Improving School Communication for Parents
With the advent of the digital age, most parents have an overload of messages that they are trying to classify and prioritize. Add to that the fact that most have more than one child in school, and those messages multiply. The Speak Up Research Project asserts that parents want school information to be timely, targeted, and personalized to their children or their interest areas.
Citing four primary areas where parents want more communication than they currently receive, the 2016 survey found that parents, care-givers, grandparents and guardians desire:
- More specific technology helps for students to use at home for learning.
- Educational apps to access important learning tools.
- Which specific technology students are using to help them in the workplace.
- Recommendations from teachers for learning opportunities.
However, digital applications do make sharing information so much easier and faster than “checking the backpack for handouts.” Many schools now have apps just for their school, allowing parents to find specific information at a glance.
Kathleen Morris, of Primary Tech: Helping teachers create digitally literate global learners, suggests several ways to have parent-to-school, and school-to-parent, communication:
- A class and/or school blog. She says a class blog is a way for teachers to give all parents a virtual window into the day while allowing for feedback through comments. Part of the blog can highlight student work, which is a great conversation prompter around a meal.
A school blog would be broader to include events going on around the school, sporting events, academic teams, and any other information helpful to parents as they strive to keep up with what is happening at school.
- Podcast Insights says that over 50% of homes in America listen to podcasts, and not just one podcast, but the entire series. Over 70% of the population is familiar with podcasts, and the percentage of non-white listeners has increased from 30% to 36% in the last seven years.
Morris suggests allowing different students to lead the podcast as a way to involve them in the communication stream. Parents can conveniently listen on the go.
- With apps for voice communication like Voxer, Google Voice, Seesaw, Remind, and ClassDojo, teachers can share stories, videos and messages with parents easily.
- Social media and email have been used to keep parents up to date, but the use of one of the newer technologies has the more personalized benefit of providing a glimpse into the activities of the day.
When teachers and schools choose to use any one of these communication tools, bear in mind that some instruction for parents will be necessary at the beginning of the school year. Explain clearly how you will be communicating at the beginning of the year. Coach parents to look out for the methods you set up, and stay consistent in your communication method. Seek feedback from parents on how you can make improvements to your method(s). Help with technology barriers for parents who may struggle to know how to use a particular method. And, finally, use students whenever you can as part of your communication method—parents will love to hear their own children deliver the “news”.