Fiona Aubrey-Smith introduces ways of using a VLE to engage parents

Fiona Aubrey-SmithFiona Aubrey-SmithThe DCSF’s announcement at BETT 08 that schools should start to shift to online reporting and recommendation that schools collaborate with parents, learners and staff has put parental engagement  high on the agenda. As a result, schools are experimenting with easy, innovative ways to improve parental engagement, using their existing learning platforms.

One challenge is for parents with radically different schooling experience to support their child: children now learn reading through phonic sounds where parents used alphabetical letter names.

The school learning platform can provide resources from class for parents to use at home. With basic skills, continuity is key so this support enables children to build a solid foundation.

Children at Elm Grove Primary School practise their keywords and spelling at home with their parents through the learning platform auto-marking quizzes, increasing enjoyment and improving results.

By taking part in these activities regularly, parents support the repetitive practice necessary for learning keyword spelling, reinforcing lesson objectives and ensuring continuity. Likewise, double-digit addition methods or trigonometry. However, care should be taken if parents try to help with homework, because they may end up causing more confusion by using different calculation methods from what their child has learned in class.

By providing resources, methods and strategies for parents through the learning platform, the school can ensure parental support doesn't become counter-productive or confusing.

At Grays School (see video below), East Sussex, each child has an e-portfolio which contains a learning journal blog. Children learn how to add blog entries through simple sound recordings from early years.

Parents and teachers also document children’s learning activities and experiences to these blogs, with photos, film and scanned work samples to support foundation stage profile assessments.

An area of special expertise, a parent's profession or hobby, can add particular value to learning.  Experience can also be a valuable learning tool.

At The Colleton Primary School in Wokingham, children in Year 5 learned about World War II, through parents and grandparents with real-life experiences of people who were alive during the war, or who had inherited artefacts from the war.

Family members provided typed responses, podcast answers and photographs or scanned relevant items.  At the same time, they were able to engage with the learning process.

There is potential for parents to go beyond supporting their child at home and interact with each other to share support tips or experience.

At Windmill Infant School, for instance, they can have helpful conversations and share their collective expertise on supporting their children homework via a forum provided by teachers.

A further step in engagement is becoming involved in school operations. In schools like Earl Soham School in Suffolk, students and parents are working on plan, action and policy wikis alongside leadership teams, teachers and governors.

These policy wikis become living documents, with shared vision and ownership, through their co-constructive nature.

Since the former schools minister, Jim Knight MP, outlined the aim for schools to use technology to increase parental engagement, much of the focus has been on transferring data such as grades, but this will not automatically engage parents in the complex processes of learning. The challenge is to find ways of making this data transfer meaningful; through resource provision for parents to support learning at home, or avenues where parents can become more active as partners in their children’s learning.

The decisions made and the ways of realising these opportunities will be unique to each school, but the one constant across all schools is the need for all  involved to discuss and share ideas, good practice and challenges.

Fiona Aubrey Smith is a former teacher who is now is head of educational development at leading learning platform supplier UniServity
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BETT 2010 logoBETT 2010
January 13-16, Olympia, London
You can find out more about working with parents from Fiona Aubrey-Smith on the UniServity stand at BETT. Stand E125


More information

Becta advice on Parental Engagement

Grays School (Family Led Eportfolios)

21st Century Schools

Oh Nothing Much Report

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