Parent Technology Boot Camp: Rethinking Technology Use at Home

Today’s children are surrounded by technology everywhere they go. Smartphones, high speed internet, smart TVs, video game consoles, e-readers, tablets… the list keeps growing every year. In a world where children are being raised “digital”, it's important to help them learn healthy concepts of digital use and citizenship, which is why parents play an essential role in teaching them these skills.

After briefly bringing up the subject of how the use of technology can be used to encourage children to become creators instead of consumers during a Lower School Parent Coffee, Digital Literacy Coaches, Tracey Bryan and Nicole Gray, realized parents were hungry for more.

Parents were really interested so they asked for a full-day boot camp to learn different strategies, techniques and resources to support their children at home, in literacy, in math and in digital citizenship. They basically saw everything we are doing here at ASF and wanted an easy way to apply it after school,” explained Nicole.

Three years ago, the Lower School removed homework from its curriculum, leaving some parents uncertain of how their children should be spending their afternoons at home. Often parents don’t feel like they have the skills to inspire their kids to be creators, and children end up using their devices to watch videos and play games. María Figueroa, grade 1 mom who enjoyed learning how to code during the boot camp shared, “I wanted to understand what technology my child is playing with and to be an active part of his growth.”

Alejandro Rodríguez, grade 2 dad explained, “I think the boot camp was a great opportunity to learn and to see what kids are doing at school on a daily basis and also, personally, to learn a bit, because sometimes I'm not so tech-savvy, so it was really good. I learned many positive things, like the tools we can use to help our children study.”

Media use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits. “A couple of weeks ago, I read that the Pediatric Association in the United States has guides and standards for screen time and screen use and they have just updated them, making a differentiation between types of screen time. If kids are using a device to create something, the rules about time aren’t as stringent, whereas when using devices to consume something they are. It’s important to help parents make this distinction,” shared Tracey.

The introduction of technology in schools and in the home environment has opened up a huge window of opportunity in children’s learning. Tablets and other technologies are an effective tool when they are relevant and interactive to the learning experience. Like with anything though, moderation is important and there is nothing better than real life hands-on learning opportunities for our children.

The idea behind the Parent Technology Boot Camp was to take resources children use at school like Osmo and iPads and show parents strategies for their children to use them at home in order to inspire them to fulfill their passions and be creative. The school’s Learning Centers offer such a rich variety of resources that most parents aren’t aware of. “Kids can do research, they can read books online, they can have books read to them that actually match the level that they are reading at school,” expressed Nicole, “We have Overdrive, Tumblebooks. Some parents don’t even know they can login and gain access to all these amazing tools to support their kids,” explained Nicole. Effective technology integration is achieved when its use supports curricular goals, which is why it is so important for parents to learn about it.

I believe it is important for parents of children in this digital age to be knowledgeable of the tools they use and up-to-speed in every way we can help them improve learning at home. I enjoyed meeting new parents from the same grade, who I hadn’t met before and becoming familiar with all the tools I can use to support my child's learning.” - Martha Cassab, grade 3 mom.

Gaby Suárez, who has children in K2, grades 1 and 3 agreed, “I wanted to learn about the tools I can use to help my kids learn and support them with math and reading. I enjoyed everything about the boot camp!”

ASF’s first Parent Technology Boot Camp took place from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and was open for all Lower School parents to sign up. After promoting it via the weekly bulletin and on the plasma screens around the school, it quickly reached full capacity. The bootcamp was divided into seven sessions for 71 parents, as well as a digital scavenger hunt, and groups rotated in order to take part in every activity, learning about literacy, math and creativity, leading up to Maker Week. Beside the CTE, the Parent Technology Boot Camp involved the participation of academic coaches Karen, Megan and Carolina and was supported by partnerships with Apple and Hacedores.

During Back to School Night, Jordan Maas, Head of Lower School informed parents that despite not having homework, they should be encouraging their children to read at home to practice their literacy skills and to work with math every afternoon. For some parents this is easy and they will have their children doing things like adding up totals during trips to the supermarket or calculating time and distance in the car; but for others, this represents a challenge, so giving parents these skills and an adequate background for numeracy and literacy is important.

Another main theme during the Boot Camp was creation. “Apple recently launched a full curriculum for everyone to create using apps everyone has on their phones, like the camera, and how to do really creative stuff with that, so parents can use these tools as well. So it’s helping parents connect with their own creativity as well as their kids’,” said Tracey. Merril Rasmussen, father of children in grades 3 and 7 enjoyed this. “I’m interested in educational technology and I wanted to see what the school is doing. I liked the more creative apps, where people are taking photos and manipulating things and playing.”

The Parent Technology Boot Camp also helped raise awareness about the school’s Digital Citizenship Program, Connected Citizens based on resources from Common Sense Media,  and made parents more aware of different actions carried out by the school. Along with offering parents resources, the event was also an opportunity to strengthen our community, offering parents a space to express their concerns and share their ideas in an open and productive way. “We hear so much that technology is making our brains atrophied, but now I believe technology is a creative way to solve problems,” concluded Molly Trainer.

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