Defining Parent Engagement in 2019

Defining Parent Engagement in 2019

Elise Twyford

Elise Twyford

Teacher

Elise Twyford is an early-years educator and lifelong learner. She is currently running the Sprig Learning Oral Language Learning Program in her classroom in Toronto, Ontario.

What does parent engagement look like in 2019?

Parents spend countless hours caring for their child — they are the experts on the little person that you meet in your classroom. They send their hopes and dreams into school with their child, and every parent wants to see their child succeed. As educators, we get the privilege to spend a few hours a day helping their little learners build the skills they need along their path toward academic success.

But while we know that relational trust between schools and parents is linked to higher levels of student achievement, how much time are we as educators dedicating to actively nurturing our relationships with parents and caregivers? How can we create a welcoming and responsive classroom culture, one where engagement is initiated and led by parents, caregivers and community members? And what does parent engagement look like in the culturally responsive classroom, particularly in communities where trust in the education system is lacking, oftentimes because of historical trauma?

What does it even mean to engage parents in early learning?

We tend to evaluate parent engagement by the number of parents who attend parent-teacher interviews, or how regularly we communicate directly with the home. These numbers, although important, are often more representative of a parents’ busy schedule than their meaningful engagement with their child’s education.

Because we lack the framework and tools we need to discuss and describe parental engagement, we as teachers often find ourselves unable to analyze and assess the true fruits of our efforts. We know that we are doing “something” to get parents engaged in our classrooms—but is it enough?

Ken Leithwood argues that we need to shift away from the current model of trying to get parents into the school, and towards a model where parents and caregivers can support learning in the home. After all, this is where half of the learning that we are responsible for as educators happens.

The Ladder of Participation

Roger Hart (1992) developed the Ladder of Youth Participation to describe levels of youth engagement. At the bottom of the ladder, you can see an engagement model that is providing information. At the top of the ladder, you see a model that has ideas initiated by youth and both adults and youth sharing in the decision making.

Could this same framework be used to think about how teachers engage parents in classrooms?

https://healthyschoolsbc.ca/healthy-schools-bc-resources/healthy-schools-network/

Typically, when we think of parent engagement, we think of the communication that happens through emails and calls to the home. We think of parent representatives on school committees, parent volunteers in school-wide activities, and parent-teacher night. The common thread here is that engagement happens on the school’s terms rather than the parent’s. From Hart’s ladder, this would look like the bottom 1-5 rungs (if we were being generous).

But what if we imagined a more engaging approach, one that supports parents to direct, define and lead the engagement?

This is especially true when looking at the culturally responsive classroom of 2019. For example, in speaking to culturally restorative practices at the First Nations School of Toronto (Parent Discussion Night, January 23, 2018), Estelle Simard described engaging Elders, parents, and community members in how culture should be taught in school, and the importance of creating meaningful engagement that enabled families to both initiate and define how they engage with their child’s school.

Estelle provided an example of a community where the Elders wanted regalia making, the creation of traditional and sometimes sacred clothing and accessories, to be a component of the school’s curriculum. The school then aligned curriculum and opened the door for the community to share their knowledge on the subject, creating a community of sharing and mutual respect.

Building Bridges between the Home and the School

We work hard to build relationships with our students. In order to increase parent engagement, we need to further that hard work by building relationships with parents, caregivers, and the community. So how can we honour this in our own classrooms and begin building bridges between home and school? 

  • – Attend community events – and don’t be shy about engaging with parents. Even a small wave or nod will start you on the path to building trust and a positive relationship with parents.
  • Create a classroom culture that encourages constant dialogue between yourself and your students’ caregivers, and work together to determine how to best support their child. Remember, the dialogue must be reciprocal. At the end of the day, parents are the true experts when it comes to their child.
  • – Most importantly — listen.

One of the benefits of working with the Sprig Learning Platform has been that it provides me with the opportunity to connect my classroom to every one of my students’ home lives, and to provide parents and caregivers with the tools they need to reinforce learning in their own homes.

 
 
   
 
 
 
We started out with a classroom birthday party for a haptic-enabled moose puppet named Antle, who is the star of Sprig’s Learning and MK Education’s Oral Language Learning Program. We invited parents, grandparents, and caregivers into our classroom, and encouraged them to learn more about the literacy learning that happens every day at school.

We interviewed each caregiver on the iOS-based caregiver survey, and parents and caregivers gave us more information about the literacy learning that happens at home and in the community. We all had such a great time at the party, and the small interactions that took place really built trust and strengthened our relationships with the families. Even better, we established a two-way dialogue between the home and school, both in-person and through the Sprig Learning online platform. Our students’ parents can now see activities that we recommend to further learning in the home, and trust that we are both working together to lead their little learner down a path to success.

Parent-Teacher Partnerships Lead to Success

The lasting effect of parents and teachers working together is clear when we see these students grow into healthy, confident, and curious lifelong learners. It’s important to find the approaches and strategies that work best for your classroom, but always remember to listen, be open-minded, and to have fun.

 

This guest post on the Sprig Learning Blog was contributed by  Elise Twyford, a teacher and lifelong learner based out of Toronto, Ontario. You can follow Elise here.

For more information about a holistic approach to assessment or holistic education, book a demo today or send us an email at letstalk@spriglearning.com.

It Takes Two to Keep Student Data Safe

It Takes Two to Keep Student Data Safe

Technology isn’t leaving anytime soon – that’s a fact. With job markets desperate for digital skills and teachers desperate for support, devices have a place in today’s education system. The trouble is, schools are adopting technology at an accelerating rate while the concern of cybersecurity lags behind. It’s an issue that schools are starting to take seriously, but it takes two to keep student data safe.

In education, student needs should always come first. It’s important for students to develop digital literacy, but it’s even more important to protect their privacy. Technology will always collect information, but it’s what companies do with that information that should concern educators. With more tech in the classroom comes more student data vulnerable to commercialization.

What schools need to look out for are companies that sell student data to advertisers. Advertisers use this data to create individual advertising profiles for more effective advertising in the future. The more information an advertiser collects, the more they can tailor their messaging to be more effective to each individual. It’s a sickening notion to think students are being exploited, but it’s an unfortunate reality.

What can schools do to protect student data?

First and foremost, schools should partner with edtech companies that care about students. From pedagogy to platform and privacy, your tech partners need to put students first. Ask for a copy of the company’s privacy policy and make sure it looks something like this. If an edtech company values the best interests of students, they will not sell data to advertisers.

Another way to protect students is to use different devices in the classroom. Though it may be a seamless option, putting all of your school’s digital eggs into one tech basket can be damaging to students and their privacy. When a student becomes too familiar with a company’s products, they may become uncomfortable using other technology, creating brand loyal customers at a young age. It gives tech companies an opportunity to collect student data at every possible juncture.

There are resources available for parents to protect student data as well. The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy was founded in 2014 after the legal battle with former student data company, inBloom. The coalition formed with the concern that parents were ill-equipped to protect their children’s privacy. The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy offers information and resources for parents who have had a hard time tackling the complicated topic of student privacy.

How does Sprig protect student data?

Using regulatory requirements and ISO cybersecurity standards, all Sprig software and platform services are held to stringent requirements to keep student data safe and privacy assured. Student privacy is critical and as such, Sprig does not sell or market any student data to third parties.

To further reinforce the importance of privacy, Sprig has teamed up with TwelveDot Security as its development partner. TwelveDot develops all of Sprig’s platforms using only the latest digital security measures and requirements. For the last eight years, TwelveDot has been a global leader in cybersecurity, assessing and protecting organizations from data breaches and cyber attacks.

The fact is, there is only one way to fight the sale of information: with information itself. Staying informed is the only way to protect student data and the onus is on caregivers and educators to learn with students in mind.

Caregivers and educators need to work together to protect student data inside and outside of the classroom and educate themselves so that they can understand the technology their children use. It takes two to keep student data safe, make sure your education partners are in it for the right reasons.

For more information about a holistic approach to assessment or holistic education, send us an email at letstalk@spriglearning.com.

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Freethinking Finger-Painters: Media Literacy for Early Learners

Freethinking Finger-Painters: Media Literacy for Early Learners

The truth is hard to come by, isn’t it? Even for adults, the line between truth and falsehood is often blurry. Social media, news sites, online publications – the access to information is limitless but so too is our exposure to misinformation. For every reputable news source, there is a fabulist publication fishing for clicks, shares and ad revenue.

In the age of information, it’s important to teach children to remain skeptical with an infinite wealth of knowledge always within arm’s reach. With blatant deceit being spewed from traditionally truthful sources and positions of authority, media literacy should be taught at a young age as most (if not all) early learners accept adult opinion as law.

Media Literacy for Early Learners 

As oral literacy is the framework for a child’s comprehension and understanding, it also lays the foundation for effective media literacy which appears to be a lost skillset. A Stanford study has shown that students at nearly all grade levels are unable to determine ‘fake news’ from real news. The study showed that while students absorbs media constantly, they often lack the critical thinking skills.

Early learners should focus on three areas of media literacy: identifying the storyteller, understanding stories and learning language.

A child who actively and passively participates during story time is more likely to excel in linguistic and print-related processes equating to better written and oral comprehension and awareness. To develop media literacy, early learners should be asked, “Who is telling this story?”. At this stage, they will likely answer with the most immediate and physical option – the individual reading the story. However, as the child ages, their answers will change to maybe a character in the book or even the author. The important part is to get them started early and build identifying the storyteller as a habit.

When it comes to understanding stories, early learners are often encouraged to analyze, retell, or reflect on what is being read. Asking them questions or to retell the story improves literacy skills, provides insight into their level of comprehension and encourages the habit of thinking and talking about media – an important aspect of media literacy. Keep in mind that the goal isn’t to replace story time with a pop quiz, it’s to foster an opportunity for early learners to discuss what they see and hear.

Learning language is not nearly as cut and dry as TV, games, books and film all affect the way early learners grasp language. Since language is developed through different media consumption, it’s important to recognize sight, sound and written word as opportunities to teach media literacy.

Just like letters and words influence perspective in print media, close-ups and zooms do so in image-based media. Having early learners occasionally identify what kind of shot they’re viewing on TV or in film will help them understand how shot selection affects perspective.

Surprisingly, it’s sound that is the easiest for early learners to understand. Occasionally asking how a song or sound effect makes them feel will foster understanding of how sounds influence how we feel and act. Ultimately, this aids in recognizing emotion and its influence in all media.

“4 out of 5 toddlers are watching movies, television shows, or online videos, and 85 percent of moms allow their preschooler to play with their phone.”

With students (including early learners) having access to more media than ever before, some suggest it’s beneficial to teach them to read like fact-checkers. Mike Caulfield, director of blended and networked learning at Washington State University suggests students read laterally – moving from the original text, opening up a series of tabs to determine the credibility of the text’s author and the sources they cite.

Caulfield also suggests students to recognize emotion in writing. He says, “When you feel strong emotion – happiness, anger, pride, vindication – and that emotion pushes you to share a ‘fact’ with others, STOP.” That being said, reading like a fact-checker is better suited for an older academic audience as early learners have yet to develop proper literacy skills and emotional intelligence.

Media Literacy is Early Literacy

If the onslaught of ‘fake news’ has taught us anything, it’s that media consumption has changed. Staying informed requires a level of healthy skepticism in order to raise articulate, well-read youth for the betterment of society.

Some might argue teaching media literacy too early encourages distrust in the media we consume. However, media literacy is simply part of early literacy. A 2011 report found that poor ‘comprehenders’ in the fifth grade – those with poor reading comprehension despite adequate word-reading skills – showed weak language skills as early as 15 months of age (Justice, Mashburn, & Petscher, in press). The purpose of teaching media literacy is to grant students the ability to recognize misinformation and formulate well-founded opinions and the truth is, these are shared goals of early literacy.

In the age of information, media literacy is part of literacy itself. Students are struggling to make sense of the vast amount of information they have at their fingertips. The media landscape has become a worldwide shouting match and it’s up to the individual to discern which voice is telling the truth. Starting in early childhood education helps implant the notion that not everything you read on the Internet is fact.

For more information about a holistic approach to assessment or holistic education, send us an email at letstalk@spriglearning.com.

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Student Data Privacy – What Makes Sprig So Secure?

Student Data Privacy – What Makes Sprig So Secure?

Protecting student data is a top priority for school districts and schools, and with the upswing of new edtech products on the market, it can be hard to qualify which tools offer the kind of protection that you and your students need. While some edtech companies may believe that following cybersecurity best practices adds extra complications to an already lengthy development cycle, Sprig Learning is fortunate enough to have security built into each and every product by design.

That added piece of mind is thanks to our co-founder, Faud Khan. Faud is an international leader in cybersecurity with over 23 years of experience in the field, and he is known for his work with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), as well as his work with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

So who better to share what makes the Sprig Learning Platform so secure than Faud himself! Keep reading to hear exactly what it is that makes our education platform so secure, and what you should look for when choosing an edtech partner.

Here’s a word from Faud:

With Sprig Learning, we had an opportunity to create an edtech product that was not only going to benefit the market from a holistic learning perspective, but one that provides enhanced privacy and security within the school ecosystem.

Cybersecurity is top-of-mind for most people, including us. As parents ourselves, we wanted to reassure our students, their parents, and their educators that we did everything in our power to identify and mitigate any risks to our online platform – as well as how we operate our company. I want to take this opportunity to share with you exactly what it is that makes Sprig Learning so secure. Allow me to dive into a little cybersecurity speak to help explain our process:

We take data security seriously.

So serious, in fact, that we have reviewed all of the possible ways in which our platform could be compromised. Every single one of them. Using a functional specification for our product development allows us to keep track of every component, identify potential risks, and methodically address each and every one. For a company that’s less than a year old, that is a pretty big accomplishment.

The functional specification makes it easier for us to complete both a Threat and Risk Assessment, as well as a Privacy Impact Assessment – two key components in creating and maintaining a secure platform. To be brief, completing a Threat and Risk Assessment allows us to identify any potential weaknesses in our digital properties, and address each one to reduce any risk. The Privacy Impact Assessment, on the other hand, helps us to identify and record any components of our system related to personal or student data that may be at risk – then develop a plan to manage and mitigate those risks.

These assessments and documentation cycles have allowed us to establish a Software Development Lifecycle that reduces the overall attack surface of our platform. We test ourselves and our platform. Constantly. Maintaining a secure platform doesn’t end once development is wrapped up. We aggressively monitor our servers for any sign of risk, and our multi-layered system ensures that if our web server were ever to become compromised, our student data remains safe. In fact, we even try to compromise our own platform with regular penetration testing in order to ensure that we did not make any mistakes in our code or in our server.

Our Promise to You.

As you can see from a security and privacy perspective, we have gone above and beyond the typical edtech standards. Our engineering team is strong in these disciplines, which helps us to grow and continuously develop our security and privacy controls as our business evolves. That is a commitment to all of the members of the Sprig Learning Team, and our promise to you – the Sprig Community. Should you have any more questions about our approach to security and privacy, please reach out to us at security@spriglearning.com.

Yours,

Faud Khan
Co-Founder and CTO Sprig Learning

For more information about a holistic approach to assessment or holistic education, send us an email at letstalk@spriglearning.com.

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Sprig Learning Wins Best Language Learning App of 2018

Sprig Learning Wins Best Language Learning App of 2018

We are thrilled to announce that the Sprig Learning Bookshelf has been named the Tech Edvocate’s Best Language Learning App of 2018!

The Sprig Learning Bookshelf was built in partnership with Mi’kmaw Kina’matenwey of Nova Scotia, and provides Indigenous and non-indigenous students with access to guided reading in both the English and Mi’kmaw language. It provides early literacy support through levelled readers, and a variety of interactive features.

As an extension of the Sprig Learning Oral Language Program, the Sprig Bookshelf brings the stories of the Mi’kmaw people in Nova Scotia to life and provides access to parents, caregivers, and educators looking to extend learning beyond the classroom. Readers can choose to either read alone, or have the story read to them in either English or Mi’kmaw.

Beyond early literacy, the Sprig Learning Bookshelf acts as a tool for language revitalization among the Mi’kmaw community in Nova Scotia. Each of the four titles currently featured in the bookshelf was created in partnership with a working group of educators, community members, and Elders to represent the localized experience and culture of Mi’kmaw students. Speakers and non-speakers alike can see the Mi’kmaw language come to life, and promote language adoption and retention among some of their youngest speakers.

Download The Sprig Learning Bookshelf for free on the iOS app store for iPad Air today.

For more information about a holistic approach to assessment or holistic education, send us an email at letstalk@spriglearning.com.

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