Community Tech Nights in Grafton

Last evening, Grafton Public Schools hosted its second community tech night of the year. The focus of last evening’s session was around the Google apps for education suite of apps. Over the course of two sessions held, we’ve had 35 parents and community members show up as well as tech directors and specialists from neighboring districts.

The goal behind these events is simple: connect and support our community on the new and emerging technologies and applications that are being used in education and beyond. What we want to do is educate our greater community on the tools and applications students and teachers use daily. Most schools do a great job supporting students and teachers around technology devices and applications, but many times leave out parents.

10440166_311433029058913_1327018262420451992_nI have designed and developed these nights in the last three districts I have worked in. The setup and plan is simple. Initially I scheduled these events for the third Thursday of every month and hold them in the evening from 7:00 – 8:30pm. I setup a Google form so that parents can sign up for the event and I can plan my instruction around a set number. I also ask parents and community members to bring a device if they have one. We also offer devices to those that don’t have one to bring.

Initially I have set the topics around initiatives or updates on devices or applications that both students and teachers are using within our district. I also look to provide sessions around larger topics such as digital citizenship, social apps, and privacy. Once I set the first few sessions up, I will also begin to crowdsource topics for later sessions. I post session updates on our blog and also use our robo-call system to send email reminders to all of the parents in our district. Additionally, I seek out our local newspapers to post an article about these nights as well.

The sessions run pretty smoothly and are designed to be informative, share demonstrations, and to include a hands-on workshop. I primarily lead the sessions and then will have some of our district tech specialists on hand to demo and provide the practitioner’s perspective of how these tools are being used within the schools. We also have had our Grafton High School tech team students on hand to provide support and a student’s perspective on how these tools are used daily.IMG_5672

Ultimately, this is my way of connecting with the parents in our district as well as the Grafton Community. It’s imperative that school districts and school leaders include parents on the conversations around technology, access, and privacy happening within the district. Plus, as a director of technology, it is helpful to glean feedback from parents and how they view the technology initiatives in our district.

I plan on continuing our community tech nights and expanding the opportunities for events early next year. In the course of the last two events I have received requests for more frequent sessions, sessions every week, and even Saturday sessions. In the Spring, Grafton Public Schools will be launching a one day (Date and website to be determined) EdCamp for parents at our high school. Unlike typical edcamps, we will crowdsource our session ideas before hand and have many of our students leading sessions for parents and community members. We will also have teachers and admin sharing their experience with technology in education. Ultimately, we hope to connect and educate our greater school community with the technologies that we employ in education and develop a true community of learners in Grafton.