“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Imagine yourself as a parent. Your student has just been told that they are going to be forced to stay at home for the upcoming school year and you will be charged with helping to support their learning experiences. You might be computer and tech-savvy, but you do not know anything about digital learning or how to log them into their required learning apps. Oh, and you have 3 (or more) students doing distance learning all at the same time.
Pretty scarry right? Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Over the course of the Pandemic, teachers and students have been coping with a brand-new teaching and learning style that has required them to do things they have not ever needed to do before. However, that is just two parts of the triangle in the learning process. For many parents, the thought of having to be a co-teacher in a digital classroom became a reality.
How do you support both teachers, students, and parents? The answer for many school districts is to create a Parent University, or a virtual program that helps teach parents and community members how to support their students.
In this blog post, we will look at what exactly a Parent University is and how it can be successfully created to support both parents as well as other members of your global community through the help of local professionals, teachers in the district and most importantly, your Instructional Coaching staff.
What is a Parent University?
To put it very succinctly, a Parent University is an opportunity for a community to come together and provide a service to itself. Parent Universities come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the needs of the community, but the basic idea is for the school district to be a conduit for community learning.
Creating a Parent University
In the summer of 2021, I had an opportunity to create a Parent University for my school district. The idea at the time was to create a series of after-school opportunities for the district to highlight what students were learning in school and to provide an opportunity for parents to learn how to help their hybrid learning students.
The mission of Parent University is to provide parents/families with experiences to create a lasting learning partnership that will transfer to positive outcomes for our students.
The goal of Parent University is to create a community-driven, interactive learning experience for K-8 Parents.
- Goal One: Provide opportunities for parents and community to engage in the learning process and be active participants in the education of our students.
- Goal Two: Create an environment for parents and community that provides access to needed services and resources.
- Goal Three: Create an environment for parents and community that provides access to needed services and resources.
Types of Instruction
- Live Instruction
- Courses will be scheduled live and streamed on district YouTube channel
- Live chat creates community involvement and engagement
- Pre-Recorded Instruction
- Presentations will drip each week as and supported by district newsletter and housed on YouTube channel
How To Choose Your Parent University Session Topics
At first glance, many school districts set up a Parent University to teach Tech Topics. For us, it started out that way too. We ran classes on how to support students using Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and other popular classroom applications. Sessions were broken down so that one topic would have two sessions each supporting older and younger student populations.
But this is not the only value that a Parent University has. When created properly, a Parent University can be set up to include sessions where community members teach other community members.
Let us say that you have an active parent who is very knowledgeable about taxes or legal matters. A great idea would be to invite that parent to give a session on tax prep or college financing options.
Parent University does not just have to be about parents teaching parents. It is also a fantastic way for parents to tutor students as well. For example, if you have someone in the community who is great with audio and video, perhaps they can run a “how to make a podcast” session for students.
How can Instructional Coaches Support Parent University?
When we first created our Parent University our instructors were our Instructional Coaches and our Library Media Specialists. This was a wonderful way to get the program started and gave our team an opportunity to work together outside of their normal teaching positions.
One advantage of inviting your coaches and LMS’s to participate in this is that it gives them “face time” with the community. Having your Coaches and LMS’s staff be the visual face of the program provides a terrific way for them to act as digital ambassadors and conduits between what is happening in the classroom and what might be possible at home. It also provides parents a friendly face to seek help from in case something needs to be addressed with digital technologies at home while on distance learning.
Organizing and Promoting your Parent University
To create something that was able to grow at scale, we created a website for our Parent University. To make things simple for us, we used Google Sites so that we could create a product that was easy for parents to navigate through and would be saleable over time.
Each session had a page dedicated to it that held information about the topic, the registration link, and our session recordings for viewing in case parents were not able to watch something live.
We also used Zoom Webinar’s to host and manage our sessions. By using Zoom as our video delivery platform, we were able to have access to a scheduling system, attendance tracker, and easy-to-download recordings of each event. Additionally, when called for, we were also able to use Zoom’s translation feature to bring in additional languages into our presentations to reach a wider audience and support our MLL community.
To help make things fun and exciting, we used Bitmoji (or what we called CoachMoji) to provide a family-friendly environment to the project and to share a bit about who our presenters are in the program.
Promoting Through Social Media
Each week, Parent University ran between 2-5 sessions in the evening. We found that the best time would be to run two sessions to support families with different schedules so that we were supporting our entire community. Each week, families received a calendar of upcoming Parent University sessions in the weekly district newsletter.
Start Your Parent University Program Today!
If you are looking to support your community, I would highly consider starting a Parent University. Much like Student Tech Teams are used to support what happens inside of the school district, a Parent University is designed to support learning outside of the school district.
By using your Instructional Coaches and Library Media Specialists, you have an amazing opportunity to create and deliver high-quality sessions that are going to be used by both district families and community members that support both instructional and global topics.
If you or anyone in your district would be interested in discussing this topic further, please do not hesitate to reach out and make an appointment with me. I am extremely proud of the program that was created, and I would love to help you and your district create one of your own.