|Image Credit: http://educationthenaturalbridge.blogspot.com|
Earlier this spring, I had the chance to attend the annual ASCD conference in my hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I enjoyed participating in many of the sessions, as well as meeting and interacting with educators around the world while embracing a collaborative-rich hashtag in #ascd12. The entire conference was high energy and the use of Twitter to share and discuss made it one of the best conferences I've been to in my career. The sessions and learning did not stop after the conference ended, but continued on due to the use of social media. Without a doubt, Twitter has ensured there are “no lock-outs” when it comes to today’s national conferences.
I was unable to attend the recent ISTE 2012 in San Diego, but stayed locked into #iste12 hashtag for the entire duration of the conference. Even from the other side of the country, the theme of relationships rang strong within many of the 140 character messages shared in the sessions as well as during informal tweet-ups throughout.
In reading many of my PLN’s ASCD and/or ISTE “conference debrief posts" (i.e. Principal Chris Lehmann’s Why ISTE Still Matters To Me), the educator relationship-building happening within these two conferences was described as very special and family-like. Prior to the conference, many connected educators only knew each other by a distinct Twitter icon, but oftentimes consider these virtual and international tweeps more valuable colleagues than those working alongside them within their own schools.
With so many educators building relationships while pushing their thinking and that of others around the globe on a variety of important education topics, the only thing missing were the parents of the students. A huge opportunity exists during conferences to physically and virtually share our new learning with the parents of our schools.
What if school leaders were "encouraged" to bring their parent leaders (PTA/PTO/HSA) with them on at least one of the days of the conference? Wouldn't sessions be more productive and embeddable if both “home” and “school” were learning together? What if teachers taught technology tools and other valuable resources at booths set up around the conference to help them become more engaged within their child's learning?
Starting small, one day of the conference could include a special “family day” where sessions led by educators and parents could take place. Look at the conference list of sessions. What percentage of those sessions would be more valuable for schools with home-school components embedded?
We have so much to learn from our increasingly diverse parent population. We have to look past our fears and allow our students' #1 teachers the voice and opportunity to partner with us. I can’t think of a better place to role model this for schools across the globe than at these two fulfilling conferences built upon relationship-building. The research over the last forty years continues to tell us that truly engaging our families is best for kids.
The price, of course, for parents to attend ‘Family Day’ at ASCD and ISTE – free.
Possible "Family Day" Conference Session Titles
- Students as At-Home Producers
- The Ideal Home Environment for Learning
- Maximizing Parent-Teacher Conferences
- Twitter 101 for Parents
- Curricular Support with EduApps
- Facebook for Parents
- Twitter 102 - Hashtags for Parents
- Starting Your Family Blog