After our EC&I lecture on Digital Citizenship, Harmony McMillian and I decided that we needed to reach out to our parents at the school where we both teach. We needed to share the information that we learned from class to help them raise connected caring citizens. We decided to host a parent engagement night and present some of the good and some of the not so good.
We started by creating a resource blog for our families called Connected For Good. The blog includes the following sections:
- Social Media 101
- Resources: For The Little Ones (K-3), For the Middle Ones (4-6), For The Older Ones (7-12), For Parents including some Family Activities, For Educators
- Best of the Web
- For the Good
There are some fabulous websites and resources out there for teaching kids about media. One of my favorite websites is Common Sense Media. They make it easy for educators to host engagement nights and provide an outreach kit. One part that I loved about this website were the Family Tip Sheets. If you haven’t explored this website yet, please do!
Our Prezi presentation was a combination of our learning from our Digital Citizenship class with Alec Couros and the Common Sense Media website. We also added some personal pictures and shared our own stories as we engaged with our wonderful group of parents. The Prezi started out with a trip down memory lane and demonstrated the huge gap between parents and kids. We then gave an overview of the presentation which were the reality, rules of the road, and the upside.
- The reality deals with all of the not so good things happening online. We discussed content, scale and searchability, anonymity. Kids tech abilities are greater than their judgement.
- The rules of the road focused on embracing technology and that ignorance is not bliss. We encouraged parents to get in the game and share in their kids enthusiasm. We talked about encouraging and modeling balance and establishing a healthy media diet. Monitoring usage and family discussions were also talked about. We encouraged parents to look at their own habits and to think about what they needed for their family.
- The upside talked about creativity & collaboration, learning, impact and inspiration. I encourage you to watch the Prezi, I could write a whole other post just on the upside!
December 2nd was a snowy Monday night. In the invitation we mentioned that an RSVP was not required but appreciated. We were expecting around 15-20 parents. Throughout the day we had a few parents email and cancel due to illness and other commitments that had come up. At 6:55 people started coming. By 7:05 we had a room full of 21 people. We started the night with an icebreaker activity about naming the icons while people were making their way in. They were encouraged to work with the people beside them to see if they could name more.
After the icebreaker we introduced ourselves and met the people in the room. We had a very diverse crowd which provided for an interesting and engaging evening. We had stay at home moms, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a guidance counselor, a librarian, and some parents who had just immigrated to Canada. One thing that we had in common was that we were parents (or we worked with kids…Harmony!) and we knew that this was an important topic.
We reminded our parents that this was an engagement night and to please stop us to ask questions or comment on a topic. I really enjoyed watching their faces throughout the presentation. The laughter at the beginning and the looks of shock when we discussed the reality. The parents seemed to respond to the rules of the road and that they needed to figure out what worked best for their families. We all have different rules and ways to raise our kids. The upside was inspiring and a great way to end the presentation. The parents were equipped with new information to get discussions going with their families and new tools such as the media agreement. They also had direction about some positive things that they could do on the Internet with their child. We had some media agreements and handouts for the parents to take including this THINK sheet.
At the end of our presentation, one of our parents who is a high school guidance counselor shared some of the mistakes and problems her students were dealing with surrounding social media. She deals with these issues on an ongoing basis. She stressed to the parents that ignorance was not bliss and that many parents thought their kids did not have social media accounts when in fact they had more than one account . If kids want it bad enough they will find a way. She also reiterated our points that keeping the lines of communication open was key. Kids will make mistakes but kids also need someone to go to when they do make mistakes so that they can help and try and fix it. Her perspective opened my eyes even more to to the importance of educating these kids. I feel a sense of urgency in educating our youth..it needs to be done now. One of the parents asked what grades do we start teaching this to kids. I feel like parents assume that their kids will be taught this in school so that they are off the hook when in fact this isn’t the case. Parents and educators need to work together now more then ever.
When reviewing our comments from parents I could see that there is need for more of these types of engagement nights. How can I do this? I think that I need to host some Media Engagement Nights with parents and kids in my grade 2 classroom to get the conversations started. We often have literacy nights and math fair nights but I think we need to have media engagement nights where we can learn together. I love the idea of the SOME summit that was held in Kelowna. Youth educating youth on social media for change. We need this in Regina. I am still thinking about how I need to make things like this happen!
Comments from Parents:
I feel that our parents were inspired to talk more and explore more with their kids. Parents spent the time to fill out a feedback sheet for us. Some of the comments were:
- “One thing that I will take away from tonight is that it is NOT all bad. It was a good reminder that social media can be used for good things. We must just all be aware and present and teach our kids the rights and wrongs just as we do with all things in life. And also, that it goes both ways-my kids can usually teach me more than I can teach them and I can be open to that. Thank you!”
- “Fun activities for imagination activities online. (right now I don’t do anything online with my kids but there is great stuff on there)”
- “I would be interested in more sessions like this. Anything that can help me feel more comfortable with the technology my child is exposed to is greatly appreciated.”
- That as parents we need to be good role models not just in life but in the social media world and to help kids make good decisions. Also, to establish a healthy media diet.”
- “Likely to biggest point I will take away is that “Ignorance is NOT Bliss!” I am afraid of social media but your presentation has inspired me to become engaged and learn more about these sites along with my children. They are just starting to be interested in signing up for these accounts so we will learn together. I plan to use the Family Media Agreement to begin the discussions. Thank you for this! Your blog will be a great resource!”
Harmony: I want to thank Harmony for being such a dedicated and hard working partner. She is a passionate and creative educator who pushed me out of my comfort zone. Public speaking is an area I continue to work on and Harmony recognized this and worked with me to ensure that I was comfortable. She put the room at ease and is a fabulous presenter. She continued to invite people even though I said I only wanted to present to five people! Thank you Harmony!
Alec: Thank you for inspiring me through your work and presentations. The structure of our presentation was similar to yours and made a huge impact. Start with the ugly truth and move to inspire. We shared some personal stories which are parts that I enjoy most about your presentations. Thank you Alec!
Classmates: Thank you to my EC&I classmates who shared resources and expertise. When we needed something, we asked and you answered. It has been fabulous meeting and learning from all of you. Thank you!
My Administration: Even though they were unable to attend our engagement night, their support for this project from the beginning was appreciated. Thank you Russ and Tracy!
Our parents: Thank you to our wonderful group of parents who came to our engagement night and contributed to the rich discussions.
Thank you for reading and I will leave you with some inspiration from our presentation!