Thursday, 12 December 2013

Researching holiday #homework using Google

With the Christmas holidays here it may be that your children have been set holiday homework which involves research for a project. My parents have just recycled the Encyclopaedia Britannica that we used during childhood for these tasks, in conjunction with trips to the local library reference section to read a range of books. The internet has largely replaced the need for this with copious information at a child’s finger tips. However, how to 21st Century parents ensure their child is forming balanced opinions through broad research of a topic and not just regurgitating page one of Google?

Google a topic such as The First World War and you will see what I mean. Wikipedia summarises topics well but be aware that articles could be written by anyone so facts could be un-reliable or hugely subjective. Select the right key words in order to come up with a variety of reliable sources in the search results.

Search results are global so checking the credibility of information sources is important. This can be done by understanding the background, expertise and culture of the person who has written a piece.

The ability to copy and paste makes plagiarism far easier but schools and most importantly examination boards are very wary and on the look-out for this. Encourage independent writing after having read around a subject. This can easily be checked by discussing what your child has written to see if they understand the content and can explain why they have formed their opinion, demonstrating objectivity, through researching several sources. All quoted opinions should be referenced.

Beware of Google translate. It often creates sentences that are grammatically incorrect so will stand out immediately.

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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Tips on Communicating a Worry or Concern to your Child’s School

It is a worrying time for parents when an issue emerges regarding some aspect of their child’s life at school. Often they are unsure when to raise it and which communication channel is best. Sometimes lack of knowledge leads to insufficient confidence to raise it with the school. Here are a few tips that may assist you with effective communication.

Pick your battles. Give rational consideration to your worry rather than flying off the handle. Form a balanced view taking account of all angles. Is it of enough significance to formally raise it?  Remember that your child is unlikely to be in the right or truthful all of the time. Talk with them, try to get to the bottom of the issue and what might be causing it. You will then be able to talk to the right staff at the school when you have all the facts.

Avoid trying to resolve an issue regarding another child yourself, by talking to the child or their parents directly. Always address problems via the school. Addressing concerns diplomatically and reasonably is always a better option.

Familiarise yourself with the school pastoral care structure and follow the correct process for raising concerns. You will find details on the website or in the parent handbook. For example, it is unlikely that your issue will be well received if you go straight to the Head, before first trying to deal with it at tutor level.

Read reports, effort and assessment grades carefully so you are alerted early and can deal with issues promptly. Identifying potential problems sooner rather than later makes resolution far easier, Burying your head in the sand seldom works.

Get to know key staff. Always attend school events such as parents’ evenings. Keeping in touch regularly will ensure you have a good working relationship with staff should a concern arise.

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