Answer parents' questions about tech before they ask.

teacher talking with families

No matter how much –- or how little –- technology you use in your classroom, parents and caregivers are bound to have questions, and even concerns, about it. Back-to-school night is a great opportunity to address these issues up front. You might even be able to answer a lot of parents' questions before they ask.

Of course, your stock back-to-school-night presentation is already jam-packed, from tardy policies to tissue donations. But, as technology continues to permeate every corner of our lives, tech in education is especially on the minds of parents. They're bound to wonder what's happening -- and what's changing -- in their kids' classrooms.

Some parents might be looking for the latest, greatest apps to boost their children's learning. Others may have concerns about their kids' screen time and digital well-being. Others may even be interested in both. The good news is that you can often address the majority of parents' needs with some basic information about how you use digital tools and technology in your classroom.

Get ready for parents' questions by preparing this customizable classroom technology guide. You can make copies to distribute on back-to-school night, or send a link through your parent communication tool of choice. And as you prepare your back-to-school presentation, consider these five tech-focused talking points:

1. Talk about tech.

Just acknowledging that classroom technology is a thing -- and that it's probably on a lot of people's minds -- can go a long way. As you plan your back-to-school presentation, be sure to cover how and when you use classroom tech (even if you use very little, or don't use any at all, those are great talking points to share). You'll communicate to parents and caregivers that you're aware of the issues involved and that you know that classroom technology is probably on their minds. Plus, your back-to-school talk is a great opportunity to share your school's and/or your own philosophy about technology in learning. Whatever your philosophy may be, tell parents a bit about your classroom setup and offer a brief overview of why you teach the way you do.

2. Talk about tools.

If you are using classroom technology -- no matter how much or how little -- give parents a preview of the kinds of tech you'll be using. They'll be eager, and appreciative, to know what to expect. Whether you're in a 1-to-1 school, with devices for every student, or you're merely planning the occasional trip to a computer lab, plan on answering some simple questions: What kinds of devices are provided (or allowed)? How often, and in what contexts? Is students' tech use part of a school-wide initiative or something unique to your classroom? There are thousands of different educational apps, websites, and games out there. Which ones will students use? And most importantly –- even if it seems completely obvious -– talk about what makes these tools actually educational and beneficial for kids' learning.

3. Talk about expectations.

When it comes to school, parents and caregivers are bound to have questions about kids' homework. Will homework routines involve technology or computer access? What are your in-class expectations around students' own devices (especially phones)? And the beginning of the school year is a perfect time to talk about any digital citizenship lessons you'll be teaching throughout the year.  

Of course, parents themselves will be curious about online access to grades and class information. But this is also a great opportunity to share your school or district's acceptable use policy (or AUP), especially if students will bring devices home. You don't have to go over it all in detail -- just explain that there is one, and give parents a link so they can read it themselves.

4. Talk about privacy.

Online privacy is on everyone's minds these days. This is especially true for parents who might be curious -- even suspicious –- about classroom tech. Of course, back-to-school night isn't the place to get super technical, but it's good to explain that you're aware of students' online privacy -– including their data privacy. If you do dive into more detail, consider sharing how the tools you're using have been vetted for how they protect students' privacy. And if you're using social media in any way as part of your classroom, be sure to give parents some details about how you'll protect their kids' privacy.

5. Talk about parent-teacher communication.

You'll be able to cover just about everything necessary in your back-to-school talk ... said no teacher ever! Chances are you'll have a lot more to say, and parents are bound to have more questions. Fortunately, there are some great digital tools to help you stay in touch with parents and students. Use back-to-school night as a kickoff for all the helpful teacher-parent communication strategies you're planning to use. Do you publish a class newsletter or blog? How often do you post grades online? Will kids use a portfolio tool like Seesaw? Can parents see what kids are posting to Flip? Be sure to give parents –- and students -– a list of the best ways to stay connected and keep up to date with your class.

Jeff Knutson

I'm the Director of Marketing for Common Sense's Education platform. Prior to my work at Common Sense, I was an editor and classroom teacher. I'm an advocate for the creative, thoughtful, and responsible use of technology, and I thrive on sharing his knowledge, experience, and perspectives with others.