Education, Parenting, and Open Source Technology solutions

Submitted by Sudhir Kade on Thu, 12/29/2005 - 14:56.

Is it better to design systems of education that disregard parental involvement or is it better to design systems of education that better involve and integrate parents?  I know one motivation to sugggest the former might be frustration with the degree to which many parents have failed in supporting the education of their children.  Eliminating any expectations on the part of educational institutions regarding parenting might hold these institutions to a higher level of accountability for childhood development.  Is this really the way? 

Many schools are budget-strapped as is, so taking on new responsibilities might not be something schools welcome with open arms. Current educational systems, by and large, feature parent-teacher conferences, and require parental approval for various activities.  Given resource requirements, I think schools should continue to foster parental involvement and hold parents more accountable for good parenting.  Some couples read books or attend seminars and the like on parenting, but this is a distinct minority.  Schools could offer programs for parents that involve them more.  Parent Teacher Associations have long been a staple of childhood education and the only concern I would have is ensuring these systems are effective in creating a meaningful and transparent channel of communication between parent and student , teacher and student, and parent and teacher.  A 'same team' approach needs to be cultivated where teacher,parent, and student work together to maximize outcomes for one another (win-win-win).

 What might this look like?  Technology (Open Source, like that of RealNEO) could be employed to allow the greater transparency of grade and progress reports in real time between parent, teacher, and student so that there is no 'lagging reaction' to poor student performance. Corrections and improvements wouldn't need to wait until the 'next report card'.  Potential problems with drugs, emotional health, or relationships could be identified earlier and dealt with before they cause more significant or permanent damage. 

Every member of the student-parent-teacher triad could be held accountable to specific duties or assignments and a cohesive and effective team-approach could be cultivated.  While this might be regarded as a great deal of nvestment short term. the long term gains in terms of time, money, value and convenience would justify initial investment.  The system could even provide online tutorials and resources that could meet needs in areas students may be deficient.  The beauty of open source technology in this context is the ease with which content management can be handled by the technology to provide these 'catered' tutorial / informational solutions.An important point to make here is regarding the attitude that needs to be shared between members of the parent-teacher-student triad - all should buy in to this system so that no one feels that their privacy is violated. Furthermore, all should agree that a poor performance doesn't merit punishment but rather a collective search for a solution.  That solution could be facilitated by the technology, as we will see.

I am not suggesting a replacement for critical human contact between parent-student-and child- this intimacy is always important.  I am suggesting creating a model that helps every party of the triad mitigate resource costs (time and money).  The savings incurrred considering cost of traditional tutoring, travel, and time saved would be significant.  Using the system would also facilitate the exposure of cuttting-edge technology to parent, student, and child - an educational value in its own right.  

As parents, teachers, and students join online chats and blogs with one another, great outcomes in terms of information sharing would result.  Imagine parents all chatting in one space, sharing parenting tips and tricks, tutoring ideas, etc.  And teachers could do the same in their space, and students in their space.  Now it gets really interesting - what if these spaces could interact across segments - Teachers sharing ideas with Parents, Parents with Students, and Teachers with Students.  Many Teachers are parents, and have children/students, of course.   The final exciting thought would be to build these inter and intra segment communities across school boundaries, and even between different school districts.  All the systems could be interconnected using the same license-free, open-source technology   The thought is mind-boggling - a  growing, universal , synergy building web that fosters unprecedented connectedness and learning for teacher, parent, and student.   

Who is employing like systems?  Can we better such systems to be more integrative, platform-independent, and scalable?  And can we calculate accurate financial projections and impact studies that will convince school boards this is the way?  I believe we can, if we build a community that shares this vision and believes it has truly transformational potential.

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