When I started offering monthly TechTuesdays for the parents at The School at Columbia University back in January of 2013, it was kind of a bust. I wanted to use edcamp’s unconference style of crowdsourcing topics on the day of the event, so I was hoping that whoever showed up could/would decide what we were going to discuss. That wasn’t too successful. Less and less parents showed up, some only wanted a bit of tech support for their iPhone, and it became an awkward and humbling experience. Ultimately, I was ready to drop the whole idea of a parent coffee about technology all together.
But then, The School purchased a couple of Google Glass devices, and it occurred to me that I could choose a topic that might appeal to a lot of people: Wearable Technologies. So in March of 2014, I rallied a teacher who was prototyping with Glass in her class and two parents who were early adopters, and they agreed to guest star at the inaugural Tech Tuesday. It was a big hit! Lots of parents came and talked about wearables, and I got to share some of my conspiracy theories about devices and sharing and tracking. I gathered resources (articles/links) on a GoogleDoc and shared this out. At the end of the session, I asked those in attendance for possible topics for the next month. And so on and so forth.
This month’s topic is Safer Online Behavior, and I’m looking forward to parents sharing experiences and tips with each other, offering my own suggestions/hopes/fears, and providing many articles and resources for parents to read (and hopefully discuss with their children) via the GoogleDoc that I continue to add links to every month.
In January of 2013, I launched Tech Tuesdays for the parents at The School at Columbia University. In anticipation of our inaugural meeting, I shared the following via an email to faculty:
Grace helped me reserve one of the new Dining Rooms from 8:00-9:00am on Tuesday, February 5th to launch a monthly Tech Tuesday drop-in program for parents.
This will not be a time to bring in a home computer for tech support. Rather, I hope this drop-in time can help:
1. Establish common goals and a common language for talking about Technology
2. Answer questions about how to access The Gallery and The Tube and other school resources
3. Examine the Terms of Service and privacy settings of various websites
4. Show how to adjust parent permissions and check the history on web browsers
5. Address any questions parents may have
I’d love your help in promoting this as an opportunity to gather and build community! Also, if anyone wants to stop by to share a project or ask a question, that would be awesome too.
I had hoped to foster an unconference-esque environment without a set agenda, and I expected parents to show up and talk about things they wanted to talk about. While many parents attended the first session, the number of attendees each month petered out until one day, it was just me sitting by myself. I realized it would help if I did in fact have a chosen topic each month (while also asking parents to suggest future topics), and I reached out to the parents and Communications Department to help further advertise these gatherings. The first “new and improved” Tech Tuesdays was about Wearable Technologies and I recruited A.J. Jacobs to speak specifically about his experience with Google Glass. He wrote about his experiences here: Google Glass: What You’re Not Supposed to Do. I launched and shared the GoogleDoc of notes and resources at this meeting, and I’ve been adding to it ever since.
Since then, the monthly sessions have continued to evolve — I now know to always have a topic shared in advance, and I gather resources on the shared GoogleDoc so anyone can access this information at any time. I often ask colleagues to be special guests in order to share examples of their integrated technology projects in any given grade or discipline. I’m lucky to have had a lot of support from the administration, my colleagues, and from the parents. My goal is to foster a safe space where people learn, ask questions, share stories, offer advice, build a common vocabulary, and gather talking points to discuss at home with their children.