The all-seeing eye
If my four year old daughter was ten years older, she’d be livid at the intrusive view my wife and I have of her time at school. We can peer into her daily life in a way that previous generations couldn’t have dreamt of. But this isn’t some form of Foucauldian hell for us to monitor and discipline, but rather an extra way for us to have quality discussions about her day, her friends and the activities she’s been doing when we talk in the evening.
We’re thrilled with her ‘big school’ for all the usual reasons – great atmosphere, brilliant staff, good facilities and, most of all, that the children are happy. There may be the occasional protest at drop-off but they are short lived. The cherry on top of all this is the app, ClassDojo, which her teacher uses to keep the parents updated on what the class is up to.
At the press of a button we can see a photostream of what they have all been doing, how many reward points have been given out and use an instant messenger function to have a quick and easy exchange with her teacher. I received a message earlier today asking us to bring in vegetables to be turned into soup later in the week – the class are reading The Enormous Turnip and the soup cooking is all part of a numbers learning exercise. Surely this is a much better way of finding out than a crumpled slip of paper in the bottom of her book bag.
Within five minutes of arriving at school she is tearing up the home corner, playing on the playground, collecting tomatoes from the nature garden or learning a song for assembly. We know when there is a new class book, project or theme. We can see when she is given reward points and we know when she will be heading to the cooking classroom to make soup. The value of all this ‘virtual insight’ isn’t that it satiates our information hungry natures (well, not just that anyway), but more that it encourages a quality exchange after pick-up time and helps us to complement the school activities at home. Whilst the app is not a silver bullet for seamless communication it does, so far, seem to be a way of encouraging good conversations about the day – and certainly helps to get beyond the typical ‘nothing’ or ‘can’t remember’ reply to the question ‘what did you do today?’.
With the best will in the world there is only so much the teachers can update on at collection time when mobbed by a playground full of keen parents. It seems, perhaps counter-intuitively, that the demand on the teachers from parents is reduced, or certainly managed, by keeping them informed about the daily activities via the app. Or, if a message is received that warrants a proper conversation, time can be made to make sure this happens.
For me, a simple piece of tech that can lessen the load from the teaching staff whilst enabling parents to be confident in what their children are learning and how they can get involved can only be a good thing. We’re making the most of it whilst we can – by the time our daughter turns fourteen, for her sake and ours, our nosiness will no doubt have come to an end.