parents and children not actually conversing at home about the learning going on at school
  • Parents who do comment tend to be  the ones who always show an interest in their child’s education, come along to school on trips and ask questions about their learning
  • Class blogs show work in progress and highlight children’s thoughts and reflections
  • Parent/Community engagement through blog comments/conversations:

Love from Aunty

Conversation with a parent


Teacher Voice:
Voicethread - You have a class blog with lots of interesting posts about what your class is learning. How do you feel the interaction with parents is going?

Some teacher responses:

  • “teachers posing questions (through blog commenting) to encourage children to interact”
  • “some children at various levels beginning to answer and carry on conversations”
  • “one child brought along research he had done at home, in response to teacher questioning on blog”
  • “make a point of asking parents to reply on blog to encourage conversation”
  • “increasing interaction on many blogs throughout school, particularly junior team”
  • “parents keen on access provided to weekly homework sheet and online curriculum based activities for maintenance or extension”
  • “children teaching parents how to comment”



Where to from here?

  • Continue to support growth of learning and sharing in an online environment.
  • Parents of Junior School children are more heavily involved in their child schooling, our aim is to keep those parents hooked in as their children move up through the school to Middle and Senior area.
  • Look for opportunities to direct parents and whānau to class websites to interact with content: notes home, personal contact, projectors displaying blog in class when parents arrive, children teaching parents, invite parents into class to show and share
  • All teachers to be able to maintain their own class blog on a regular basis.
  • Senior students able to assist in classes when required for photos, blogging, slideshows etc.
  • Increased conversations with parents who are sharing in their children’s learning through the class blogs.
  • Further build and develop connections with community both local, national and international.