Engaging Communities

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A Pinteresting way to engage your school community

This year, our school (St Thomas More Primary) has tried to engage our community in a variety of ways. As a Mum, Pinterest has been an engaging, accessible and effective way to find information, source ideas and connect with like minded people. Pinterest has allowed its users to capture key ideas and concepts and store them in a space that they can share with others. Personally, I have used Pinterest to archive anything from Fathers’ Day ideas, to renovation photos and great lessons for school. Its a simple way to visualise, categorise and share resources that I love. It helps me keep things in one place, and yet, I can access it from anywhere. This is a fabulous idea for a new Mum who can’t remember where she put her keys….

In the past I used Delicious to tag online resources and bundle them together. Since the re-branding and sad demise of the ‘old’ delicious, Pinterest has risen to be a valuable tool for many people, in many situations. As a school, we value engaging our community in learning. We value working with them to support them as parents and co-educators in the lives of our children. As a school, we decided to create our own school Pinterest account, with boards that store resources, ideas, information and great ideas. This is a place that we hope to grow with our community. We hope that teachers, parents and children will submit websites for us to pin and share with our community. There are already so many parents using Pinterest for their own interests, and we hope that our school board will help connect with our parents on a new level.

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Our Pinterest boards include:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Mathematics
  • Special Needs
  • Parenting Tips
  • Cybersafety
  • Restorative Practices and Relationships
  • Technology and Apps
  • Learning Links
  • Inspirational Videos

To view and follow our St Thomas More Primary School Pinterest Page, visit the link here.

If your school is using Pinterest to engage your community, I would love to hear from you!

Common Sense Media – Opening our community minds

Common Sense Media is a fantastic site that offers parents, teachers and students practical advice in tackling a variety of issues in relation to technology, media and cybersafety. The main focus of Common Sense Media is to ‘protect children from the dangers of using the internet’. This site houses a range of engaging and interesting reviews of various websites and products as well as opinions and points of view.

One of the best aspects of the site is the weekly newsletter updates that link to current issues and discussions surrounding Information Communications Technology. The fact that this site provides its users with ongoing information to tackle pertinent issues ‘just in time’, means that it often forces you to stop and think about how you are tackling issues with children either at school or at home. A recent example was the ten anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City. Whilst our world was flooded with images and stories on television, newspapers, the internet and on the radio, many teachers and parents may not have considered how this may have effected our young students, especially given that many of them were not born at the time the attacks occurred. In a weekly newsletter update, Common Sense Media offered practical advice about how to tackle talking to children about the September 11 attacks.

Furthermore, another great resource are the Common Sense Media agreements that parents can use to develop sensible and safe technology routines in the home. The Family Media Agreement is a checklist that parents can use to guide conversations with their kids about media use. It’s designed to help parents establish guidelines and expectations around media use and behavior that are right for their family.

This not only offers parents the platform to discuss how their children need to use the internet safely in the home, but also explores how parents will respect the need for the younger generation to use technology to learn, communicate and interact with the world around them.

Common Sense Media also has their own youtube channel that houses hundreds of videos exploring the issues of cyber safety, cyber bullying and using the internet for learning.

This site really does offer schools and parents a great platform to explore issues and collect resources to assist them in engaging in the cyber safety conversation.

Click on the video below to view one of the great videos available on their youtube channel.

Engaging Parents in the Cybersafety conversation

This week is National Cyber Safety Week. Throughout this week we have been engaging in conversation with our students, teachers and parents about the issues surrounding cybersafety and keeping our children safe and sensible online.

As a school, we have become aware about the feelings and insecurities of many parents as they feel simply inadequate and unsure of how they can help to keep their children safe. Many parents shared their feelings and concerns, not of the online world, but of their lack of knowledge and awareness. Many were expressing feelings of wanting to be positive and proactive, but felt overwhelmed by the negative issues confronting the digital generation. This negativity was also fuelled by the overwhelming amount of information and content knowledge needed to understand and prepare themselves for cybersafety in the home.

It became apparent however, that by giving these families the forum to share and discuss their feelings, strategies and ideas, we were actually helping them to develop a sense of community understanding.  Personal experiences give a context to understanding and helped to normalise feelings of confusion and insecurity.

This week, it has also become clear that schools need to ensure that they develop and nurture parent education in cybersafety. Research findings from the EU study of online safety found that

41% of parents whose child has seen sexual images online say that their child has not seen this;

56% of parents whose child has received nasty or hurtful messages online say that their child has not;

52% of parents whose child has received sexual messages say that their child has not;

Although the incidence of these risks affects a minority of children in each case, the level of parental underestimation is more substantial.

Key Findings also included that: “Parents were often not aware of the risks to which their children had been exposed,” including a lack of awareness of their children’s experiences with bullying online.

The fact is that students are afraid to entrust their parents with information, because they are afraid that their parents will take their technology away from them. This research has also discovered that removing such technology from students of the digital age causes them increased stress and tension.

It is imperative then, that we work with our parents to develop positive attitudes and practices that bridge the divide between digital immigrants and digital natives. At St Thomas More, we understand that parents are under a vast amount of pressures and restrictions, and often lack the time to sift through the vast array of information available.

Ivanhoe Grammar recently developed a fantastic community resource titled ‘icybersafe‘. At St Thomas More, we were inspired by this initiative to develop our own community resource that focuses on strengthening parent knowledge and awareness, as well as providing parents with practical tips and ideas in improving cyber safety in the home.  It is hoped that this resource will empower our parent community to understand the power of technology in engaging learners, whilst also giving them practical information to help them protect their children in an online world.

To find the ‘MORE Cyber Safety’ Community website, please click here.

Any ideas, resources or suggestions that could help us to improve parent education in cybersaftey would be greatly appreciated.

Twittering Teachers – Engaging communities of learners

In some of my discussions with teachers there seems to be some division within the education community as to how or if ‘Twitter’ can be used effectively to enhancelearning. On the one hand, we have those who see twitter as a fad, something which rivals facebook but without substance. Many ask the question -Why Twitter? What possibly can it do to engage teachers or learners in a way that other mediums such as facebook cannot.  Previously, I have to admit that I sometimes sat on the fence. I wondered what Twitter could do that Facebook could not. I wondered why the fuss? Why do so many educators seem to spend so much time tweeting their thoughts and sharing links via this site.  Afterall, couldn’t facebook do this?

The fact is that Twitter offers something that Facebook cannot – tagged conversations. For the Twitter faithful, the ability to post an idea, comment or insight with the beloved hashtag#, propels the online conversation into a new world. Real time conversations by anyone with the simple # can link them to events, conferences and communities anywhere in the world from the comfort of your armchair.  Conferences are brought to life by real time reflections between individuals who share their learnings. The immediate feedback that twitter brings to those who follow these conversations brings about a sense of understanding and consolidation.  Twitter feeds are littered with interesting responses, affirmations and questions about content that can be accessed there and then. If used in the right setting, Twitter is something that engages the audience like never before. It’s like a present learning journal for all to see.

Twitter also provides a platform to network and learn from a variety of experts around the world. Being able to reach out instantly to an educated audience with questions, concerns, tips, ideas and resources is something that all teachers should explore. Twitter allows you the ability to instantly seek clarification from the people who know. It provides you with a never ending source of knowledge from people who know and care.

I have often wondered then, how this tool can be adapted to the Primary School setting. Is it appropriate and how can it be used to engage a community? Our school recently has used Twitter as a way of involving our parent community in camps and excursions. Through the use of a twitter badge on our school website, parents can view up to date snippets of activities and achievements. The ability to upload photos gives parents current insight into how their students are travelling. We have found that this has given parents a sense of confidence and comfort during times when their children are away for a few days. It allows them to travel on the journey with us. Many parents chose to follow the account and interacted with us through direct messages, questions and tweets. Using Twitter in this way helped to bring the community together across time and space. It has engaged the community in an online space and brought about a sense of interaction and participation.

Twitter is a great way for communities to connect, communicate and collaborate. We just need to seek out the opportunities to make it worthwhile.


One Response to Engaging Communities

  1. Jose Blackley says:

    I think that is a great way to engage parents in the use of twitter. It is fairly non-threatening and a simple an effective way to ease into the use of twitter without it appearing to be a fad!

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