Reaching across a digital divide


In recent years, Canadian schools have been focused on transitioning to electronic communication in order to reach parents. However, many barriers still exist.

Josée Thivierge at Le Centre d’Étude des Conditions de Vie et des Besoins de la Population du Cégep de Jonquière, is leading a study into high school parents’ access to digital tools, and how they use them. The project is being funded through SSHRC’s Community and College Social Innovation Fund.

Parents living in Quebec who don’t speak French or who have limited formal education may feel disconnected from their child’s school if it primarily uses electronic forms of communication. Parents may be reluctant to send messages, and therefore not ask questions they want answered, which adds unnecessary barriers to their child’s learning. This matters because research shows getting parents involved in their child’s education is a major factor in student success.

The first year of this project will be dedicated to exploring the access parents currently have to digital tools, and how they use them. The second year will focus on designing a communications strategy, and the tools to implement it, so more parents feel comfortable using electronic communications to support their children throughout their school years.

Some parents have found watching online video of a class in action useful—finding it much more informative than their teen is. Others might be more interested in a Facebook page posting pertinent announcements. Another option is websites that let parents monitor their child’s schedule—and attendance. Thivierge plans to explore all the possibilities available, thanks to the SSHRC grant.

“I have a big team in my college for this work. I appreciate the liberty of that, because there is room for innovation,” she says.


Le Conseil Régional de Prévention de L’abandon Scolaire

Le Carrefour Communautaire Saint-Paul

Le Centre de Recherche, de Développement et D’innovation en Communication