Tech Tuesdays: The Technology Starter-Pack for Parents
Updated: Aug 21, 2019
I hear parents describe a common scene that plays out in their household as the first grading period draws to a close. As Thanksgiving approaches, droves of parents flock to their child's online grading portal for the very first time. Panic sets in. I sure hope my kid has been studying like (s)he claims to be! What is my parent username to login? Will I need a password? What do all these percentages mean? Oh no...
As sure as the sun rises tomorrow, some variation of the scene described above will play out in households across the country this fall. Proactive communication between parents and teachers is the first line of defense against slipping academic performance. The second-best strategy is to familiarize yourself and your child with the technology available in the first week of school.
1. Grade Portal
The vast majority of school districts use online grading platforms that allow student and parent access. Logging in the first time can be complicated. The first week of school is the time to ensure you and your child can access this vital resource without trouble.
Common examples of online grading portals include:
Infinite Campus Parent Portal
Blackboard Grade Center
Canvas (a learning management system with a gradebook incorporated)
Google Classroom Gradebook
2. District and School Website
I know, this seems self-explanatory. Bear with me. Unfortunately, school websites are not run by full-time webmasters. They are updated as a secondary role by teachers, secretaries, and administration. As a result, finding the best resources may take a bit of digging. Work to locate these essentials:
Your child's teacher(s) sites. Do they post homework? Attachments and digital files? Keep in mind, many districts are moving to comprehensive Learning Management Systems. These replace the function of a teacher-specific website. More on that in #3.
Extra-credit: Work with your child to bookmark his teacher's websites. Then make it a habit to click through each page nightly. You will have a much better idea of what is happening in your child's school day and (s)he will be learning lifelong skills such as organization, routine, and responsibility.
Attendance procedures. When your child is absent, how do you go about submitting an excuse?
Daily/weekly announcements and newsletters. What communication tools does your district and school use? Is a sign-up required?
3. Learning Management Systems (LMS in teacher-speak):
If your child's district uses a Learning Management System (Canvas, Google Classroom, Blackboard), consider yourself lucky! They are phenomenal. They are so comprehensive that major universities use them for online courses at the graduate level. Parents can observe assignments and materials within the system. Your view is nearly identical to your child's.
4. Resources to Enhance Study Time and Learning:
The prevalence of study tools and resources available as apps and websites has exploded in the last decade. Below is your "starter pack" for the new school year:
Quizlet. for many years, this was the default flashcard system. There are now many competitors, but it remains one of the best available!
Perfect for vocabulary: the ability to record your voice, add definitions in no time (autofill feature), select images to accompany pictures and so much more.
It also works seamlessly with foreign languages
Many teachers have accounts and your child can subscribe and follow their study sets
For more hands-on learners, the flashcards can be printed
Terms can be reviewed in many different game formats, including in a well-designed app
Kahoot! an addicting and competitive trivia game
Most often played as a review game within a classroom
Option to explore many different topics to play independently as curated by Kahoot
Quizizz. One of my personal favorites! Engaging trivia with great design features
Similar to Kahoot, often played as a review in the classroom
Teachers can provide a unique code for their quiz. This allows students to play against a leaderboard at home
You may also search for quizzes by topic and play at home
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to interactive study tools. There's much more to come in upcoming Tech Tuesdays! In the meantime, enjoy this "starter pack" and comment below with any web-based programs you find useful!