How to Use Technology to Bring Parents Closer to the Classroom
It is important for schools to get parental buy-in on changes to teaching strategy. The adoption of in-classroom digital technology is no different. Technology, itself, however, can be an answer to this problem. It opens up lines of communication that can benefit both parents and schools alike.
Digitally-aided parent communication can create a more engaging environment in which parents feel valued. For academies and independent schools, competition for students is a factor driving decisioning. Technology is a way that these institutions can differentiate themselves. Technologically aided communication is a way to make sure parents perceive that differentiation.
Use email to communicate with parents. Most people use email as a primary method of communication already. General newsletters about school events, changes to administration or classes are a great way to build community engagements. Class newsletters can include examples of student work and details of upcoming assignments.
Email offers a great medium for individual or class-level communication. Teachers can keep parents updated on class subjects or the individual performance of students. The more you engage with parents, the more consulted they will feel about their child's learning environment. That level of ongoing engagement will improve the utility of face-to-face parent-teacher meetings.
Dedicated Web Pages
For a technically advanced teacher, setting up a class webpage using out-of-the-box web software such as Wix or even WordPress can add a level of professionalism and engagement options for communicating with parents. This could even be a joint effort between teachers and students that enables children to learn the basics of web design.
You can post classwork, keep a running update of assignments and keep parents updated on curriculum. This website can also work as an access point for children using digital learning materials inside and outside of class. The pitfall is to make sure that such a project does not take up too much time.
VLEs and E-Portfolios
Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and E-Portfolios offer a number of in-class benefits. VLEs are online resources that allow students to access coursework, submit assignments and communicate with teachers. E-Portfolios are simpler programs used to post and access existing assignments. Either could be a bespoke webpage, however, more commonly they are one of a number of dedicated platforms. In addition to providing features of their own, they can be used like a class website to communicate with parents and allow parents to keep track of assignments and their child's progress.
Social Media and Mobile Apps
In addition to email, teachers can consider using mainstream social media to stay in contact with parents. There are also education specific mobile apps for communication, such as Remind and ClassDojo. These allow for in-app updates and communication similar to that which is achievable via email, simply in a more streamlined environment.
The difficulty is the mastery of a new technology. Teachers need to learn how to use the apps. Perhaps more challengingly, teachers need to convince parents to download new applications and engage. One specific benefit of education apps, however, is that they allow for easy updates on grading. This information could be disseminated via email, but the apps make it easier to update grades and for parents to check in on the progress of their children.
Video Conferencing and Live Chats
For tech forward teachers, streaming services can allow parents to look in on classroom activities in real time. The benefits of this are debatable. But, the opportunity can certainly feel empowering to parents. Knowing that a school feel confident enough to let parents peer in through a live stream of their child’s class may make the difference when parents deciding which independent school to choose.
Live chats are an easier tool that teachers can use to have one-to-one text-based or video conversations with parents. This enables both teachers and parents to avoid scheduling clashes and unnecessary travel.
Summary: Technology Offers a Valuable Aid To Engage Parents and Differentiate Your School
One of the largest impacts technology has had on society is as a tool of communication. Schools should take advantage of this to engage with parents. Tools such as email require little to no investment to use. Building a website is easier than you think.
As with most applications of technology, it is important that schools enable tech-savvy teachers to advance under their own initiative. There are a lot of options available to those with drive and some knowledge of technology. The opportunities, particularly for independent schools and academies that face competition for students, are high. Technology provides a way to reach out and bring parents further into the educational process. This can improve outcomes for schools and reassure parents about the quality of their children's education.