In our busy days as teachers, it is hard to meet all of the obligations we face. One of my consistent challenges is consistently contacting parents over student concerns. I am just not good at it. But…I recongize that while I am not doing it now, I can improve and so I looked at a number of tools to help me reach out to parents more consistently and regulary.
Every single teacher can meet the many committments we have, including keeping parents in the loop. We can’t do it alone and technology can help offload some of the weight.
Many schools have made clear goals to increase the family engagement, and are rolling out programs and systems in order to reach the parents. More than the information about the school, the parents also want to understand and know what their children are doing inside the classroom. I completely get it! We live in a world of constant connectiveness. We are all linked and we all want instant updates. Schools should meet this demand by it is unreasonable to expect teachers to do it without giving them the systems to accomplish it.
Providing parents with class updates can lead to effective and strong partnership with school and teachers. Here are the 3 teacher tools I found that can possibly be used to more easily connect with your parents.
This is a free video conferring tool by Google that is now made available for the teachers to use as part of the Google Apps for Education. Maximum of 25 participants can possibly join the video-conference at a time. This is a great way to connect the classroom with parents in order to establish a strong parent-teacher communication. In our society where time is very precious, this can be a great solution especially for the busy-working parents. Google Hangouts also work in mobile devices which further opens a wide ranging interaction between the teachers and parents. The screen sharing feature of Google Hangout allows the teacher to share the view in classroom and can be very helpful during the parents-teacher meeting.
This offers the teachers a simple, safe, and free way to reach parents and students instantly. The teachers can schedule or send reminders, assessments, homework, assignments, or motivational messages to the parents’ and students’ phones directly. The interactions are completely safe because phone numbers are privately secured and the messages are being sent with no open replies (lawsuit avoided). The students, parents and teachers can view the message from their entire classes in a single place. I have know coaches to use this as well with their teams. Is the bus leaving early to go to a game? Just send your athletes a message! (BTW…use wisely…teachers hate it when this happens during class)
For parents and students, Remind offers an easy way to stay informed even when outside the classroom. In fact, I think it might be the easiest one on this list. The parents and students can download this app and choose to receive faster messages with the push notification features in order for them to never miss anything. Teachers can use Remind in sending free text messages in order to save time and get the parents involved in the class.
This is a website where you can possibly create a private, free “circle” for your classroom. Simply add the entire parents to the circle, and you can start sending them the school-related documents, photos, tasks, events, messages and anything that you want. You can also establish a great communication with the entire parents at once, or if you like, one on one. This free service can easily be accessed from any devices such as mobile phone, tablet or computer. Recently, they have released their new apps to be available for Android phones and iPhone. This one seemed to be the most robust out of the ones I checked out.
Mailchimp is a free service that gives you the chance to manage lists of emails, send emails and track your opens/reads. If you are someone who relies a lot on email, then Mailchimp is where its at. I used it for a bit to send quarterly updates to parents. The best part? You can schedule the emails for a specific date and time. You can even segment your emails into different lists to send targeted emails to specific groups. It is worth playing around with when you get some down time…if you get down time. 😉
While Google Classroom doesn’t allow for parent accounts, there are plent of learning management systems (LMS) that do allow parent accounts. In the fall, I gave to all my parents a private access code and account so they could follow their student in my lms, Schoology. (Keith Sorensen @KeithOSorensen did an awesome tutorial on how to do that here: Parent Email Mail Merge) I know the LMSs of Canvas, Edmodo, and Haiku all offer parent portals as well.
I am not sure exactly which I am going to test out and use for next year. Unfortunately, I know that I am going to to be able to test out one because I have one parent open house in September. All I know is that it is “that time of the year” where I realize all the things I could do better and parent communication was the top of my list. I will play around with these tools more this summer and see if I can’t decide on one.
Question: Any of you have experience and succcess with these tools or have any other parent communication tool you would suggest? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!