The Merit Society
Parents in the classroom - virtually

Jerry Garfunkel

    To increase parental involvement with children's education, give parents a Handheld computer and a link to their child's school work and school records.  

Nearly every school system wants to involve parents more in the education of their children.  From Peter Senge's discussions of community involvement (parents) in the planning, execution and evaluation of a school system, it is clear that this involvement is a necessary element for success.  It is the "democratic voice" needed in school systems design.
For years, schools have rewarded parents of honor students with bumper stickers and T-shirts.  The simple act of a mother wearing the T-shirt or driving the car displaying the proud message is an act of parental involvement.

I propose the creation of a Merit Society within a school that rewards its members (top 1%-ile, 10%-ile, 20%-ile,?) with  Handheld computers (Bluetooth and 802.11 enabled) and uses these "networked HH's" for educational benefit throughout the school.  These students might be the children of those proud parents I spoke about with T-shirts and bumper stickers.

Imagine for a moment (while ignoring practical cost matters for the time being), that these same parents received along with their bumper stickers and T-shirts, a Handheld computer with 802.11/Bluetooth.  Furthermore, imagine that their children's school work (a selected portion) and school records (a selected portion) were available to the parents on their HH 24/7.  Further consider, that a formal (or informal) role is designed for these parents to play with the school children in the class work.

Elsewhere I described a proposal to digitize all school records and school work of every student entering the school system.  All evaluations, all teacher and councilor comments, test scores, grades, all drawings, essays, compositions, all student pictures, journals and "blogs" collected and "attached to" the student through his/her 13 year journey through K-12.  Of course only specific people would have access to specific information - database subschemas.

This idea raises many other issues - security, safety, privacy, et al - but none of these issues is insurmountable and the potential benefits of involving the parents (and others in the community) are tremendous. It's an idea for school superintendents to consider.

Any scheme that includes the rewarding of Handheld computers must be carefully defined with responsibilities and obligations. 
The neediest ($$$) school districts also have the most need to increase community (parental) participation in their children's education.  Perhaps the "joy of the toy" that parents receive from being given a HH will be motivational on its own.


© 2004, 2005 Jerry Garfunkel ..... 172 Tinker Street ..... Woodstock, NY .... 12498 .... Tel/Fax +1 845 679 0121 ..... ..... jerry@jeromegarfunke