Consider your own experiences with communicating with parents about your reading program. What are the key barriers to parent involvement in your teaching situation?
Personally, I’m big on integrating technology into my classroom practice.
- Over the summer, I started a list of 101 ways to bring technology into the classroom (in meaningful ways). Not upto 101 ways, yet, but getting there…
- I teach with a data projector.
- I blog with students (authentic reading, writing and media literacy tasks)
- I’ve even created an ebook to help teachers set up their school and class websites: https://classroomteacher.ca/wp-content/uploads/ClassroomWebsitesv1-0.pdf
However, I think the greatest barrier to parent involvement is the language barrier. Depending on your school clientele, some of the parents may be English Language Learners themselves and lack the English skills and cultural savvy to navigate the education system.
The problem is that these parents can have difficulty understanding the newsletters and information slips that get sent home. However, many parents have access to the internet:
“A recent US Department of Education study reveals that more than one quarter of all caregivers below the poverty line (with an annual household income of less than $25,000) have Internet access at home (http://www.rtlp.org/). The same study states that at least fifty percent of this socioeconomic group have cell phones. Most Canadian parents work during the school day (http://www.statcan.ca/), and most workplaces provide their employees with access to the Internet, as do community centres, libraries, bus stations and even shopping malls.”
We do have a few bilingual parents or multicultural liason officers who can translate a document into another language, however, this process can take a significant amount of time. (Often times, teachers are too busy to prepare these notices weeks in advance.)
Technologically speaking, one solution is to use Google Translate: http://translate.google.com/
- You can cut and paste English text and automatically translate it into 34 different languages.
- You can also enter a website address and it will automatically translate the website for you. (Careful! This is one way (i.e. using a web proxy) that allows a student to get around your school’s firewall or internet website blocker. For example, if your school blocks YouTube, it might be accessible by translating it using Google. Your board’s IT department might need to look at this issue.)
- Google Translate uses machine translation (automatic translation) so it doesn’t meet the fluency of a native speaker or professional translator, however it does get the gist of the newsletter home.
- (On an interesting side note, it uses statistics instead of word rules to translate a document. Instead of ‘programming’ in the grammar and syntax of a language, the people at Google feed their computers billions of words of texts in matching documents and they apply statistic learning techniques to build a translation model.)
Here are 3 different ways you could use Google Translate:
- 1. Use Google Translate to translate your parent newsletter before sending it home. Everyone gets the English version, but some parents get a translated version.
- 2. Add Google Translate to your website. If you run your school website or classroom blog using the free WordPress software, you can add a widget that allows you to translate your website with the click of a flag. Visit https://classroomteacher.ca and click on a flag on the right hand side to see this global translator in action.
- 3. I teach with a data projector in the classroom, so in some subjects where I have ESL stage 1 students who are fluent in their first language, I can use Google Translate to translate part of my lesson into their language. (They use an electronic dictionary to translate the English word by word, so I figure I’m simply speeding up the process.)