George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Family Engagement

Tech-Enhanced Parent Engagement

Whether it's email, messaging apps, an active website, or virtual office hours, technology helps you keep parents in the loop about what's happening in their child's classroom.

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Keeping students engaged in the classroom is a battle that teachers fight every day. Another battle that some don't always think about is keeping the students' parents engaged in what's going on in the classroom. Parents and teachers should be working together to ensure student success. And the best way to increase parent engagement is through strong communication. Long gone are the days of just sending a flyer home. We now have many different ways for communicating quickly and more effectively with parents. Once a teacher sets up a strong communication network to keep them in the loop about what's going on in class, parent engagement will increase -- and students will benefit in the long run. These are just a few of the ways that enhanced communication can support parent engagement.

Email

Sending regular emails to parents can be a great way to keep them engaged with what's going on in the classroom and what their children's grades look like. This medium can accommodate mass emails to the entire class about upcoming projects, tests, and other assignments, or individual emails to parents about more student-specific matters. With email, you can include links to videos that you've taken in class, links to your class website for more information, or anything else that parents might need to better support their child at home or inform them of the work you're doing. Emails are still a great way to connect quickly, and you can set up templates and timed mailings in advance. This connection allows parents to stay informed and engaged in the class activities.

Remind

Some parents are less attached to email than others, so Remind is a helpful tool that allows teachers to send text messages to users who've signed up. Creating a special Remind group for parents would be an easy way for directly sharing information. You've probably discovered that sending fliers or other forms home with students can be risky -- backpacks turn into black holes, and documents stuffed into them are never seen again. Remind allows users to attach PDFs so that they'll have access to these elusive documents. This quick text messaging system ensures that parents are getting the information they need in a timely manner, and allows them to be engaged in the day-to-day activities of the classroom without feeling left out.

Website

Maintaining an active website is another excellent way to keep parents engaged in the classroom. More passive than emails and Remind, your frequently-updated website is always waiting there for parents to find information when they need it instead of making them wait for your next email or text message. Websites are an ideal space for student work, details that might not fit in a text or email, and other important documents for parents to access at their leisure. This is also a tool that students can use with their parents to find out more about that field trip or long-term project. You can add web links to emails and text messages, leveraging your site as a handy complement to the other services.  

Office Hours

Sometimes parents want a face-to-face conversation with their child’s teacher but are unable to meet because of a crazy work schedule. With video chat becoming more and more commonplace, open office hours could help you connect with parents who can't physically make it to school during smaller windows of time. By using Skype, Google Hangouts, or another video chat system, you can be available for parents to call in from anywhere in the world for a teacher conference. With screen-sharing features, teachers can pull up student work and grades to share directly with the parent. Maybe you can set up some after-school office hours once or twice a week that would allow parents to connect when needed. Sometimes these parents are the ones who want to be the most involved, but their schedules prevent them. This is just another option for involving parents more deeply in the classroom to better support their student.

Most things boil down to communication. The better the communication, the higher the engagement. This is true for students in the classroom and for parents at home. These are just some of the ways that you can increase parent engagement, but there are others. If we want to get the most out of our students, parents and teachers must work together, and creative use of technology can make that possible.

If you have other ways for increasing parent engagement, please share them in the comments section below.

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TicherVirtual's picture

I'm focused on training parents how to take advantage of technology to improve their children's learning process. Some teachers don't have adequate resources at their workplace, but students do have access at home. Therefore, I consider important to guide parents on using apps and websites that help students to study better than the traditional way.

Linda McClinton's picture

Hello! I agree with technology enhancing parent engagement. I'm speaking from experience and am quite impressed with the system my childrens' school use called 'PowerSchools'. This allows parents to check attendance, grades, tardiness among other things.

Kristi Christensen's picture

I have never used Remind, but after reading this article I checked it out. I think that it is a great tool because most parents are more likely to open a text message than an email. At my last school I had the problem of my emails always ending up in parents' junk mail folders and their emails ending up in my junk folder. It really became a headache. Using text messaging also forces you to keep your messages brief, which I believe most parents appreciate, and it saves you time as well. Great article with good solutions to one of the less glamorous housekeeping tasks of a teacher.

Heidi Huebscher's picture

I love the idea that FreshGrade allows various stakeholders to comments on a student's artifact. I often feel that parental input it often missing from the learning process. How have you used it in your classroom?

Austin Halliburton's picture

I personally love the idea of Remind. It is a tool that is not use nearly enough. With a cell phone being an essential aspect of everyday life it is fairly safe to assume that every parent would have access to the information you can send to them via text. I do think that you even covered the very very small chance that the parent does not have the proper technology. I have never really thought about a high school teacher having office hours until this point. Even if you commit an hour a week to parents or just parents potentially coming to talk to you, it could help bridge an important gap that is too often left open. I also think that websites are too often left behind in the other commitments of teachers, but parents could use that in a positive way to remain up to date on classroom activities.

Heidi Huebscher's picture

Remind sounds like a great communication tool for the elementary classroom because sending home papers can be risky at this age level. I also find that many working families struggle to find time to read my classroom e-mails. Remind could be a great addition to the communication methods I already use. It seems as though everyone has a phone. It's instant, it's short, it's manageable!

Aaron Herm's picture
Aaron Herm
Teacher at Phantom Knight School of Opportunity

YouCanBook.me is worth checking out if you use Google Calendar. It's basically an online sign up sheet for parents to schedule an appointment with you. Just share the link with parents at the beginning of the year. You can collect information about the child, the issues to be discussed, and any other details. Parents love it, and it makes scheduling meetings super-easy.

I'm trying out Seesaw with a small group of my high school students. It's an app that allows students to easily upload artifacts of their learning to share with parents, teachers, and classmates. So far, it looks like a great way to get parents engaged in conversations about their child's learning.

emilycahalane's picture

Teacher-Parent communication and collaboration is so essential in the development and learning of a child. Another great benefit to technology and sending newsletters or updates to parents digitally is that they can often be dispersed in a variety of languages if necessary. With a growing population of English Language Learning students, it is important to keep in mind that some parents may have a different native language other than English, and as teachers, it would be essential to accommodate in any form of communicating in order to keep the parents informed and engaged in their student's education.

Alicia's picture

Great article! I am an education student and have been thinking a lot about how to keep parents interested in their children's school. I hadn't heard of Remind, it sounds like a great resource I need to check out! I also hadn't thought of skype, seems so obvious now! Thanks for the article.

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