The School Filter Bubble

It is good to question what we see, as all too often we adhere to the life script that everyone else is happily playing out – for me Eli Pariser’s book The Filter Bubble helped me to once again question what we take as the truth, in his case the internet that is presented to us.

But what if there is a school filter bubble?

I am going to look at this as a parent and as a teacher.

My son is my favourite subject and there isn’t really any known limit to the amount I want to know about his day and what he is up to. He has been in full time school for just over a year and I still would love to follow him around for a day. But the message from school and what we find out as parents is only such a tiny fraction of what is happening at school.

We digest the presented message of school, of our children’s learning and the finer intricacies of what is taking place. The PR machine of school is crafting a message about the business of learning. And what a tough task that is because (a) learning is one of the most complex processes in the universe because of the number of factors that effect it and (b) the message is aimed at a (more than) captive audience – as parents we always want to know more.

It may come across that I am bashing school-home communications a bit – well the key thing for me – being a professional in the education sector – is that I know only a sliver of what is happening in my son’s learning life at school. Really only a fraction, the fraction that is communicated, shared at parents evening or in the odd newsletter or word at the classroom door. I don’t think that is enough.

Why should I just accept the school filter bubble?

How is it possible with all of the technology tools that build knowledge sharing, participation, crowd-sourcing, communities and overcome physical and social barriers to make connections, tools that side-step language and time differences and allow us instantaneous communication – that we still don’t have the true capacity to experience what is happening at school instantly, more easily, more quickly and more intuitively.

Well we should and one day we can make it happen.

Pic Cost savings in The Netherlands: Now you see it, now you don’t by opensourceway


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  2. So what do you do when the parents aren’t interested? I pay for my nephews’ schooling and all I ever get are second hand snippets from reports (‘could try harder’ etc). I’m just as interested as a parent (more so in this case) but the school simply see me as a third party (funder) so would never tell me anything.

  3. +1 from me, as yet another day passes with “We did nothing… I really can’t remember”. It’s SO frustrating, too, to have a Head Teacher say that she wants parents to be part of the community but doesn’t provide a vehicle for us to jump on.

  4. I have been gathering all the patronising remarks I receive from my boy’s school – we raised him to the age of five without calamity – and now I endure advice about bed time and diet and talking to him.

    I wonder if some schools sit in judgement over parents – the assumption seems to be that I know nothing.

  5. It goes both ways. Many schools and teachers situate themselves in a bubble within which they don’t need to take account of what is happening in the wider community or world. Same in many other types of institutions, why else are they so slow to change in response to changes in community and the world? How many parent’s get the chance to feed into school, as well as hearing about what is going on ‘inside’?

  6. I’ve been working at ways to make the communication two-way rather than one-way. This year, I started a class edublog to see if conversation would ensue. Most parents don’t respond. But, when asked, they said they appreciate the regular posts by kids (

    I think communication needs to be a bit more intentional in the age of technology. Because my students do so many things online (rather than the old-fashioned hard copy), fewer papers go home. The blog helps with that too.When I wrote newsletters, I wondered how many parents actually read them. I started having students make news videos – parents watch those for sure :). |

  7. That’s exactly what I was getting at… it is not so much about the technology but as you put it parents and teachers need to ‘trust’ each other. The technology is already there… telephones offer a verbal window but I feel that they are often not used enough and in some cases only used to admonish. More of us need to take the time to call home to tell parents about the good things their children have done. 

    As for utilising technology to keep parents better informed about the learning process and what their children are doing, at my school we have taken great strides forward. I chronicled this back in 2010 in a series of blog posts:

    We have moved forward, with all departments completing one of these sessions per year at a relevant time for their subject.

    What I would like to see is an expansion of video conferencing to a more informal, frequent method of connecting parents with the learning and development of their children. This might be a bit radical but I think there is credence in schools using Skype/Face Time to connect with parents. I think this could be a fantastic way of communicating in a meaningful way – you can share the childs work, digital or not and it allows for these conversations to take place at times that are convenient for both teacher and parent. 

    Too often both parties wait for parents evening to have the serious conversations, because we value face to face communication. However, for the child, parents evening can be too late. We all know that the earlier you intervene the more likely it will be that you can have an impact.

  8. James, I’m glad you point out that there needs to be respect and appreciation between teachers and parents.  I am often worried by the bashing that goes on in both directions.  I think we need to trust that both parties are interested in doing what is best for children given the natural restraints of time.  A “bad teacher” may just have too much on his plate or may not have discovered a better way of handling a particular situation yet.  Likewise, an overbearing parent might not get to see her child that much and be sad that she can’t be more a part of his day.  These are trials we can all sympathize with and I think we all need to cut each other a little slack.

    Tom, I think the benefits that technology offers in terms of giving us more opportunity to see our children’s lives is a mixed blessing.  On the one hand, I think it would be great for parents to have more windows into the school room, to see their children making a big developmental step, or overcoming a fear, or making a new friend.  These are dear and fun moments to be privy to.  On the other hand, I think it’s good that children experience that time away from home, that they learn to be apart without their parents knowing and seeing all.  They learn to tell about their day and share with their own words what they thought was important.  I’ve heard of summer camps that offer parents webcams of their childrens’ activities – I think that pushes the benefits of technology too far and subtracts from the goals of summer camp.

    Here is a good post about a use of technology to create conversation between teachers, parents, and students –

    Thanks for this post!

  9. In many ways James I think that we can do more than just blogs – there is too much control over which learning gets out into the wild – it should be open and directed to those who have a vested interest.
    Technology should allow us as parents to better experience the highs and lows of learning and to better understand what happens in those 35 hours a week.

  10. In many ways James I think that we can do more than just blogs – there is too much control over which learning gets out into the wild – it should be open and directed to those who have a vested interest.

    Technology should allow us as parents to better experience the highs and lows of learning and to better understand what happens in those 35 hours a week.

  11. I couldn’t agree more Tom, it often seams to me that schools and teachers allow fear and policy to hinder the practices that we know are effective in improving the learning and progress of our own students. More, regular, meaningful dialogue between teacher-parent, parent-child and child-teacher will undoubtedly bring about improvements. And as you correctly state, the technology is there to make this happen in a manageable way. 

    While I am not about to suggest that we should simply ignore child protection procedures or work time agreements, I think that schools and teachers have to acknowledge that if in the long term a particular strategy could improve the learning of the young people they are charged with teaching, then they should strive to make it happen, regardless of the potential concerns/risks. Mainly because, if schools conducted the necessary research; took the time to consult the right people, they would find the tools and know how to overcome any potential risks/issues.

    I also think that there needs to be a culture shift in many communities both on the part of teachers and parents. All teachers need to appreciate the value in regular communication with parents and all parents need to respect and value the input of the teachers who are educating their children. I know that this is a contentious statement and it may offend some but that is not my intention. I do feel though that there is a feeling amongst some teachers and some parents that they are not in this together. There is a mistrust and this worries me.

    Schools should be part of the community; they should be open/transparent places… too much regulation and fear is getting in the way of some schools making effective decisions to operate in this way. They may have the means to open up the various lines of communication that are available in the 21st century but they are simply unwilling to take the risks.

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