Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How Easy is Easy Enough?

I remember hearing something about the company Palm. Back when palm pilots were all the rage (yep, I had one) I read that there was a real concern at about how many clicks it would take to do a task. Any more than 3 clicks, and the company considered it a problem. I think this kind of thinking needs to be employed in schools as they incorporate technology. In this particular instance I am thinking about parents.

It's for the We use SharePoint websites for our classroom websites in our district. They are incredibly powerful and incredibly useful. Our district is always working at making them look better, and more user friendly. I think one of the ways we could start using our homework site is to set up our publicly viewable homework sites so that parents can rss them to their smartphones. This would mean that whenever a teacher posted their homework to their class website, parents would get it in their inbox on their iPhone, blackberry, or HTC. Any smartphone could do this. So can an iPod touch. I checked.

You don't need to have a smart phone or iPod to subscribe to a website by rss. You can do it on your computer. However I think of the power of a parent who can just pull their phone out of their pocket and say "Hey don't you have math homework today, page 197 #1-15?" Middle school students mean well, but there is a lot going on, and I want to make it easier to support them.

Yes, a parent could find my homework site. They just go to my district site, click on school sites, click on my middle school, click on staff directory, click on staff, and then click on my homework site link, and then click on Homework Calendar. That's a lot of clicks. If they are savvy computer users, they would bookmark the site. Too many clicks to do on a regular basis.
Parents might not make regular use of my homework site then.

Better just to send all my parents the rss feed link at the start of the year at parent orientation night, and walk them through putting it on their phone. I see parents using their phones all the time. They have them on their person and they are comfortable using them.

Let's make it easier for the parents to support their kids' learning at home. It might mean I don't have to chase down so many missing and late assignments.


E! said...

Some good points, James. However, I couldn't help thinking throughout reading your post, "When we enable parents to be more connected (in the way you describe), is there not a hefty risk that students will not learn to take responsibility for themselves? At what age should students stop relying on their parents to tell them what their homework is?"

We both work on Middle School, and we know that children develop at different rates. I would say that by, say, grade 8, as they are getting prepared for high school, they need LESS parent involvement and more independence. What do you think - am I being naive?

Paul Clarke said...

Hey James. Great idea! I use posterous for my Gr. 5 class site here in North Vancouver, and I do walk my parents through the process of subscribing during the Meet the Creature night. But as that is computer based, they merely watch while I show 'em. Better to do it via a phone. 5 minutes. Done. Thanks for sharing!

James Gill said...

Thanks to E! Yes now I wonder about this too. However, consider the brain. As a guy, my brain wasn't fully developed until I was about 19 years old. Some argue 21. My wife would plead a case that it was much later! My point is, yes we want to teach our children responsiblity, however if having some key parents of "absent minded professors" in on the discussion of "what happened today, and what do you need to do for tomorrow" means that I chase fewer kids for homework - success. Saves me time, saves me effort. I don't think you are naive. I think we need to stop thinking about technology as being a blanket solution we spread over the class, but rather a way to offer better service to the kids who need a bit more support.

James Gill said...

Hi Paul - thanks for your comment. I think what you are doing is great. I hope the idea of getting updates on the phone pleases both you and the parents of your students. I hope it pleases your students too...once they get over the initial shock of their parents being so on top of their homework. In all seriousness, I hope that this extra bit of effort pays big dividends, and hope you will let me know if it works!