Parent resources

5 Digital Tools Parents Will Love

parent resourcesToo often, like it or not, technology makes parents squirm. Few moms and dads embrace questions that start, ‘How do I use this program to…’ They’d rather describe the smell of the number eight or get a root canal. But, the digitization of education requires anyone with children possess a basic understanding of hardware, the internet, and concepts like what-the-heck-is-buffering.

As a tech teacher,  an important part of my daily job is to get parents at least on speaking terms with their child’s tech needs. To do this, I answer their questions–any time of the day, about any tech issue whether school-related or personal. Things like How do I copy a file to a flash drive? How much RAM does my child need? My baby can’t [fill in the blank with a tech problem of your choice]. How do I make a roster for soccer?

And I run tech classes for moms and dads. Here, I teach basics, starting with the five utilities that will make a parent’s job as Head Family Geek simpler, more predictable, and more effective:

Security software

Parents always worry about what viruses end up on computers when their children surf the internet. That’s a reasonable concern, one which requires guidance beyond the simplicity of virus software. After you’ve pursued a discussion on digital citizenship and safe surfing, recommend two Free easily-installed programs that protect against malware, spyware, ad bots, and host of other digital bad guys:

Use these two as part of a weekly computer maintenance routine (that also includes backing up data files, virus protection, and defragging–you might have to explain ‘defrag’ to them, too. Leave a comment below if you need help with that).

Google safe search

Normally, the Google Search screen is set to a moderate return–what is appropriate for G-rated adults. Show parents how to change the settings to suit family needs. Better, post this link that explains the process or embed the video (viewed by over 21 million people) onto your class blog or website so parents have access to it any time, anywhere. This is a good alternative to nanny programs that promise to protect children from ‘bad’ websites, restrict them only to those that are age-appropriate, but often end up shutting older students out of websites required for school work.

PDF Maker

I can’t tell you how many times I get emails from parents complaining that they couldn’t read something the classroom teacher sent. This is easily solved if everyone uses PDFs–a file format available as a ‘save’ option, enabling users to save documents so everyone–Mac users, PC users, and those who haven’t upgraded from old Office versions–can open a document. MS Office 2007 and up makes this easy because it offers ‘pdf’ as a file type, and then save-as. Doesn’t matter if you’re using the Mac or PC version of Office because PDFs work across all platforms. If parents have an older version of Word, have them download one of the many free pdf converters (like CutePDF).

A note: For teachers at my school, I also recommend they save documents in the 97-2003 file type, which allows older Office versions to read it.


Another popular question I get is how to save a piece of the screen to share with others. There are two options, both as easy as the other:

  • Windows comes with a built-in Free program for that called Windows Snipping Tool. It takes screenshots, lets you annotate the snip, copy and/or save it to a folder, Show parents how to find Snip (with a simple search on the Start Button), then right click on the icon and select ‘pin to start menu’. That way, the program will always be there when you need it (rather than doing the ‘search’ thing)
  • A more robust free download is Jing. It not only captures the screen with annotations and arrows, but will create a screencast video, great for how-tos like signing up for sports teams or classes.

Scheduling stuff

Signing up for events is so much simpler when everyone gathers together and uses the same sign-up sheet. That’s easily done virtually by using programs like the free Signup Genius (or a form created in Google Apps). This is great for clubs, sports teams arranging who brings snacks, potluck dinners, and more.

A second scheduling program to coordinate calendars is Doodle. Families set up each member with an account which links to their calendar. When they schedule an activity through Doodle, it will check for conflicts with anyone’s activities. This is a family sanity saver!

There you have it–five digital tools every parent will want to use. Is there a critical tool you need fulfilled I can help you with?

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, a columnist for, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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7 thoughts on “5 Digital Tools Parents Will Love

  1. Pingback: 5 Digital Tools Parents Will Love | Ask a Tech Teacher | Learning Curve

  2. Pingback: 5 Digital Tools Parents Will Love | Educational...

  3. Pingback: OTR Links 08/21/2013 | doug --- off the record

  4. Jacqui I so appreciate all your wonderful knowledge and willingness to share! I have been asked to present at an ESL Family Night. Part of my presentation will be how to navigate our school website as well as how to register for parent/teacher conferences online. Any ideas as to what else is vital that I share with this group of parents without getting really technical?? Thanks!

    • Those two are great topics. How about online grades (if you have those)? How about expectations about student technology requirements (what do they need at home, homework, software/online tools they might benefit from having at home like Google Earth, flash drives), software students will use at school (like MS Office, GAFE), your email address, troubleshooting tips (best browser, flash requirements), basic info on using the internet safely (this shows them what you expect of students at school and what they as parents can reinforce at home), keyboarding expectations (parents can watch for at home like flying hands, flying elbows).

      An idea that always works well for me is to offer a parent class, introduced at Back to School. 1) I teach what I’m teaching students, such as Word, PowerPoint, Google Earth so parents get to learn along with them, 2) I answer techie questions they have, like how to create an email, how to attach something to an email, 3) I even help them with computer projects they have unrelated to school work, like creating a flier for their soccer club. The Parent Class is about good will, getting parents on your side, showing off your expertise so parents support you with their children.

      Does that help? Let me know if you have specific questions. And let me know how it goes!

  5. Thank you! I appreciate your quick response. The family night is September 24th but I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes:) How often do you hold the parent class?

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