Gideon Williams

Engaging Parents on Canvas...

Blog Post created by Gideon Williams Champion on Dec 14, 2016

Why are parents often among the last ones to be informed about digital developments' in a school? After working on virtual learning environments for 15yrs I am never quite sure this is by accident or design :O)


It got me to thinking what possible reasons there might be for this hesitancy. Here are a few...

  • we perceive parenta don't have the necessary digital skills
  • parents may not have the time or interest
  • we are inviting parents to participate in the learning process ans sometimes that feels quite threatening?
  • we are unsure just what information parents want/need
  • we are sometimes not so good at communicating with parents other than in formal meetings?
  • we may think they parents don't understand enough about blended learning as many of the tools/systems were not in place when they were in school


25 years into this teaching malarkey, I can pretty much say with a degree of confidence that success for a child in school is best achieved by parent, child and teacher/school working together. As a father of a 16yr old, approaching his first set of external examinations I am well aware of this (and not just because we are a little worried and very reliant on the help of his extremely patient and very understanding teachers!)


Anyway, back to Canvas. We launch in January. For every subject. At every level. Its a bit scary!


There will be no fanfare or trumpets because this is a 'soft launch'. We actually started in September with a small number of core subjects who were ready to take a leap of faith (and have been well rewarded as a result). Other subjects have carried on using Edmodo. Throughout this time, students and parents have been great! It cannot have been easy juggling both things. Of course students are wonderfully resilient and adaptive and have taken the changes in their stride (aided by some training/rewards/badges).


We have now written to all our parents informing them of the changes and how they can best support their child in Canvas. We have made a promise to them that links to all homework will appear on the calendar. We have also explained how some subjects will be using Grades and others will not (those not using grades have been told to hide the grade in the menu). We are about to put "About this Course" pages on each subject course that clearly sets out our expectations for teachers using Canvas to support learning. We have a dedicated Canvas support email address (run by yours truly) and we are also setting up "Pupil and Parent" Saturday morning drop in sessions.


The thing I am quite proud of and would not have worked without the amazing work of our IT Support team is the Canvas Help page on our Parent Portal. The site includes, step by step help guides, an A-Z glossary and a series of FAQs. Here is a quick show:



(and yes I've just spotted the grammar mistake....)


Its not perfect, but its a start and hopefully something that will be useful and valuable in the first few months.


For those asking, we are not pushing out the Parent App. It does not (yet) include the features that we need as a school and is a little limited. The focus on assignments and grades is a little one dimensional and the assessment model does not match our own (which includes collaboration, feedback, target setting, self reviews, reflection etc - come on Canvas more of these tools please!!!).


It is likely that we will look at the Observer role longer term for supporting parents access.


Happy holidays.....