Play 6 – Provide Training and Technical Support for Families to Enhance Basic Digital Literacy Skills and Effectively Support Remote Learning
Increased access to home internet and devices can support improved parent-teacher engagement and information-sharing. To limit families’ barriers to access and engagement, it is important that state and local education leaders understand how to support families that may have limited technology access, digital skills, or language barriers. These barriers may disproportionately impact English learners, children of immigrants without documentation, or students experiencing homelessness. Education leaders can engage families in effectively using technology by providing support on the use of technology and platforms provided by the school (e.g., tutorials). Education leaders may also consider partnering with trusted community-based organizations to provide technology support and digital literacy training for families in their home language.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What skills are necessary for basic device or technology literacy?
Basic technology literacy includes:
- How to use the device(s) at home.
- How to connect to the internet (e.g., from a Wi-Fi hotspot or Mi-Fi).
- Basic device capabilities necessary for learning such as how to use a mouse, where to locate the camera and microphone, and commonly used software.
- Promising practices for basic troubleshooting (e.g., unmute, turning on the device, restarting)
- The ability to use technology to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information.
2. What training is required for basic application or platform literacy?
Training should include information tailored to the different applications or platforms students will use for remote learning and how a family can support virtual learning. This includes:
- Walking families through logging in and out of platforms.
- Demonstrating where lessons, lesson plans, and homework can be found and how assignments are to be turned in.
- Demonstrating where families can find grades and how students and families can communicate with the teacher.
- Basic troubleshooting procedures that may be required when using the platform.
3. What are some things to keep in mind when developing resources for families?
When developing resources of training for families, make sure to use plain language and avoid technical jargon. It may be helpful to enlist a few diverse parents or caregivers to review materials to ensure they are clear and understandable before distributing more widely. It is also important that resources, training, and tech support are available in accessible formats and in the most common languages spoken by students at home.
4. What are some strategies for disseminating resources and training materials to parents?
Families will have a range of digital skills and experiences using technology, so it is important to consider what supports will help families feel successful supporting their student with remote learning. Consider creating resources in multiple formats (e.g., step-by-step written directions, short videos) to provide families multiple ways to access and learn the information. Also, design accessible (e.g., language, disability), bite-sized resources and trainings that accommodate families with limited time. Formats to consider include:
- Information packets. Training materials that are sent with the school-issued computer that includes a tutorial on how to use the computer and the applications being used in the classroom.
- Pre-record 5-minute training sessions that can be sent to parents’ mobile devices that address specific technical skills or issues.
- Online training or webinars. Although though this format may make it easier to demonstrate certain processes, it may present a barrier for families with limited time or without reliable access to broadband.
- In-person trainings. Present several sessions after work or on the weekend that include language translators, sign language interpreters, etc.
5. How might a parent chat group serve as a resource for parents?
Families come from all over the digital literacy spectrum. Some families may already be familiar with various technologies and devices. Others may be using digital devices and the internet for the first time. Setting up a parent chat group (e.g., via text message or other accessible method) for each classroom enables families who are familiar with the technology and devices being used in that class to help other families who are less familiar.
Play in Practice
Ohana Help Desk provides technology support to Hawaii Public School students and families
In 2020, The Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) awarded Hawaiian Telcom a $1.7 million contract to establish a help desk as part of its COVID-19 response. Many school districts provide technology support to families, but the HIDOE Ohana Help Desk wanted to ensure a high level of assistance with phone and chat support in multiple languages (e.g., English, Hawaiian, Ilokano, Tagalog, Chuukese, Marshallese). Help desk agents provide application support, connectivity support, device support, video conferencing support, and other technology support (e.g., cybersecurity). Students and families can also get help resolving technical issues when connected to the HIDOE remotely using their learning devices. The help desk also provides self-service support through the help desk portal, including tip sheets, videos, and links to other online resources. The resources cover basic skills such as turning on a computer or a tablet, connecting to the HIDOE network, and accessing different applications used in HIDOE classrooms. The help desk is available during the weekdays and outside of school hours (Monday-Friday, 7am-8pm) and on Sundays. Assisting families in their preferred language ensures that all students can successfully connect for remote learning.
Digital Navigators help families navigate barriers to connectivity
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) recognized that social distancing requirements and the closure of community anchor institutions like public libraries would limit access to digital skills training and technology support. To address this challenge, NDIA developed the Digital Navigator Model to train volunteers, professionals, or cross-train social service agency staff (e.g., libraries, health services) to provide one-on-one support over the phone. Training may address skills like navigating the sign-up process for home internet service, using devices, or other digital skills. Digital Navigators may also be trained to help community members navigate sign-up for different government benefit programs or navigate online employment applications.
States, school districts, or other community-based organizations can replicate the Digital Navigator model in their own communities using documentation and resources (e.g., sample Digital Navigator job descriptions) provided by NDIA. For example, the State of Illinois’ Office of Broadband partnered with the NDIA and a non-profit technology recycling and refurbishment organization to provide low-income families with devices and their own network of Digital Navigators.
Checklist & Key Questions
- Develop family “use cases” that encompass a range of possible family experiences to build empathy and consider the remote learning environment from different perspectives. For example, these perspectives should include English learners, students experiencing homelessness or who are highly mobile, families with different work situations, families with multiple children at different grade levels, and families with a child with disabilities.
- What are some of the common experiences of families in our communities?
- What would the remote learning experience look like for each of these families?
- How might the remote learning experience be streamlined to reduce the burden on families?
- What does successful remote learning look like? What supports might be necessary to ensure all families and students are successful with remote learning?
- Perform a family needs assessment to understand access to internet and dedicated learning devices, and to identify comfort levels and attitudes towards using technology. (Play 2)
- Review the remote learning ecosystem and identify opportunities to streamline the number of platforms, tools, or applications being used for remote learning.
- Consider that there may be “official” platforms or tools as well as tools that educators are introducing in individual classes.
- Are there opportunities for a consistent state or district-wide learning management system that offers consistency across schools and districts?
- How do tools and applications integrate with the learning management system? Do they offer “single sign-on” capabilities that limit the number of passwords required to sign into and use different applications?
- What assistive technologies, tools, or software features are available to support students or caregivers with disabilities? What training or supports do families need to effectively utilize assistive technologies and tools to support learning?
- Establish family support systems (e.g., technical support desk, parent chat groups).
- What are the most common household languages in my community? Can we offer support in the most common household languages? If not full-time, could support in other languages be offered at certain days/times of the week?
- Can these support systems run at the regional (e.g., educational service agency) or state level to increase the capacity of, and reduce the costs for, individual schools or districts?
- Can tech support be included as a requirement as part of a hardware or software contract?
- Are there community partners (e.g., high school students, college students, community-based organizations) that can help staff the tech support desk, especially to provide language support?
- Are there collaborators (e.g., library partners, universities, local business, statewide family engagement centers) that possess the expertise to provide technical support or provide trainings/materials to families?
- What training do these tech support volunteers need?
- Can supports be established to help families outside of standard school hours?
- Curate training resources on platforms, tools, or applications (e.g., tutorials).
- Identify internal and external resources (e.g., parents, community college IT teams, librarians)
- Create materials that reflect the languages spoken at home
- Communicate needs to the vendor – do they have, or could they develop family-friendly support materials? Consider making this a contract requirement.
- Do other districts, states, or entities have training and resources that can be accessed?
- Determine how training resources can be accessed or disseminated and consider how to manage sharing new resources or updates to existing training resources.
- Monitor families’ needs regularly to ensure supports and resources are meeting needs and identify areas where additional support may be needed.