ICT Briefing Evenings

When the Headteacher told me that he would like me to run an ICT briefing evening for parents, I thought it was a great idea, although I didn’t agree with his suggested approach. He thought the parents should be given a talk for about 20 minutes, and then be allowed to wander around. I thought, let’s cut the talk part: the kids can do that, on a one-to-one basis. Who wants to sit and listen where ICT is concerned?

I thought, and still think, a briefing evening for parents is a good idea for a number of reasons. First, just providing information for its own sake is a good thing, given youngsters’ predilection for telling their parents that their day in school was spent doing absolutely nothing. True, most parents can now get online and see, if the school has taken certain steps, what the school does in ICT (and other areas of the curriculum) and possibly even what their own children have been doing. But having the parents on-site, looking, discussing and, most important of all, doing, is entirely different.

Second, if you can get the parents, some of whom will be influential, excited about what you’re trying to do, they may contribute to the work you’re doing. In my time I’ve had parents offer to donate hardware, software and, through the Parents’ Association, PTA or the Governing Body, money. Never underestimate parent power.

Third, it’s a great opportunity to showcase what the youngsters can do. It’s possible to show their stuff online, of course, but then you run into all the e-safety rules. These may be necessary, but they can also be frustrating and annoying. I know that when I have an article published, I want my full name to be there too. I doubt that I’d submit anything for publication if my contribution was to be anonymised – unless, of course, that was standard practice for that publication. It must be frustrating for young people to see their best efforts appear with no, or incomplete, credit to them.

Fourth, it’s a good opportunity for the kids to get involved in a real project.

This is what we, ie my students and I, did. I did very little, because I wanted this to be their effort. I made suggestions, and acted, in effect, as project manager. So, correcting the opening sentence of this paragraph, this is what my students (mainly) did:

  • Planned what ICT was going to be shown in which room. This entailed…
  • … Liaising with teachers to some extent.
  • Wrote and published a guide to the ICT, for consultation in the rooms.
  • Created a PowerPoint presentation highlighting their achievements, to be shown on a continuous, automated, loop. (PowerPoint has some very nice features which, in the days before digital video, were definitely ahead of their time.
  • Organised room displays.
  • Organised activities that the parents could try out on the computers.
  • Designed a certificate that parents could print out for themselves to say they had taken part in the activities.
  • Created a list of student helpers’ names which was then used as the basis of a mail-merge operation…
  • … which was used to create badges. These were a nice touch: the students wore them with great pride!
  • On the evening itself, the students explained each bit to the parents, demonstrated software, and encouraged the parents to have a go themselves – and helped them when they did so.

The evening was a great success, and it’s something I should recommend even these days of easy online access.