Using Tech To Meet Parents Where They Are

Some of the many ways to connect with families

At Kent we provide many opportunities for parents and families to stay informed and involved in their child’s education. Nothing is better than face to face communication but many times this is not possible.  Therefore, I believe it is important to provide a variety of ways that parents and families can both receive information and engage in dialogue with the school using technology.

As I have described in the post “Parent Communication: TO vs WITH”, schools need to use technology to not only provide information TO parents but to also engage in conversations WITH parents around student learning. Social media, in which parents can leave comments and questions, can be a great tool for this.

Below is a list of the many ways that we use technology at Kent School to try to engage and involve parents by meeting them where they are. Following the list is a link to the screencast of the many ways that parents can use our blog as a starting point to access the many ways to stay (or become more) informed and/or engaged.

PARENT INFORMATION AND DIALOGUE

  • Parent Info For Kent Elementary Facebook Page - many parents are already on Facebook so we need to ‘meet’ them there. For my belief on why “Your School Needs a Facebook Page” click here.
  • Good Things At Kent Blog – this is our school blog in which we share all the events and day-to-day occurrences at Kent School. For the past 3 years we have done a “10 Good Things To Talk About” each Friday (thank you to Yrsa Jensen, SD36 for the idea) and this year we have moved this to a blog format so parents can access this through their mobile devices and also provide feedback through comments.
  • Email – the majority of our parents receive email of any information but many still like to receive the paper version too. Parents can opt out of receiving paper format here. Teachers also use email to keep parents informed of student learning.
  • Twitter – our school is on Twitter (@kentelemschool) and the same info that is on Facebook is on Twitter but it is just another way to receive the info or engage in dialogue with the school. Some of our teachers are also now on Twitter. NOTE: When something is posted on the blog, it automatically goes to our Facebook Page which is automatically linked to our Twitter account (so there is not much more work in having the same information available through a variety of means).
  • Text Messages (SMS) – our school provides the option for families to stay informed of important events via text messaging (Remind101). This is not a way to engage in dialogue but only a way for parents to receive info.
  • School Website – a teacher and his students run the school website. It is used for coding and problem-solving with the kids and as a way for teachers to showcase student projects and provide info on what is happening in their classes. NOTE: The Fraser-Cascade School District is moving to a more user-friendly, standardized format for school websites/teacher blogs so stay tuned.
  • Library and Principal Blog – our teacher-librarian hosts her own blog here that describes all the learning that happens through our school library. She also uses it as a way to promote community and family literacy. I also encourage parents to subscribe and comment on my blogs around my philosophies of education.
  • Contact the principal – my cell phone is available for parents to use to contact me via calls or text messaging. (Thanks to Chris Kennedy and Darcy Mullin for the encouragement). I am also available through email, my direct line, and Skype (for those parents who prefer “face to face” but are unable to come to the school.

OTHER USES OF TECHNOLOGY SHARED WITH FAMILIES

  • Student Blogs – our intermediate teachers use KidBlogs to encourage connected learning with their students. Parents will be able to read and comment on their child’s blogs.
  • Animoto - each month, a video compilation of students is created, shown to the students, and sent to parents. Click here for an example. Students also create videos of field trips, etc using this program.
  • Flickr - photos of students and events are uploaded to Flickr and available to parents.
  • YouTube – messages and videos of students at Kent showcased here – often using a private link.
  • Google Docs – used for collaboration with students, staff, and parents
  • Google Calendar – school calendar is updated and posted. My calendar is available online and posted outside my office.

Click here to watch the screencast I posted on our school blog on how parents can access the aforementioned tools to stay involved and/or engaged with Kent School (sorry for the monotone but my wife kept signalling me to keep my voice low as we had 2 sleeping babies :-) )

Nothing is better than face-to-face communication so families are always encouraged to meet with their child’s teachers. If this is not possible, or preferred, technology can be a great option for families to connect with their child’s school. We are continuing to learn in this area so if you have any other recommendations or comments, please share them below.

Originally posted at The Wejr Board blog.  Click here to see more conversation around this post.

@MrWejr

7 comments for “Using Tech To Meet Parents Where They Are

  1. December 19, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Hi,
    I just watched the video of student life on the Kent Elementary School Facebook page and wanted to know how you handle the issue of parents not wanting their kids’ pictures on the Internet in general, and Facebook in particular. The video and comments make it appear the teacher freely took still shots of kids in the yard and put them on Facebook with no objections from parents. What’s the real scoop?
    r

    • December 19, 2011 at 9:35 pm

      We do have a few (about 2%) of parents who have stated they do not want their child on the internet (have a district form). Photos of these children are not posted in videos, etc.

      We do not state a child’s name with their photo unless they ask for the name to be included.

      We have very few objections and have never had an issue… Although some parents have complained when their child is NOT in the videos. :-)

      • DNC
        December 19, 2011 at 11:10 pm

        Robin Browne had a good question, and thank you for your response. So, do you get signed permission/consent forms from parents before posting student pictures and videos on your sites?

        • December 20, 2011 at 12:22 am

          Yes. Student verification and/or registration forms are filled out each year and include a media release.

  2. December 22, 2011 at 6:07 am

    I came across this post when one of our board members talked about it on his blog. Great post.

    I am also working hard at my school to connect with parents. We have several online ways to do this. They can all be accessed through our website at http://sms.rock-hill.k12.sc.us/

    We have a school facebook and twitter account. We also have a “good news” blog and student showcase website to give our parents a glimpse of what goes on at their child’s school. The student showcase is great as it includes samples of student work as well as videos. Finally, we use constant contact to send school wide emails.

    However, there is so much more I can do! I have been thinking about setting up text messaging – is the service you use free and reliable? I also like the idea of using skype.

    • December 22, 2011 at 8:48 pm

      This is fantastic Mike! So many ways to connect with parents and the community… and listen to what they are saying. Remind101 is a free service and we use it as a “by-signup-only” as it is a US based service and might cost some Canadian cell phone customers some money. We also use it only for important events and not as a way for dialogue… although my cell phone is a available and some SMS me through that.

      We are still learning and growing… and always will… so any feedback or experiences you have, please let me know!

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