Expanding parent conference time with technology
We’ve all been there: how do you fit 40 minutes worth of information into a 20-minute parent conference, still have time for questions AND stay on schedule? Bulletin boards hanging in the hallway help. They serve two purposes, engaging parents while they wait and giving parents a view into the classroom. But that view is static and doesn’t always feel authentic.
Mrs. Natalie Byrne, a 1st grade teacher at Christ the King School, found herself considering these questions as conference days grew near. Her solution reminded me of the answer to a riddle: once you see it, it seems obvious, but only after you rub the grit out of your eyes. She proposed engaging parents through their smartphones with an interactive bulletin board full of QR codes linked to videos.
What we did
Each student drafted a letter to their parents, then we shot a video of the student reading, posted the video through a school YouTube channel, created QR codes with the links and tacked them up to the board.
Though not without challenges (the letter had to go through several drafts, time had to be arranged to shoot the video, the codes needed to be printed and tested), the project had within in it the flexibility to adapt to the needs of each student and set of parents. It also gave the parents a quick view of the curricula taught in the classroom as well as their student’s ability to execute it.
Mrs. Byrne was already teaching a unit on letter writing so she settled on that as the video product. Conferences fell around Thanksgiving time, so she asked the students to write about things for which they were thankful. She slid a little read aloud practice into Reader’s Workshop, made a paper pilgrim hat/bonnet, and opened up a half an hour for taping.
Video privacy settings
Once the videos were shot they got uploaded to a YouTube channel and set on “unlisted”. This setting allows anyone with a link to view the video, but it will not show up in a general YouTube search. We decided on this approach, rather than an explicitly shared private channel, to ensure that parents using their own devices would be able to view the video. If you would like the added security of a private channel, you could restrict the videos to an account on a school provided device.
Creating QR codes
Next we had to create the QR codes. We used a QR generator at Barcodes, Inc to create the QR codes, but there are plenty of other free tools out there. After downloading an image file of the QR code, we printed it, tested it, and then tacked it up to the board.
Creating shared excitement
The students were excited to share their letters and the parents came into conferences feeling good about their students. You can view one student’s video below.
Showcasing other content
While Mrs. Byrne chose to have each student create an individual video tailored to their parents, you could easily use this approach to video a class science experiment, a reading group discussion, or writer’s workshop time in order to give parents a deeper look into the classroom. I’m working on ways to adapt this approach to our middle school where conference time is even more compressed.
We may not have broken new ground, and no doubt someone else out there may have done this before, but we felt great about giving students an authentic audience for their work and delivering just a little more information to parents during conference time.