Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What's coming up....

I am very fortunate to have been included not once but twice on a great webcast (Parents as Partners) about engaging parents in schools and more importantly in their children's learning. In our latest discussion we started to talk a little bit about using social networking (facebook, ning etc) as a tool for connecting with and engaging parents. I had, quite innocently, started a Ning geared towards the parents in my community but really had no comprehension of the reaction that was to follow. The most suprising revelation for me has been that anyone beyond my community would care what we were doing. As I watched Cindy Seibel research how to create a K-12 Parent Portal and Lorna's excitement about what we were doing, it slowly (and I mean reeally slowly) began to sink in that what we were undertaking was a bit of an experiment. So in the next series of blog posts I'd like to share some of the difficulties, triumphs and random thoughts that have come about in the course of the last 5 months.

But first some background -- I am very new to the school system (my children are 8,5,3).I was searching for a way to be involved with the school and I began thinking that my interest in the internet may be the special skill that I could bring to the table. I suggested that Parent Council should have a website and was entrusted with the mandate to make that happen. When I sat back and thought about what I, as a parent, was hoping to find on a website, I quickly realized that it had very little to do with Parent Council. I wanted a virtual clearinghouse of information on community events, school events, sports schedules, and an opportunity to connect with other parents who were in the same boat as me. All of that seemed too daunting of a task for one person to be in charge of so, after some deliberation, I decided to start a community Parent's Ning instead of pursue a Parent Council website. In the environment of a Ning the whole community could pitch in and maintain the site. No-one owned the site, anyone could contribute to the site, in true Web 2.0 fashion it was us using us to create the content we needed.

It seems simple right?? Straightforward?? Shouldn't be a problem?? Well there has been, and continues to be some interesting and unexpected side effects from the process. As you continue through the next few postings I think it is important that you keep in mind a couple of important facts -- actually just one -- this Ning is in a small community -- pop ~1,200 -- those from a small-town rural setting understand what that means. For the rest I think a small explanation is in order. Our children don't just go to school together, they see eachother in the community, attend the same extracurricular activities, and often have extended family in the school (cousins etc). As parents that means we have a lot of interaction with eachother through the kids but it also means that we work, do community service, and socialize together independent of our connection around the children. The real-world ties are extremely strong so the Ning is merely an extension of those ties. I believe this creates an entirely different dynamic than would be found in a more urban setting. Can our experiences to be transferred to what is esentially a different culture?? I'm not entirely sure -- I hope to find that out via the comments I recieve with this series of posts. So -- here goes nothing.....

1 comment:

Lorna Costantini said...

Glad to see you are back at blogging. I am thrilled that you are reporting on your experiences using the ning network. More importantly, from a personal perspective I am proud to have you on the Parents as Partners Show at edtechtalk.com/parentsaspartners.
Your real time experiences and your handling of them is a benchmark for us all to aim towards.