Hover training

This article in Education Week (called “Schools Are Using Social Networking to Involve Parents“) is making me just a wee bit crazy. Here I go. Boldface mine. The article says:

“Digital technology is providing a growing variety of methods for school leaders to connect with parents anywhere, anytime—a tactic mirroring how technology is used to engage students. Through Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, and text messages sent in multiple languages, school staff members are giving parents instant updates, news, and information about their children’s schools. Not only that, but a number of districts are also providing parents access to Web portals where they can see everything from their children’s grades on school assignments to their locker combinations and what they’re served for lunch.”

Gaaah! What are they trying to do, CREATE helicopter parents? (For more on the topic, see this interesting post about constant grade updates on Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids blog.)

“For low-income parents who feel they can no longer help their kids with learning as homework starts to become appreciably harder, …”

First, what does “low-income” have to do with it? This seems to suggest that low-income parents are the only ones who think they can’t do hard homework. Second, parents should not be doing the work anyway, should they? Regardless of income. 

Or maybe the idea is that if the teachers can’t teach it during the day, then the parents are supposed to do the job at night. And of course the parents will need training and constant connection with the school — “anytime, anywhere” — to do that. Check it out:

“With donations from the Microsoft Corp. as well as $25,000 from the local school endowment, the district created “parent super centers” on five school campuses. Each center provides classes and training to parents on office software, Internet use and safety, and the district’s online grade-reporting system, among other topics.”

Twenty-five thousand dollars (just from the school’s endowment, that is; this does not include whatever Microsoft donated) to create “super centers” to teach parents how to look up their kids’ grades.

I like homeschooling for a great many reasons, and just one is that I am not expected to jump instantly (and neither is my child) at the call, tweet, text message, or status update of any school. Another is that I do not have to be trained at a $25,000 “parent super center” on how to look up my child’s grades. And if I want to know what my child is eating for lunch today, I am not expected to spy, I can simply ask.

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4 Responses to Hover training

  1. Bob Collier says:

    I doubt very much that schools will tell the parents they don’t actually need to have their children in school at all to use digital technology for educational purposes – it’s online and mobile (and, incidentally, there are teachers available to me 24/7 through multimedia at my fingertips these days who are better than any of the teachers at the schools I went to); but I do think this latest idea is a great improvement on the days when most parents had not enough involvement with their children’s school lives, very little beyond dropping them off at the school gate and hoping for the best. Whether this scheme is used well or used badly is a separate matter, and perhaps spying on one’s children will be a popular option, but there is another side to it. My now grown up daughter was in school for 13 years, mainly through the 1990s, and, given her parents’ awareness that the school system was far from perfect, the effort required to safeguard her wellbeing was HUGE and needed maximum involvement with her school experience. As it happened, I was available to be as physically present inside my daughter’s schools as I wanted to be, but many parents I knew at the time didn’t have that luxury and I’m sure they would have appreciated this opportunity to know something about what was going on inside the schools rather than having no idea or just an occasional clue.

    You never know, there might be some unintended consequences. Perhaps some parents, on becoming more familiar with social media and the uses of digital technology generally, will notice by comparison with the world at large that, on top of its many prior imperfections, school has now become the most inefficient educational opportunity of our modern times.

    • Bob, true enough — maybe it is an improvement over knowing very little about the school day! And since I don’t think grades measure much, if anything, that is important anyway, it is possible that I’m biased against the need to check in on a child’s grades ever, much less daily or more. And your unintended consequence might not be all bad. :)

  2. middlewaymom says:

    When I find out about frivolous spending like the parent super center, I question why schools need more money over and over again. I think if some fat was trimmed, more could be done with less money.

  3. Funny thing … and here is an excellent argument *against* this whole post! And I happen to agree with this thinking, too. (“Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” –Walt Whitman)

    I’m still not so sure about these “super centers” or the electronic spying on the kids’ lunches. Or daily grade updates — sheesh! But encouraging parental involvement where possible and reasonable (without forcing it!) is probably a good thing.


    An excerpt:

    “If you put me in charge of education budgets, I wouldn’t prioritize pay increases for teachers, the latest technology, or new books, and I definitely wouldn’t spend a dime more on new curricula or standardized tests. No, I would use my limited resources to encourage more parental involvement, and for those who can’t afford it, I’d pay them to be involved. There is no single thing we could do that would improve our schools more.”

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