I'd like to thank @plind for this guest post. She was kind enough to respond to my Plugged In Parents Post. In my enthusiasm for both technology integration and the power of effective formative assessment, I had not given thought to the following perspective. I hope that this post encourages some debate from educators and parents alike:
By: @plind (I follow her on Twitter)
I have been mulling over the $64,000 question "Do parents want this level of involvement in their child's education?" in my mind for quite awhile now and I'd like to up the ante and ask the million dollar question of "Should parents be that involved in their child's education?"
My answer is no on both counts. I don't want to be at the "edge of my child's learning" (nor do I think I should be) -- I want to be at the fringe. I want to be close enough to cheer them on or rush the field if they are injured but far enough removed that I don't interfere with the game. I want my child to own their learning, own their successes and own their failures. They can't do that without some distance from me. The ongoing debate is -- how much distance is too much or too little?
I'm certainly not opposed to more meaningful assessments of my child's learning. Honestly the "letters" change every year on report cards -- who can keep up! I put more stock on the one paragraph written by the teacher than the alphabet soup that precedes it. However, frequently receiving 140 character updates to my phone or computer would likely drive me mad. Several different teachers using this approach with my 3 children would become overwhelming fast. Expectations would have to be clear as well. When I receive a message that my child is struggling with multiplication what does that mean? Am I to intervene? Is the teacher forming a plan to address the problem? Is the whole class struggling? Feedback without context or direction only creates anxiety and uncertainty.
When we talk about engaging parents in children's learning I think it's important to remember that there is a difference between engaging with my child to learn together and engaging with my child's schoolwork. I want to be engaged with my children and as school is a large portion of their lives of course it is an important component but not the only component. I appreciate the window into their lives that blogs, newsletters, and websites provide. I value the ambient awareness that allows me to ask better questions at the dinner table, point out signs of lifecycles on a walk or reminds me to delve into fractions while baking. However, I also have my own knowledge, passions, interests and heritage that I would like to share with my children. Over-involving me in their formal education slowly erodes my ability to engage in those moments and those moments are both precious and fleeting.
As new technologies emerge that allow us to be embedded deeper and deeper in our children's lives we all have the responsibility to ask if that is really what is best. From GPS enabled phones that track every movement, webcam enabled classrooms that we can peek into, instant, continuous feedback, and digital records of schoolwork that can be freely accessed -- when and where do children have the space to become independent? We have to be cautious as we engage with these tools and ensure that there are measures in place that allow children to become progressively more responsible for themselves and allows (even forces?) parents to step back. While the notion of involving parents more meaningfully in their child's education is a sound one, we need to do so judiciously to ensure that there is still time left in a day for parents to engage with their children around all aspects of their being, not just school.
The infinite possibilities for communication and engagement are mindboggling. However, just because we can, doesn't mean we should.
Your thoughts are solicited...