It is difficult to stop the parents from teaching children academic topics before the teacher teaches it at school. I am sure many teachers will agree to this, today when a preschooler comes to school, the child is already parroting numbers 1 to 10 and spouting ABCD.
The curriculum prescribes 1 to 10 in Jr. KG but the child already knows bigger numbers by the end of nursery or Pre K.
While this may sound as a good thing, it is not something that teachers desire because each child has learnt it in a different manner and in many cases it is just a matter of learning by rote. Unfortunately in our society the teachers keep asking 'Have you learnt it?' when actually they are meaning 'Have you memorized it?' hence parents who have grown up with such teachers believe that learning means memorizing. I have been a preschool teacher, coordinator and now a Principal for more than 20 years and I have seen this problem increasing over time.
It feel it is almost impossible to stop the parents from teaching at home so the best thing to do is to teach them how to teach the concepts in the right manner. With a firm belief in this philosophy I have always advocated and conducted regular training sessions for my parents on how to teach basic concepts of alphabets, numbers, sounds etc. but this has many challenges:
- How to get the parents to attend training programmes from time to time?
- How to ensure that the parents can recall what method was suggested?
- How to cater to the parent who did not attend the training programme?
At my school 9Kids, we have brainstormed on what solution do we see to these issues and we thought a fantastic opportunity had been created by the increased penetration of smartphones and internet.
We started evaluating various communication platforms and we found that there were two major kinds of platforms, one is many to many generic communication platforms like Gmail, Whatsapp, Instagram etc. which did not suit our need as we wanted something on which collaboration could happen keeping the 9Kids communication and content at the centre. Two was social media platforms like Facebook which enabled us to create pages and post training content or tips to parents but somehow the importance of the material that we were sending was not maintained in the overload of information on those platform. Also most of these platforms are designed for just information consumption whereas we wanted consumption, collaboration and retrieval whenever the parent needed that information.
So we started evaluating formal learning platforms like Edmodo, Google Classrooms, Flinnt and we found that most of the formal learning platforms are designed for formal school education with a lot of focus on assignments which was not the case in our context. We found Flinnt with its mobile first design suited our needs the most as our survey told us that the preferred mode of communication for the parents was mobile phone.
We signed up for an account on www.flinnt.com and created courses for parents, we created three types of courses for each parent:
- one course was specifically related to the teaching of subjects specific to the grade in which the student was learning,
- another was to discuss generic issues like behavioral issues, developmental milestones, child health etc
- finally we had a happenings course in which we communicated all the things that we were planning and implementing across the whole preschool
The whole process of designing the courses and informing the parents took us a week and we rolled out the 9Kids courses by mid July. The class teachers used to post on the grade specific subject specific courses, I started posting on the behavioral issues and child health course and we all used to post on the happenings course.
All of us post a range of materials, which includes photographs and videos of what is happening in the classroom, links to videos on youtube, links to articles and websites which have information that is important to the parents. We also post documents and worksheets that are related to the topic being taught in the class. The usage of the platform has been increasing and we found at the end of 3 months that in each course we had made an average of 150 posts i.e. we were averaging almost 1.6 posts per day, in my wildest dream I could not imagine that we will be able to communicate so much to the parents and the best part was that it didn't involve any additional investment in technology tools, it didn't intrude on the parents time.
All this communication happened seamlessly and suddenly it seemed that the number of questions that parents had when they came to pick up the children has decreased, they were well informed and their actions at home were also more or less aligned to the actions that we were taking at school. At 9Kids the increased communication has lead to an increase in parental satisfaction and it has also ensured that the teaching at home and the teaching in the classroom have turned synergistic rather than counter productive.
I feel technology has a huge role to play in terms of creating engagement with the parent community; they are more than willing to lend a hand. Preschools need to bridge the gap between the home and the school using technology so that the periodicity of communication can be increased. My focus in the 2nd term and also going forward into the 2nd year of implementation of Flinnt will be in terms of training my teachers to post the web based resources, the apps that are available, stories and videos that are available free of cost in the right sequence and at the right time to the parents so that we can fully utilize the learning potential of the internet.