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Tommie Kunst Jr. High School wants to improve parent engagement, kids grades through technology

Cyber bullying, sexual content, and overall distractions are some of the things about social media that continue to be a concern for parents and teachers. But Tommie Kunst Junior High School educators are teaching parents to incorporate media in their kids’ lives in a positive way.

On Thursday, the middle school held the first of four sessions aimed at improving parent engagement and communication.

“These students have had media their whole lives, so we need to catch up and see where they are and be able to keep up with them,” explained A ssistant Principal, Dawn Elliott.

Teachers at the middle school are worried about the influence of the digital world on today’s kids.

“People post stuff that is very inappropriate, or say mean things about other people,” said 8th grade student Chloe Hightower. “I see my friends texting in class, or they’ll be in the bathroom playing on their phones because they really can’t get detached from it, they have to be on it.”

Parents say social media is taking up too much of their kids’ time, too.

“They don’t do their chores because they’re on their phone instead,” said Maria Ceballos, mother to an 8th grader at Tommie Kunst.

“We have to actually teach students how to act on the internet, how to act on their cellphones,” said Elliott. ” Experts say kids ages 12-19 are spending up to nine hours a day on their phones.”

Elliott explained they’re trying to change that by incorporating media in a positive way.

For instance, classrooms use Chromebook computers as part of English and Math lessons. These programs are also lending an extra hand to kids learning English as a second language.

“They have a program now that has a microphone,” said Elliott. “And the kids use it and it has the Rosetta Stone technology and so then it can assess how well a student is speaking.”

Thursday’s workshop encouraged parents to jump on board. Especially non-English-speaking parents who have a harder time getting involved.

“To help them get over the digital barrier and the language barrier,” said Elliott.

“We’re not fluent in English, and we’re also behind on this technology stuff,” said one parent, Jose Alfredo Ceballos. “So that’s why sometimes things get complicated, and it gets harder to monitor the kids.”

But teachers at Tommie Kunst are hoping programs like ParentSquare and Aeries will help parents stay on top of their kids grades and attendance, and in touch with the school.

“We can see our kids’ progress -if they turn in their homework, if they miss class, or how they’re doing in school overall,” added Maria Ceballos.

“Technology itself gets rid of the barriers,” said another Spanish-speaking parent, Claudio Lapidus. “Because there’s programs that basically translate everything in seconds.”

Elliot said the new technology also ensured transparency.

“It’s pretty hard to hide stuff from your parents.”

Tommie Kunst Junior High School is home to about 1,000 students.

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