Engaging online

Opportunities and issues
Selecting the right tool
Policy and procedures
Staying safe online
Help and support

Parents and communities already engage in many of the activities of their schools, and often have to overcome some significant barriers including:

Time

Busy families often have significant demands on their time, which can make it hard to work with schools and teachers to support children's learning. Family schedules do not always coincide with school schedules, meaning it can be difficult for parents and teachers to find opportunities to interact.

Place

While many families and community members live conveniently close to their schools, others may live some distance away, or may have difficulty travelling to the school location for various reasons. They may not have the opportunity to engage in person as often as they need or would like.

Mode

Most interactions between school staff, parents and the community are face-to-face, usually at the school. This mode of engagement may not always be the most effective or efficient.

Schools and their communities have access to a range of online spaces, resources and services. When these are combined effectively with physical spaces and other resources and services, they can be used to overcome the barriers of time, place and mode.

This page provides some guidance to help schools choose and manage various online spaces, resources and services to support effective parent and community engagement.

Opportunities and issues

The rapid growth of online technologies has created many opportunities for schools to engage parents and the community. Many schools:

  • create and maintain online services on school websites such as curriculum and assessment information and advice
  • provide support for parents to help children at home including homework advice and materials explaining the language and process of learning
  • enable guest experts to work with students through a combination of face-to-face and online spaces
  • celebrate student achievement by sharing their work in physical and/or online spaces
  • conduct certain community consultation activities in online environments to enable participation by a broader section of the school community
  • promote participation in school activities through online social media.

Care must be taken to choose the right online tool for the job to ensure its safe and effective use. In particular, schools must:

  • maintain their duty of care to students, ensuring their safety online and preventing unauthorised access to student personal information
  • select online spaces, resources and services that match the needs of the activity or strategy
  • consider the requirements for parents and the community to access the selected online spaces, resources and services - including alternative options or strategies for parents and families who do not have internet access
  • ensure staff, parents and community members have the capability to use selected tools
  • ensure the security of the department's network including ICT infrastructure at the school
  • comply with the terms of licences for copyright material
  • comply with legislation, whole-of-government policy and, where applicable, departmental procedures
  • protect the reputation of the school, its staff, students, families and community.

Selecting the right tool

There are many online resources, spaces and services that can support schools, parents and communities to work together effectively. The Department of Education and Training provides the Learning Place, a secure online environment for use by all state schools to support learning and teaching. Other resources similar to this are selected and provisioned by individual schools. Many of these resources are available to the general public online - some fees may occur depending on the resource. Choosing the right tool is important to the success of a school's parent and community engagement activities.

Resources

Schools have access to a wealth of online resources to support learning partnerships between schools, families and the community. Some are openly available online and schools can provide links to them on their school website and in secure online spaces.

The department provides thousands of quality curriculum-aligned resources through the Learning Place. Students and staff can access it using their network logon ID and password.

Many of these resources are used in the Curriculum into the Classroom (C2C) materials which the department provides to schools to support the implementation of the Australian Curriculum. Schools can also provide links to these resources, and students can access them with the same network ID and password they use to log onto their school network.

Schools should not place materials from the Learning Place openly on the web as this can breach copyright.

Write On: Numbers
This link is to a C2C resource in the Learning Place. Students and staff can access it using their network logon ID and password.

Learning Place digital resources

Online spaces

Schools have access to a wide range of online spaces to support parent and community engagement, including openly available social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter.

When schools are deciding which space to use they will consider a range of requirements of the activity and the needs of the people participating, and then compare these to the functions that the different spaces offer.

Two very important considerations should be made as early as possible:

  • Access - who needs to access the space?

    Some activities require a very secure space, limited to a known group of people - for example so that children can safely communicate with each other. Other activities require a space that is open to anyone - for example, to promote or celebrate a school or classroom activity to the wider community. Some spaces allow a degree of access control by giving visitors the ability to join the space, with the approval of the space owners or by self-registration.

  • Participation - how will people participate in the site?

    Some activities require a space where people will only read, view or listen to materials that are published by the owners of the space - for example, a showcase of student work. Some activities require that people can participate by creating and posting some of their own content. Before choosing a space it is important to determine what kind of participation needs to be supported - for example, comments on a blog, images into a shared album, collaborative editing of documents or networking between participants.

Each different space allows schools to provide a different level of access and participation. For example, Learning Place edStudios can be made accessible to staff and students at a school, who can then create and share their own content in a secure space. When students participate in these spaces from home, parents are able to watch but there is no parent identity allowing a parent to participate in their own right. However, a Learning Place eLearn Virtual Classroom allows teachers to request generic accounts for use by parents, community members and guests so they can add material to blogs and wikis as well as engage with content the teacher provides.

Many functions will be offered by more than one space. It is worth exploring a range of spaces to find the one that provides the best combination of functions.

Learning Place help centre

Policy and procedures

Staff of the department are required to comply with a range of legislation, whole of government policies and agreements with third parties such as licences for copyright materials. The Department of Education and Training provides a number of procedures to guide schools to meet these requirements.

The following procedures should be consulted when considering the use of online resources, spaces and services:

Staying safe online

Schools that use online spaces to support engagement of parents and the community need to act in ways that promote the safety of all participants including staff, students, parents and carers and members of the community. As well as the policy and procedures provided by the Department of Education and Training, schools can access a range of different cybersafety programs to help ensure participants act appropriately in online environments.

Before selecting and using a web-based resource, service or site, schools should also check that it is available within the school. Some websites are filtered to ensure the safety of staff and students, and the security and efficient operation of the department's network.

Web filtering

Help and support

Schools need to consider the capability of all participants to use technology effectively and to access support when needed.

Queensland state schools have a comprehensive enterprise platform of technologies that support staff and students in their use of ICT. This includes the department's ICT Service Centre that provides online technical support for staff and students using the departments' network and devices.

The department does not provide technical support for non-departmental devices (e.g. home computers). However if students, parents or community members experience difficulties in accessing departmental spaces (e.g. a Virtual Classroom in the Learning Place) they should in the first instance contact the school. School staff can then seek support from the Service Centre.

Schools can also seek advice from their regional technology managers about the choice of suitable online resources, spaces and services to support parent and community engagement.

Last reviewed
11 December 2015
Last updated
11 December 2015

Creative Commons Licence - Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC

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