Bringing new technology products or services into a school or district requires a collaborative partnership between stakeholders in order to ensure that implementation is successful. While the education industry must work closely with schools to implement new technology programs, schools must also work closely with parents to ensure that they understand why new technology is coming into the school, how it will benefit their children, and what is being done to protect their data.
Here are some tips to help you develop a successful partnership with your parent community around technology:
- Set the right scene. You know your community best, so consider carefully how you should present information about your technology program. Are morning meetings better attended than evening meetings? Would meeting in small groups be more helpful than one large group? Can the conversation be handled in one meeting or would a series of discussions be more appropriate? Give some thought to the best time, place and format for the conversation.
- Know the technology. Be able to clearly explain to parents what technology products and services are being used in the school and why.
- Explain the benefits. You spent a lot of time deciding what technology to bring into the school and why, and are now very excited about the possibilities that the innovation will bring! If parents aren’t involved in the decision-making process, they may not come to the table with the same enthusiasm. Whether it’s improving school services, supporting students, or enhancing the classroom experience, be sure to explain the benefits that the product or service will provide.
- Understand the compliance requirements. When it comes to data privacy and security, schools and vendors must comply with a wide range of federal, state and district requirements. Explain the protocols you have in place to assess the compliance practices of the technology that comes into your school.
- Avoid jargon. We often talk about technology programs using complicated terms such as compliance, data privacy, personalized learning, transparency, FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act), and more. Use clear language when speaking with parents, and when you do use jargon, explain your terms.
- Spend a minute in their shoes. It’s not easy to be a parent in the digital age. Parents may already be overwhelmed by all the technology their child is using at home, so the idea of even more access to technology in school may be met with skepticism. Talking to parents about quality versus quantity of screen time, or explaining the controls you have in place around technology at your school may help ease concerns.
- Alleviate the fear. Conversations about technology use in school are often driven by fear: fear of the unknown, fear of technology, fear of what the data will be used for, fear of data security. The best antidote for fear is knowledge. Be sure you give parents all of the information they need to feel confident that you have smart, thorough policies and practices in place to help ensure success.
- Don’t just tell – SHOW! If possible, bring parents into the classroom for a hands-on learning session using your technology. Let them see when, where, and why student data might be collected, as well as the amazing learning experiences to be had! They will be better positioned to understand your technology program when they can try it out.
- Be clear about choice. Although not everyone may agree about your technology decisions, everyone does have privacy rights. Explain when and how you’ll notify parents about your acceptable technology use policies, privacy practices, and how and when they may choose whether to opt their child in or out of sharing certain information.
- Don’t expect to win everyone over. You rarely have unanimous agreement in your parent community over other decisions that you’ve made in the classroom, and decisions around technology will be no different. Embrace the dissent and consider the objections carefully. Every voice brings a learning opportunity, and you may uncover new ideas in the process.
Clear and thoughtful communication with parents will help build a trusting and collaborative partnership with your community and create the environment you need to run a successful technology program in your school.
For more information about student data privacy, check out Linnette’s previous blog post on building a school privacy compliance program.
Linnette Attai, Founder and President of PlayWell, LLC, is a data privacy advisor to Hobsons.