This week I read an interesting blog post by AJ Juliani on technology and its use in education The post provided a great overview of SAMR which is a technology integration model used in schools. The author asked us to think about another level that this model should include– elimination. Mr. Juliani suggested that this needed to be added because sometimes the advancement of technology went beyond integration and actually leads to elimination. He used the example of the dewey decimal system to elaborate his point. He ended his post by asking what has been eliminated in our lives due to technology. (I would encourage you to read the entire article as it is worth your time).
With this question rolling around in the back of my mind I attended my high school boys parent teacher conferences and I think the question should change from what has been eliminated to what should be eliminated due to advances in technology. Answer — eliminate traditional parent teacher conferences at the high school level (at the very least).
Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong proponent of parent involvement in schools and I think it is important that parents have an understanding and insight into what their students are learning and their students progress, however, as currently designed parent teacher conferences at the high school level do not do either. The use of electronic gradebooks allows parents 24/7 access to their student’s grades so we do not need to schedule a face to face meeting so that the teacher can show me the print off of my student’s grades on their tests and assignments. I already know this information. When I meet with one of my child’s teachers I do so because I want to know more about my son’s learning. I do want to hear about his behavior and I am glad he participates well in class, however, what I really want to know is what concepts my son is struggling with, which concepts come easily to him, how near or far is he from being where he should be at this point in the year. I want to walk away from a conference with a teacher knowing more than I did when I walked into the school so I can leave and be a better support to the teacher and my child. This will not happen with the traditional method of conferences.
So let’s eliminate traditional parent teacher conferences. Instead let’s continue to use technology so parents have access to grades, but let’s also use technology to post exemplars of student work. Imagine how helpful it would be to know that at semester in algebra these are the types of problems your child should be able to solve or that this is the type of essay they should be writing. These examples can help parents as they examine their own child’s work.
Instead of the cattle call and waiting in line on a designated date for a quick 5 minute conversation, how about we use skype to schedule a virtual face to face with parents? This would mean that conferences don’t happen at one time during the year, but throughout the year. I understand that high school teachers have a large number of students, but a savvy school administrator could develop a schedule where each month a department is designated to hold their virtual meetings. Just think if you had one meaningful conversation a year with each of your child’s teachers.
So how about it? Let’s eliminate parent teacher conferences as we know them and let’s start to use technology tools to have real conversations with parents about student learning.