Using Technology to Build School Communities

There are many days when I realize that what I am meant to do is teach, to educate, to work in schools. One of those days was when my school, The American School Foundation of Mexico City, hosted its first annual ASF Talks last spring. Inspired by TED Talks and made all their own, the alumni community of ASF did an outstanding job of fulfilling the mission of school, “Educating global citizens for a changing world.” Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 8.07.59 AMThe event brought together alumni, teachers, parents and community members with the promise of informing, inspiring, and networking. In addition it was really a nice way to spend an evening.

Schools are a catalyst for community building. The American School has been doing this in Mexico City for over 125 years by bringing together Mexican and International students. As our world becomes more connected so does our ability to reach out to community members, alumni and families and invite them to actively participate in school events. After taking the course Connecting Family, Community and Schools from PBS Teacherline I realized the importance of giving families and community members a meaningful way to participate in education. My mother was always a room mother or SuperStar math mom. I was very proud that she took the time to volunteer in my classroom. Being involved in the PTA, serving as a room mother or volunteering in a school goes a long way towards building community. With technology today there are many more ways for families and community members to be involved.

Parents, alumni and community members can participate in a Skype or Google Hangout session in order to share expertise related to a hobby or profession. This does not necessarily have to happen in their own child’s classroom, but could be used to bring another place, “into the classroom.” When families take a trip during the school year or a parent has a business trip to an interesting location we can tap into the experience and share it with lots of our students. IMG_0853When attending the Flat Classroom Conference in Japan I was able to participate in a traditional tea ceremony. The location of the ceremony had wi-fi and I was able to connect with my children and nieces who able to watch in real-time. That 30 minutes provided a wealth of learning regarding cultures, traditions and even time zones.

This goes both ways, in addition to inviting adults into a classroom to mentor teach I can also envision allowing students to complete community service hours using technology. Perhaps they could read to their own family members in a retirement home in another state, teach online classes for younger students, host study sessions hangouts for classmates, or make videos for teachers flipping classes. Wouldn’t it be great if school plays and concerts could be live streamed or recorded and posted on a school YouTube site for parents or family members who are unable to attend, to watch at a later time?

The American School Foundation brought together parents, alumni and teachers to learn from one another, network and share. There were environmentalists, artists, educators, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, among many other talented individuals. It was a great and inspiring night to be at school.

How are you identifying individuals in your community and using their knowledge to enhance learning at your school? What is your school doing to tap into your communities talent pool and help build the next generation of leaders who will give back and share. How are your inspiring creation, communication and collaboration in your community? How can you elevate the status of room parents, PTA members, students and alumni to create real communities of learners? In which ways is technology being used in your schools to flatten classroom walls? When was the last time you were inspired at an evening school meeting?

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