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Hosting a Technology Night - Brief Article

Hosting a Technology Night - Brief ArticleShow of your growth and build parent and community support in an evening devoted to celebrating tech at your school

Do you want to share with your community the great ways your students and teachers are using technology in the classroom? Do you need to say thanks to the PTA for its financial support of your technology program? Would you like to inspire the budget committee to send some funds your way? If any of these questions hit home for you, then hosting a Technology Night might be the perfect answer.

What Is a Technology Night?

Technology Night is a special evening at your school. You invite parents and possibly other community members, such as local businesses or foundations, to see the implementation of the technology you already have, or to view samples of the technology that you hope to get. This is your chance to impress people outside your classroom with your students' achievements on computers and the Internet.

What's the Purpose of Technology Night?

There are a variety of reasons for hosting a Technology Night. To deliver your message clearly to those who attend, it's important to make your intentions clear. Here are a few popular reasons for hosting a Technology Night.

To showcase your growth. Showing how your school is using its technology, usually in hopes of continuing the flow of the school funds toward the technology department, is an important part of the educational supply-and-demand dynamic. By showing how you're implementing the resources you already have, you are also delivering the message that you're ready for more.

To say thank you. After receiving a grant or having your department favored in the budgets-and-funding maze, a Technology Night can really be a great way to show your appreciation. Here's your opportunity to acknowledge those groups or individuals who were instrumental in helping you obtain funds or equipment.

To showcase the possibilities. Gathering a collection of technology vendors to demonstrate their products is a good way to get things moving. The vendors win because they hope that your school's technology dollars will come their way. You win because you paint a clear picture to the parents in your community of what you need and what you might be able to do with it.

To build community. There are a few tried-and-true ways to get parents to come to school for community-building events. Putting their children on stage is one way that usually brings in many parents. Hosting a "Touchable Technology Night" is another way: Present technology to parents as. something touchable that they aren't going to break. This is useful, and you'll gain support for your program. Technology is becoming more and more prevalent in our society, which makes it a perfect vehicle for commonality. Whether you serve an affluent community or an economically challenged one, there is something for everyone on Technology Night.

To serve. Providing a weekly or monthly technology class for the general community is a great school service project. Your students might like to help during these classes. Try aiming at a specific population, such as senior citizens, or aim at a specific topic, such as Taxes On-line or Family Tips for Using Your Computer. If you're offering a five-week (one night per week) course on Internet Use for Seniors, for example, you might consider having five community resource people speak for the first 10 minutes of each session. Inviting a speaker from the American Association of Retired Persons or a senior citizens' fitness expert to share their Web sites or favorite senior sites is a great way to provide useful information as well as technology skills.

A Sample Technology Night

Yourtown Elementary School is hosting its very first Technology Night this evening. Parents are gathering in the media center, so follow the computer-shaped signs that lead there. Looking around the room, there is quite a bit of activity. The walls are hung with posters that display technology projects done by the students, and the posters tell quite a story.

There are four computer stations set up with signs hanging over them: "Our Web Site," "Kindergarten Is Crazy 4 Computers," "Using Computers in Math," and "What Computers Mean to Us."

At each of these stations are computers and chairs, along with three or four students who serve as hosts. These tech-friendly kids are available to help their guests learn more about each of the four topics.

A microphone clicks on and we hear a child's voice welcoming us to the event, thanking us for coming, and encouraging us to visit each of the centers to learn more about how Yourtown Elementary has been using its technology budget. The student gives us a time limit and suggests spending as much of the allotted time as we wish at any of the display areas.

At the "What Computers Mean to Us" station, you can see a HyperStudio presentation that includes audio, video, and Web links, all centered around the theme of the importance of computers. The host, Jessica, explains that this project started as a student inquiry in a fourth-grade classroom, but soon grew into a whole school project because everyone wanted to share his or her thoughts and feelings.

After visiting all four stations, you can visit the vendors. There are Apple and Microsoft vendors, along with one from a local computer company. There is also a team from an educational software company with a table full of products to demonstrate.

Toward the end of the evening, a host teacher invites everyone to the front of the room, where the head of the PTA thanks all the participants for coming. Then she asks that everyone complete an evaluation form, which the hosts will circulate and collect.

Preparations and Considerations

Though a Technology Night can be simple or complex, there are a few things to consider before you host your first event.

Content. Your purpose for hosting a Technology Night should determine the content of the evening. If you are hoping to demonstrate your need for more technology but never say so, your participants may walk away thinking, "Isn't it nice that we have so much technology in our school!"--which would defeat your purpose entirely. Be specific in your content so that you deliver a clear message.

Kids. Having students act as hosts or helpers during a Technology Night is an effective way to ensure that parents will attend. Another great draw is to demonstrate student work, such as the latest HyperStudio stacks, your class's new Web site, or the KidPix poetry project.

Food. Providing food, whether it's a spaghetti dinner or just a few things to nosh on, is a great way to get folks to relax and spend time talking about... your department!

Theme. Consider giving your event a theme, which will help you to be clear about your purpose. Here are a few suggestions:

"Technology Family Night" lets participants know that it's OK to bring kids, since this is a family event!

"Technology in Education" informs participants that this event is likely to be about education and curriculum, rather than technology use at home.

"Technology Spotlight: What Your Kids Are Doing at the Keyboard!" lets participants know that they can expect to see student work samples.

"Technology: Wishing and Hoping" tells participants that they'll be seeing what the school needs and what the possibilities for meeting those needs are.

"Inter-night!" informs participants that they'll be dealing more with the Internet than with other technologies (word processing, software, etc.).

Invitations. Even if you send out a general invitation to your school population, you may want to issue a few specific invitations to decision-makers in your community. Try sending invitations to the superintendent or the director of technology for your district, and invite local business-people, who might keep your school in mind the next time they are making donations.

Press Coverage. This might take some special effort and advance planning, but consider the possibilities! Talk to your local education reporter and ask him or her to cover your technology evening, and you'll expand your audience.

Sponsors. Invite several technology professionals to come out and support your event. After the event has concluded, consider having tables in the media center where Apple and Microsoft representatives have set up computer samples for parents and supporters to see and try out. You might also invite software representatives, since they are likely to leave you with a few freebies.

Logistics. Keep in mind the logistics of running any technology event, from possible problems with plugs and cords, to broken mice and lost network capabilities. Sometimes it's best to have someone else emcee the event, so that you can guide the technology side of the evening.