When I joined Mercedes-Benz International School in Pune, India, as the first edtech coach, I started to draft a vision to get the community on board with technology. My ultimate aim was to shift mindsets in order to have every stakeholder embrace technology as a way to not only engage, but also empower learners and develop self-directedness.
In our edtech vision, we set out “to develop a community of digital lifelong learners who aspire to make a difference in the not-yet-known-world.” To achieve our goal, we are committed to integrating technology to enhance the learning and teaching environment.
We engage our learners in solving challenging problems and puzzles, thinking critically and enhancing their creativity. We provide learning experiences that are connected with pedagogical purpose, encourage collaboration and provide a window for expression and reflection. We recognize the importance of digital literacy and use technology to develop responsible and empowered individuals.
One of the radical projects we undertook was “Maker Mornings,” events organized once a month on a Saturday morning where parents come to tinker with their children at school. These community outreach sessions, centered on the makerspace theme, helped parents move from the role of observers of their child’s learning to co-learner: experimenting, creating, making mistakes and failing forward through collaboration.
Those Maker Mornings were a hit from the first day because they were authentic experiences for everyone, irrespective of ages or backgrounds. It created a strong bond between educators and parents, and between families of different cultures.
Parents described the sessions as “very engaging,” “energetic” and “full of enthusiasm.” They acknowledged that proper direction was given to help them create some- thing “meaningful,” and that the inquiry approach for children as well as parents was “involving.” They also mentioned that “everybody was relaxed and learning happened in a spontaneous way.”
During those times, the students were proud to showcase their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills by teaching their parents! They became experts and felt empowered as they could not only show their work but could guide their parents and peers. A few older students could also help plan and co-lead the events, showcasing how student agency was not just an idea but a reality.
Each time, the maker sessions were planned around an inquiry approach and involved building something: creating green screen movies, coding robots, making cardboard instruments connected to Makey-Makey and coded on Scratch. We also provided opportunities for the group to share its work through social media to experience authorship and learn how to share responsibly and creatively online.
Slowly, we observed that parents grew their own interest in being part of a proactive community of learners and leaders who wanted to impact the school positively. For instance, a parent decided to write an article for our weekly newsletter about how “tinkering” was an essential 21st century skill.
A few other parents got involved in creating digital citizenship challenges for middle schoolers as part of another project. And we see strong engagement for regular families hooked on the Maker Morning idea.
Through those Maker Mornings, we clearly improved our communication with parents and enhanced the common understanding about our edtech vision of what empowerment truly signifies for our school. They also allowed us to model best practices to develop the new ISTE Standards for Students.
Fanny Passeport is a PK-12 edtech coach and teaches French and theory of knowledge at Mercedes-Benz International School in Pune, India. She received ISTE’s 2017 Outstanding Young Educator award.