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Genius Hour Project Log

Submitted in partial fulfillment of Ed 5105
Michelle Longley
June 24, 2015
Professor Snow

Inquiring and Analyzing
I had been having problems this year with parental engagement with 3 tools that
had been set up to provide more support between home and school to ensure student
success. My homework website, the Parent Portal, and Moodle were all described in
communications that were sent home at the beginning of the year, but even mid-way
through the year, many parents still were not aware of them, let alone trying to use them
to keep themselves informed. It was obvious that letters given to my grade 7 students for
various school updates were not making it from the school exits to their front doors at
home, so I began to use email to let parents know about these three resources that were
available to them. Even then, many parents were resistant to trying out the technologies
without guidance. Currently, there are various resources for parents on the web but it is
overwhelming for them to seek them out. So for my Genius Hour Project, I wondered
whether creating a Parent Help website that I could introduce early in the year at a ‘Meet
the Teacher’ night would increase the level of comfort that parents would have in using
these sites, and then in turn, would it increase parental engagement in their child’s
learning. Basically, would designing a Parent Help repository linked to my classroom
webpage help increase parental engagement?
Developing Ideas
Do websites support parental engagement? What does parental engagement look like?
Research shows that the effectiveness of two-way family-school communications
“positively relates to the amount and quality of parental involvement, which in turn is
associated with better student performance” (Lunts, p.1). Class websites can inform


parents and students about instruction, student performance, extra-curricular activities,
teacher’s philosophies, assignment deadlines, expectations and more (Lunts, p.1). In turn,
this can remove the boundaries between home and school. This year, I had over 85
students, many of divorced parents, which meant that I was contacting over 100
households when attempting school communications. By engaging technologies in
communicating with parents and supporting information about education, teachers can
show the wealth of free and accessible resources available that can be used at home
(Yoon, p.10) Yoon also that providing interesting and well-maintained class websites
broke down the barrier to parental involvement
Harris and Goodall summarized that parental support of learning within
the home environment makes the maximum difference to achievement (p.5). When
school and families work together to support learning, children tend to succeed and stay
in school longer and enjoy learning (p.5).
I-reporting or using the Parent Portal can show parents their child’s grades,
attendance and progress and can keep them up to date with the latest information. It gives
parents “real time” data. In Harris and Goodall’s research project, it was found that
parents having access to online data, such as the Parent Portal, lead to family
conversations, which benefited student behaviour (p.36). The researchers also noted the
difference between parental involvement and parental engagement. Getting parents into
the school was not seen as engagement. Neither was responding to phone calls, attending
meetings, or signing forms. These activities were seen as reactive and not proactive.
Engagement was seen as being active with the learning of the child (p.36).


Homework policies have changed since I began teaching, and it looks like they
are in the process of changing again. The Nova Scotia Department of Education does
have Homework Guidelines for grades 4-6 and they state that “school and classroom
websites are useful vehicles to encourage families to play supportive and informed roles
in successful homework”.
Create the Solution
So, if research shows that having a well-maintained website can break down the
barrier to parental involvement, and this can lead to parental engagement, why not try to
build an appealing website that might help parents become more active with their child’s
learning and success? In one of the articles of research that I was reading for this project,
there was an anonymous quote from a teacher at one of the schools in the study that said,
“Education is a triangle with three legs: parents, child, school and if any of the legs fall
the triangle falls as well” (Harris and Goodall, p.43). I can control myself, or the “school”
part of the triangle, I can monitor the “child” or student part of the triangle, so why not do
all that I can to activate the “parent” section? Parents play a vital role in the development
and education of their children. The research found that parental engagement is
maximized when parents are assisted in developing skills associated with effective
parenting (Harris and Goodall, p. 67). The research also stated that when parents learn
strategies to assist their children’s education home, they feel more comfortable taking on
support roles (p.67). By showing parents how to use navigate these 3 sites as well as offer
tips for homework success or other school resources, it could lead them to feel more
involved in their child’s education.


Moodle, like most learning management systems, contains essential tools like
discussion forums, quizzes, wikis and file sharing, but it also contains much more. But
for parents of disorganized children, it can help them help their children to stay on task
and up to date.
Through the Parent Portal, parents can access attendance and punctuality, personal
information, the school calendar, notice boards, assessment information, and reports. The
parents that did access it this year, liked being able to see if their child was missing any
work or completing their work on time. In my opinion, good work habits and effective
time management are skills that both teachers and parents need to support.
Being able to see what is for homework to monitor their child’s progress at home
and knowing what their child is learning at school can help parents to feel more involved
in their child’s academics.
Sharing and Evaluating
What could be the pitfalls of this idea? I will not have the chance to test out this
idea or truly evaluate it until next year when my assignment changes to teaching grade 5.
But some of the downfalls to using a resource such as this, could be that since students
and parents may be using the Internet as a tool for communication at anytime and
anyplace, they may expect teachers to be available 24/7. Even now, currently in my
practice, I have been experiencing parents who expect a response to their emails
Another pitfall may be that there will likely be parents who are unable to afford
the Internet or access to computers. Next year, a great deal of the families that I will be in
contact with will be living close to the site of the school. Perhaps, I could offer an


evening or after school session of computer access to parents as well as students to off-set
this disadvantage.
Finally, maintaining these sites can be a lot of work and can take up a lot of
teacher time. Uploading assignments, quizzes, and general classwork into Moodle can be
very time consuming. However, once it is there, it can be re-used and decrease teacherplanning time.


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