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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Reaching Out to Parents: A Few Suggestions That Could Help

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger

Life is busy. Teachers are busy. Parents are busy. So, how do we work together to synchronize each within the school setting? In a data-informed universe, getting parental input and feedback throughout the school year is critical.

Here are a few suggestions I've used, including some I've helped other school districts set up. We'd love to hear other innovative and unique ways to help solidify the parental-feedback cycle.

Video Production

What better way, as evidenced here at GLEF, to garner people's interest and highlight positive things in education than to produce high-quality video. Read the Edutopia article "Film School: Making Movies From Storyboard to Screen" for some classroom and school examples of video production in action. Students are savvy technology users who love to produce, publish, and share. (MySpace, anyone?) Why not tap into that digital mind and have students produce commercials about school events and stream them online?

Many sites now offer online video sharing and storage for free. One example is MediaMax, which offers 25 gigabytes of storage free. Other options are also available. (Be sure to check out details to make sure usage of the site fits within your acceptable-use policy and isn't blocked by school filtering systems.)

Free Admission to Athletic Events

If you're hoping to get some information via parent feedback in the form of a survey, first try email and online contact. Those are easy -- many parents now have Internet access either at work or at home and might be able to find five minutes for a quick Web survey. Plus, doing it online allows free aggregation of the results. Be sure to ask only necessary information, and make it brief.

If you're having trouble getting parents to complete a survey, hand them a paper version as they enter your school's next football game. Get a local vendor to donate a $25 gift card, and, at the beginning of the game, announce, "We'll come by at halftime to pick up completed surveys. All those with completed surveys will be entered into a drawing to win the gift card." Have students walk through the bleachers at with collection boxes. Dump them all into one big box when the game resumes, and pick the winner's survey and announce the winner at the end.

Webinars

Take the production a step further by creating actual training and informational events online for your parents and school community. Webinars are one way to share information about the school: accountability progress, plans for school improvement, capital-infrastructure information, and so on. Use a free tool such as SlideShare to host student-produced Microsoft PowerPoint and Macintosh Keynote presentations. This method helps integrate knowledge sharing across the building while productively putting technology into students' hands.

For more tips on reaching parents through technology, visit my Education Leaders Online Web site.

What other suggestions do you have for reaching out to parents? Please share!

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger
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