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Creating Demand for Change: Smart Parents

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Contributors to this blog have included students, teachers, school leaders, state officials, policy analysts, and researchers, and they have all suggested ways that each of these groups can help ensure that all students learn more deeply. The ideas have been profound, and the discussions have been lively.

One group that has not received much attention here has been parents. Parents have always been vital to student success, and there is ample research to show how appropriate parental involvement can enhance learning.

But in the kinds of learning environments in which students learn deeply--where they are engaged in real-world projects and produce products for authentic audiences--parental involvement is particularly important. That's because these types of projects are premised on the idea that student learning is not confined to the four walls of a school building or the seven hours of a school day. If students learn all the time and in all places, parental support is vital.

What can parents do to support students' deep learning? Bonnie Lathram, Carri Schneider, and Tom Vander Ark, from Getting Smart, have answers. In their new book, Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning, they offer a wealth of ideas and practical tools that will help parents play their important roles as first teachers. And their ideas are augmented by commentaries from some 60 people who have written blog posts on their web site and on the Huffington Post.

The tools are valuable, and the e-book provides an easy way to access them, simply by clicking on the links.

But the book also provides another important service: it helps parents understand the reasons for the shift to deeper learning, and what the kinds of learning environments that foster it can look like. It's hard to overstate the need for this. Often, parents resist changes in education, because they don't want their children to be experimented on or because they want their children to learn the way they learned in school. These attitudes are understandable, but Lathram. Schneider, and Vander Ark help allay those fears. They show that the changes in instruction and learning have a solid grounding in research, and show how these changes are necessary in a changing world.

The authors lay out their point of view in an early chapter:

We believe in the potential of technology to improve student access and extend learning opportunities, but parenting for powerful learning is not about plugging your kids into technology and proudly declaring victory over the shifting realities of the 21st century. The real point of parenting for powerful learning means that parents play a critical role in helping their children navigate the myriad formal and informal options that are available to them, helping to equip them with the habits and mindsets necessary to drive their own learning. Doing so demands recognizing the shifts in how, when, where, and even why we learn. And that recognition comes from the acknowledgement of an alarming and widespread problem: The current education system is in need of an update.

Armed with that knowledge, parents can become powerful allies to the educators and policy makers who have contributed to this blog. Education will only change if there is a demand for it. Smart Parents will help create that demand.

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The opinions expressed in Learning Deeply are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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