the blog of dan pontefract | Parents, It’s “Back to Cool” Week
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Parents, It’s “Back to Cool” Week

In Canada, the Tuesday after the Labour Day statutory holiday signals the return to school for most students attending kindergarten through higher education bachelor, masters and diploma programs.

It is colloquially denoted as “Back to School” week. 

For many retailers, it is also considered the second most important period of the year next to the December holiday season. 

What about the parents? What type of environment are they creating with their children to ensure students of any age are successful in their back to school stage?

I’m arguing that parents need to invoke a back to cool regime to help with their child’s academic success regardless of age. Parents in today’s age of collaboration need to become intertwined with the digital footprint of their children.

And no, I’m not suggesting parents turn themselves into helicopter parents either.

Some things to consider:

  • Blogging – encourage your children, of any age, to blog. 20 (no 15, ok 10) years ago we might have called this a diary or a journal. Helping them to not only blog but paying attention and commenting on their posts is a shrewd ‘back to cool’ move on your part. It doesn’t have to be public either. Private, members only blogs are just as useful. (try Kidswirl or Kidzworld)
  • Reading – although I am a big fan of gaming (see below) parents that simply look the other way without regard to how much time their child is spending on Xbox, Wii, PlayStation, DS, or other web-based games (ahem, Farmville?) are uncool. Reading, synthesis and comprehension skills are as relevant today as ever. Set up reading time quotients in your house. Discuss at the dinner table or use the blogging platform to connect with your kids regarding the book, article, piece that they’re into. Share reading sites through email. If you can afford it, buy them a new (or used) tablet or e-reader to give it the ‘cool’ factor too. 
  • Internet Scavenger Hunts – Dan, are you nuts, what the hell are you talking about? Alright, maybe this is just for the younger ones, but search (and analysis of the results) may become as important a skill as reading soon. To help your kids with this skillset (and to remain cool) devise a weekly set of topics that you want information on. At the set deadline date, have those topics presented to you but ensure your guidelines indicate succinct answers … not troves of useless information and content. Make it a game, but help them throughout as necessary.
  • Skype – in an era of Skype, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever that a family shouldn’t be utilizing this tool to connect with one another. When your kids are in university/college and thus away from home, or you’re on the road for a business trip, get your kids onto this platform and make it part of your ‘back to cool’ package.
  • Twitter – yes, but another way to ensure collaboration with your child. Afraid of those strangers who might be lurking and causing harm? Protect the tweets and remain closed to the rest of Twitter with a private account. It’s a perfect way to throw out ideas for their homework, share links, and direct message thoughts as well. Micro-blogging isn’t going away so you might as well be there with them.
  • Gaming – learning does happen while gaming. (and it’s a lot healthier if you believe in exergaming as my friend, Stephen Yang has been studying for years). When conducted appropriately in proper quantities (ie. in moderation) – learning does occur in gaming. (See Morsi and Jackson, 2007; Mysirlaki and Paraskeva, 2007; Graven and MacKinnon, 2006; Squire et al., 2008; Von Wangenheim and Shull, 2009). If your children are at home, think about playing with them with various games (virtual, physical, even board games) and if they are away at school, think about setting aside some network gaming time. You’ll love it.

There are other “back to cool” ideas but I’ll save them for another day.

I’m going to send my 8 y/o a direct message on Twitter right now.

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