Engaging parents in curriculum delivery via social media: Establishing identities and legitimating communication in the early years

Year: 2017

Author: Exley, Beryl, Willis, Linda-Diane

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Traditionally community/school engagement has seen parents and carers as active supporters, especially in relation to fundraising initiatives, homework supervision, canteen duties, and organisational activities such as attending excursions and managing sporting teams. This engagement has often constructed the parents of early years students as peripheral to matters of curriculum, and in the main, only able to contribute if able to physically attend during school hours. Our research examines an intervention based study where parents and carers were invited to co-contribute to the curriculum practices of schooling via a social media App called Seesaw. We hone in on a unit of work where students in Year 2 undertake an inquiry within the disciplinary field of History. Specially, the students undertake a class excursion to explore the history of a local creek. The students capture their physical explorations via still image and their conceptual explorations via voice narration. Both forms of text are shared on Seesaw for parent and carer engagement. Some parents respond with emojis whilst others provide written comments that hone in on the disciplinary content. Drawing on a Bernsteinian sociological analysis, we analyse the nature of the social base of the communication between each child and their parent or carer to reveal the established identities and the established voices of the participants. Our findings show a weakening of the role traditionally accorded to parents and carers. As Bernstein (2000) cautions, models such as this are highly vulnerable because communication from the outside is less controlled. Yet, a model such as this provides a strong social network that coheres around curriculum knowledge. The use of social media to engage parents and carers in curriculum delivery redistributed the power within the learning community, ostensibly expanding everyone's capacity to contribute. We also analyse the nature of the control over the selection of communication, its sequencing, pacing and criteria to reveal the framing of the social base which makes this transmission possible. Theoretically, framing is concerned with the internal logic of pedagogic practice, in this case, the internal logic of engaging parents in curriculum delivery via social media. We focus on how meanings are put together, the forms by which the messages are made public, and the nature of the underlying social relationships (Bernstein, 2000). Importantly, the redistribution of power and control relations did not dampen the teacher's professionalism.