Parents, schools and the Internet
Research indicating the value of co-operation between home and school and the possibility of taking advantage of ICT to serve the school community, sparked a developmental project which began early in 1999 and is called Skólatorg, or the School Forum. The project is aimed at facilitating communication and the information flow between families and the school by using a specially designed web solution for the school community.
Access at no charge
A large number of parties have been involved in the developmental work in one way or another, such as the school personnel, parents, computer companies, Internet providers and educational institutions. After considerable work combining ideas and technology, Skólatorg, a web publishing system and information web for compulsory school, was formally opened in September 2000. On this occasion all Icelandic compulsory schools were offered access to the system at no charge.
The web publishing system
In the web publishing system all home page construction is very simple and accessible and is accomplished exclusively through a browser. The system includes special solutions for school webs, web pages for staff, web pages for parents' organisations, class webs, web pages for class representatives and student web pages (access controlled). It is also simple to add other units to the system, such as web pages for after-school activities, the library, school choir, theme days, collections of assignments, the student council, and much more.
An information web
The information web of Skólatorg presents the web publishing system, how to use it and its possibilities. In addition, the web also has information connected with education, instruction and new technology which can be of interest for parents, teachers and pupils.
During the brief period since it was opened, the reception of Skólatorg has been very positive. Already a number of schools and parents' organisations have begun to make use of the web publishing system for their school web. Classroom teachers and class representatives have used the system for class webs and the first pupils' pages are starting to appear.
A solution like Skólatorg enables parents to keep track of what their children are doing at school, in addition to making it easier for them to express their views to teachers, principals and other parents, and thus influence school activities. It also enables school staff to inform parents, for instance, of their child's progress, his/her behaviour and conduct, and better information makes it easier to deal with these aspects together.
An important part of the work now awaiting is to evaluate whether the objectives aimed at will be achieved. In the research aspects of the project, the focus will be on the social impact of ICT and how the advantages and disadvantages of Skólatorg can be evaluated with respect to its usefulness, content, accessibility, use, service and future development.
There is no doubt that, if successful, the system can serve as a way of enriching communication and building trust between key figures in the pupils' lives. At the same time, it involves a solution which encourages public use of ICT and is likely to lead to further increasing knowledge of ICT in the school community. Hopefully, Skólatorg is a step in the direction of harnessing ICT in a sensible way.
Thorbjörg St. Thorsteinsdóttir - firstname.lastname@example.org
Project supervisor for Skólatorg - www.skolatorg.is