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« Lighten up... | Main | Long tail message of the month! »
Wednesday
Feb042009

Geezers online and implications for schools

 

Generations Online in 2009, published last week by Pew Internet and the American Life Project begins:

Contrary to the image of Generation Y as the “Net Generation,” internet users in their 20s do not dominate every aspect of online life. Generation X is the most likely group to bank, shop, and look for health information online. Boomers are just as likely as Generation Y to make travel reservations online. And even Silent Generation internet users are competitive when it comes to email (although teens might point out that this is proof that email is for old people).

While school leaders (rightly) focus on the importance of the Internet in students' lives and education, we ought to also seriously be considering what this report says about how we communicate with our parents and communities. And asking what exepectations we should have of all teachers of an online presence and use of digital communications.

Most of our parents fall smack into the Gen X category - that which has a disproportionately high percentage number of online users and is increasingly likely to look for information online.

As our parents become accustomed to using the Web to find travel, health, banking and other information, it is not unreasonable to assume they will be looking for information about schools as well. I see this breaking down in three big categories:

  • Parents will use the web to select schools for their children. A good web presence will be an important marketing tool.
  • The community will look to the school's website for information about school events, school schedules, staff contact information, policies and emergency notices. Community members will expect, even demand, an electronic means of giving feedback to the school.
  • Parents will insist on real-time information about their own children's progress through individualized portals that contain grades, attendance, work completion, curricular goals, etc. (See Teacher Web Pages that Build Parent Partnerships MultiMedia Schools, September 2000.)

In our district we've long provided a simple, fill-in-the-blank means for our teachers to make information accessible to parents. With no additional work, students' assignments and grades are directly ported from the student information system to a parent portal. Some teachers take full advantage of these tools; others do the absolute minimum. This report suggest principals should raise their minimum expectations of teachers' online communications.

Too often educators think of students as their "customers." Dangerous mistake. Children no more choose their  schools than they choose their physicians or shoe stores. Parents who wouldn't choose a bank that does not allow online account access won't choose a school that doesn't offer online gradebook access either.

What's the minimum amount of information all teachers should provide parents and minimum information all schools should provide their communities?

Oh, mini-rant: It really honks me off to go to a school district homepage that does not include a telephone number and location.

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Reader Comments (8)

No contact info is indeed bad. And I know we can't all be web designers or anything, but some (many) of the school websites are u-g-l-y they ain't got no alibi, they're ugly. I'd rather see a relatively bland and uninspiring school website with all the information necessary than one with cheesy animation, day-glow colors and too!! many!! exclamation points!!!

February 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterteacherninja

I'm 34. I'm networked. I'm a breeder.

My eldest entered first grade this year. My youngest goes to preschool next year.

It's why I couched http://www.ijohnpederson.com/2009/01/25/network-learning-manifesto-revisited/ thing in the "What does this mean from a parent perspective?" at Educon 2.1.

Funny thing about the average "edtech revolutionary" at Educon. They seemed to be in their mid thirties with 1.8 children averaging 6.4 years old. While 80% of all statistics may be completely made up, we don't let that get in the way of our "What does this all mean for *my* children?"

February 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Pederson

Excellent points. Here in Wisconsin it's Open Enrollment time. I visited the webpage of the school we are interested in and then emailed them for more information. The principal actually seemed surprised that I had already reviewed all the content of their webpage. (She asked where I got all the information I was finding) I could tell from our conversation that she was not very familiar with the information on the school's website. I was bothered by the fact that some of the information on the webpage was out of date but I was MORE disturbed that the principal didn't know that.

February 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWisconsinMom

I am Gen X with GI parents and just this week they wanted me to talk them through eBay over the phone. It was quite a process but I was really intrigued that at age 79 they are willing to try this new (to them) tool.

I am also a school librarian and struggle with really knowing how many of my students have a computer/internet access at home. Our district is one with many families that cannot afford home access-as computers have gone from being a luxury to a necessity, it is another component in what divides the haves and havenots.

February 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLibraryGirl

This recent election speaks loudly about the Gen Joneses and their dependence on technology. I can't imagine trying to communicate with my parent volunteers, the Gen Jones' children, w/out use of email and our e-newsletter.

February 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda

This is why I think the whole digital immigrants/digital natives thing is bunk. It lets older generations off the hook; it gives them an excuse to not participate. And these data show that they DO participate. Thanks, Doug.

February 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Curtin

Hi Jim,

I hate to say it, but a little healthy competition among schools just might take care of things like this. No business could long afford to have a crappy website.

Doug

Hi John,

Knowing that you are a breeder may be a little too much detail for me, but I get your drift.

My sense is that people in their 30s, including my daughter and son-in-law, are the most APPLIED tech-savvy generation. It always makes me feel really good to read this new generation of leaders. Please do a better job of things that we boomers.

Doug

Hi WisconsinMom,

I am afraid we may have some principals in the same boat!

Doug

Hi LibraryGirl,

My 76 year old mother does email and enjoys online photos etc.

The concern about home access is real. Although cell phones and PDAs are filling the void for many students.

All the best,

Doug

Hi Mike,

I like Kathy Schrock’s take on this. She thinks we older people should be called “digital pioneers.” I like that a lot.

All the best and thanks for the comment,

Doug

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