I was intrigued to read a recent post by Jay Mathews on his Washington Post education blog about some DC-area teachers who are not making use of a web-based system designed to let them easily post homework online. Based on the comments that follow the post, the purpose of the system seems to be in question. Is it for parents of students (especially those who qualify for special education services) to help them keep track of assignments, or is it to be used with students who are absent and need to get caught up?
It doesn’t really matter what the “official” job of this application is. I can say from personal experience what when parents of any type of student gain access to online tools, particularly those that communicate current marks and assignments, they use these tools to circumvent the role of students. They relish the idea that they can see what is due and what has been turned in and then interact directly with the
Don’t get me wrong. I use an online grading application to communicate academic and behavioral performance with students and their parents. I maintain and update a website that share weekly classwork and homework assignments. I do these things in part because they are required of me, but more so because I want to empower students to keep track of their performance and improve upon it. I stress this with students and parents alike, and provide time during the week for students to check on their progress.
As a parent, I can see the temptation to use these tools help me prop up my child if he falls behind or shows a poor work ethic. But, as an educator, I know that removing the most important member of the educational process–the child–can not have long-term positive effects.
So, what are we to do? Here is my opinion:
1. Teach children to care about their education. Celebrate successes and make learning both personal and meaningful to them.
2. Give students the tools to monitor and evaluate their own work. Use the tools of online gradebooks and informative websites to provide data to students. Parents have a legal right to that same data, but it is the student who controls the outcomes and needs to feel responsible for them.
3. Encourage parents and students to develop meaningful lines of communication with each other. Use student-led conferences and AVID-style notebook Parent Input pages to get parents into the habit of inquiring about schoolwork from their children… and not accepting “Nothing.” as an answer to “What did you do in school today?”.
Do you share marks online? Do you have ideas for dealing with overbearing parents? Please share them in the comments.