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Bring Parents Into Class Virtually With Video

Vector webinar concept in flat styleI am the opposite of the helicopter parent. I am an Artillery Parent. I get my kids up in the morning, and pack them lunch. I load them in the cannon, shoot them at school, wave at them as they go swooooshing by, and hope they land softly. I assume they’ll find their way home by dark. During their school day, they’re left on their own. As a parent, I’m among the most difficult kind to engage – I don’t want to be at arm’s distance, I want to be at maximum distance.

That’s where video comes in.

Google Hangouts are my best friend. If the principal or my kids’ teachers are having an event and they’ve scheduled it as a live event on Google+ (https://plus.google.com/events), I will very likely make time to sit in and listen. Better still, I’ll likely chime in and ask questions, because it really does feel like I’m sitting at the table at the Council of Elrond. These Google+ Hangouts are a snap to schedule (Google+, to Events, to Plan a Hangout, and then select Event Option, Advance, Event is online-only). Once underway, they allow parents to ask questions in person, or to type in questions. They work on phones, tablets, or anything with a web browser. Google will even record the session to post to YouTube afterwards. Hangouts are great for those planned, forecasted events for which everyone has time to prepare, and it’s great for round-table discussions for which you might need a few slides from a Google Presentation.

online mobile phone camera webcam security surveillance internetPeriscope is a great tool for truly simple broadcasting. You give Periscope a description of your session, press start, and it’s broadcasting live. From there, you only need to get the URL to parents. Periscope (iOS https://goo.gl/tEupwR and Android https://goo.gl/h9i47h) is built on Twitter, and allows viewers to ask questions via text. You can save your broadcasts yourself, but the quality of video isn’t as nice as it is with Google. It is incredibly fast to set up and needs no scheduling or coordination. Periscope is great for all of those little things that happen in the classroom that you want to be able to share with parents. Since Periscope hosts the video for 24 hours you can broadcast activities, but send the URL knowing parents (or aunts and uncles and grandparents) may not see it until they finish their work day.

Blab for when you use translators. Blab (blab.im) allows for up to four people on a video session at a time, but for those four can be publicly viewed by anyone. Blab also features live audience participation through text comments, and the video can be recorded, making this a great gap-filler between Google Hangouts and Periscope. It’s also an easy way to bring translators front and center in order to meet the needs of the whole community. If you regularly partner with translators for engaging with parents, Blab might be your new best friend.

Educreations for those topics that need a little bit more. Maybe it’s a field trip, or a new block, or the long-term sub – some things need fully interactive presentations and discussions, just like we use in the classroom. Educreations excels at this, in allowing you to build presentations, and deliver them through a range of means (YouTube, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc). While it will allow you to deliver the full, rich content and information to parents that you need, it doesn’t allow for real-time feedback.

Zaption and Edpuzzle for changing video. If you’re making video to share with your students, both Zaption and Edpuzzle are excellent ways to use or repurpose your existing videos (or other videos) by overlaying your own voice, questions, or information, in order to make deliverable content for parents. Both are great parent feedback mechanisms, but also are great tools for easily sharing information. And both are dead-simple to use for you, and also for the parents.

It would be nice to have every parent come in and engage teachers, but the world is filled with artillery parents. Video is a great way to bridge that gap in realtime and in their own time.


LaFlammeArt La Flamme is a former Army officer who spent 25 years working in intelligence. He currently teaches intelligence and security studies at Angelo State University, emphasizing tech not just for spying but for research and collaboration.  Follow him on twitter at @artlaflamme or artlaflamme.com

What Is Digital Learning Day 2016

DLD logoIn 1999, I sat eagerly in front of a computer, for the first time, waiting to get on the internet with the glorious sound of AOL dialup ringing in my ear. It was unfathomable to think that we could actually not only read real-time news but connect with people from around the world. I remember thinking that my own children would never grow up without access to information or the ability to learn what and when they wanted, even when they did not have that same access in school.

It is 2016 and though we have made progress as digital learners and creators, the reality is that there are students that have less access than I did in my days as a dial-up subscriber. There are  still schools that are trying to make the most of not enough.

Even as the students in my own school district attend classrooms of limited technology, I am exceptionally hopeful that as we share and make our challenges and solutions known, we each hold the keys to bridging the gaps that inequities cause.

In a matter of weeks, I will serve as the emcee for the fifth year of Digital Learning Day. Digital Learning Day was created as a way to spread innovative practices and ensure that all youth have access to high-quality learning opportunities no matter where they live. We hope to inspire a new wave of ideas that can help local decision makers better serve the learning needs of their communities for both students and teachers.

With a mix of in-studio and remote guests, we will highlight some of the most dynamic programs happening in schools across the country with a specific focus this year on digital equity. Even as schools and communities struggle, the creative bravery of many school district leaders and teachers have turned mountains into molehills, igniting the pathway of opportunity for their students for years to come. If you have not done so already, please click here to sign up for Digital Learning Day Live to be notified the moment that the event starts.

In addition to Digital Learning Day Live, teachers, schools, and organizations are encouraged to celebrate digital learning by engaging in innovative experiences that day. Please make sure to log your event on the Digital Learning Day site. When your event is registered, your classroom or school activities will be visible via an interactive map showcasing celebrations from coast to coast. In the spirit of sharing, and maybe winning an Apple watch, teachers can submit innovative ideas to be captured and shared through a partnership with Participate Learning, a free collection and collaboration platform that lets teachers quickly find, collect, and share digital resources.  

When Digital Learning Day comes to a close, my hope is that what people take away isn’t just a hashtag but a push to consider what we believe about learning and a drive to make sure that the opportunity to create and learn with accessible technology isn’t an afterthought but a right for every student and teacher, regardless of zip code.

Ed Note- Join Rafranz, Doug Robertson, Jon Corippo, Rick Rubino, and Mike McCormick 1/31 at 6pst under the #cuerockstar hashtag for a chat about DLDay.


rafranz_picRafranz is a Google Certified Innovator, Microsoft Innovative Education Expert, two time Bammy Award finalist, author of  The Missing Voices in EdTech, and Executive Director of Professional and Digital Learning for Lufkin Independent School District. Follow her on twitter @rafranzdavis

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