A high school teacher in Waskaganish First Nation uses social media and other technologies to connect with students and parents.
By Stefan Dubowski
Photo: Matthew Liteplo
The Challenge: Communicate with students and parents more effectively.
The Solution: Use text messaging, social media and other technologies to connect with students and parents in ways that work for them.
Lessons Learned: Min Min Tong, OCT, wanted to improve communication with her Grade 10 and 11 math and science students — and their parents. Teaching at Wiinibekuu School in Waskaganish First Nation, a Cree community on the southeast shore of James Bay in Québec, she found that the traditional ways of conveying information weren’t effective.
Students struggled to understand math and science concepts. They often forgot assignments. Meanwhile, parents were reluctant to speak with her face to face about their children’s progress and challenges.
Tong started to use mobile apps to break through the communication barrier, but found them limiting. Students would need to use their smartphones to see and respond to messages. Tong wanted to make sure the teens and their parents would receive test and homework reminders on not only their phones, but through any web-connected computer, tablet or other device. So she turned to Facebook (facebook.com). “Where I am — and I believe in many other northern communities — Facebook has become a discussion forum, a phone line, a bulletin board,” she says.
Alongside Facebook, Tong uses a host of other technologies to help students learn and communicate. She uses text messaging and email to maintain the parent- teacher communication pipeline. She uses Math Help Services (math-help-services.com), a website with video lessons matched to the Québec, Ontario and the Western and Northern Canadian Protocol curricula. She has students tackle assignments using software such as PowerPoint. And she incorporates entertaining YouTube (youtube.com) videos into her lessons as a way to get students interested in math and science.
Observations: The technologies have been effective. Students check their Facebook accounts frequently, so they’re likely to see the homework reminders she posts on the class Facebook page, which only students and parents are invited to join. Meanwhile, the YouTube videos help students understand the concepts they’re learning. She always assesses those videos for length, close-captioning and ESL friendliness (most students speak Cree as their first language).
As for parents, some seem much more open to communicating electronically than in person. Tong now finds that communication with students and parents is more productive and therefore more likely to lead to student success.
The College’s professional advisory Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media (oct-oeeo.ca/wztn58) guides members’ professional judgment in the use of technology.
Helpful Hint: Be sure to vet any YouTube videos for suitable content before showing them in class, says Min Min Tong, OCT, a high school math and science teacher who uses video to engage learners at Wiinibekuu School in Waskaganish First Nation.
What You’ll Need:
Steps to Take: