SchoolNet Stellar Support Parents

By: Sarah King, SNN Reporter
Amalgamated Academy
Bay Roberts, NF

"Technology is a very, very important part of the classroom." says Jennifer Carey, provincial co-ordinator for SSSP. SSSP stands for SchoolNet Stellar Support Parents, which is designed to train parents to become active in classroom Internet activities. Carey is the only trainer hired outside of Corner Brook. The SSSP can not afford to hire other trainers due to lack of funding.

The SSSP was started in August 1998, based on a Manitoba program. It’s sponsors were the Avalon West School District, Stem~Net and SchoolNet. In the spring of 1999, the SSSP was implemented in 6 schools. In the fall of ‘99, the SSSP implemented it’s full scale program. It operates on a "Train the Trainer" philosophy. The parents that volunteer have no need of any previous experience. A small group of parents are trained and then a select few of the most experienced in that group train other groups that wish to be involved. These dedicated parents are essential to ensure that the program will continue.

There are several "rules" or guidelines that must be followed in order for the SSSP to operate at full capacity. A teacher or parent can organize the program, but a teacher must be available with access to the computer lab in the school. The school and school board are responsible for publicizing the sessions. A training schedule must be arranged before the trainer arrives in the school.

The parents are trained according to their level of expertise. Each session is 3 hours long and the groups of parents are trained according to 4 online modules, again, according to their computer literacy.

Module 1 - Basic Windows Skills - for people with little or no experience with computers who are not confident about their abilities with computers. TOPICS: open and close, minimize and maximize programs, save and learn to use a word processor.

Module 2 - Basic Internet Skills - for people with basic Windows and computer skills who are not confident with their Internet skills. TOPICS - become confident with the use of browsers and search engines.

Module 3 - Basic Email Skills - for people who are familiar with the Internet. TOPICS: set up personal Hotmail accounts, send,write, receive, address, attach files and signatures to emails.

Module 4 - Basic HTML - for people who have a good understanding of computers. TOPICS: create a website, edit content, links, images, colors and lists.

Each participant in the group must have their own personal computer in the lab. The parents must sign an acceptable use policy which is determined by the school.

The trained parents help the schools by finding curriculum based materials through Internet searching, supervise students in the computer lab and help to develop web pages and GrassRoots projects.

There are many benefits of having trained parents in the school. The school benefits by having safe sites, improved resources in the schools, building learning communities, developing a sense of community, and increasing technology/Internet activities for the school. To date, SSSP has completed it’s first year in operation and they have held 71 workshops across the province, the majority of which have been held in the past four months.

Holy Trinity Elementary in Torbay, Newfoundland have been the most successful school in the program with 37 parents interested in the program, five workshops and a 100% return rate.

When asked what her feelings were about Steve Dotto’s comment that computers do not belong in computer labs, but on teacher’s desks and at home, Carey replied, "I have mixed feelings about that". She feels that some schools labs leave much to be desired, while others are the best things that have ever happened to a particular school. She says that you can not expect equal access in the home but she stands firm with the fact that Newfoundland has the highest ratio of computers to homes in all of Canada.