When I started teaching 1994, I had no computer in my classroom or at home. No email! We did have a student computer lab for typing tutorials, word processing and making pictures with Kid Pix, but that was it. I visited my parents’ house on the weekends to create classroom materials and search for teaching ideas in the new world of cyberspace, at dial-up speed.
Ah, life in a pre-email teaching world definitely had pros and cons, but teachers and parents today probably agree, technology has made communication easier.
Nowadays, new technology is not so new! Developers hatch all sorts of game-changing innovations every time we blink. Here are just a few handy tech tools to help you connect with parents in our digital world.
- Organize your classroom volunteers with Volunteer Spot. Just set up an account, list your job descriptions, and days/times, and let parents sign up. This also makes signing up for parent/teacher conferences a breeze!
- Use Class Dojo to track behavior, encourage students with positive feedback, show progress, and easily communicate with parents.
- Send alerts and reminders via text messages with Remind.com. According to some new studies, a few text messages might have a powerful effect on student performance. At the very least, it’s great for last minute field trip reminders!
- Send mobile-friendly email newsletters. This post and video tutorial gives you a quick overview of how to use an online email marketing system to send awesome classroom newsletters.
- Share curriculum night presentations or helpful tutorials on Google Drive.
- When you need to meet with parents face-to-face but can’t do it in person, Skype or Google Hangouts are great options. You can also invite a parent to share an area of expertise with the class via video chat, without ever leaving the office!
- Most teachers post important dates, class forms, updates and homework assignments to a class website. This article from Learn NC has some handy tips, if you’re just getting started with a class site. Some teachers also use class blogs for students, parents and teachers to all chime in and discuss learning topics together. This episode on BAM! Radio walks you through using blogs as a way to engage students and families.
- Do you ever get lost on Pinterest in your free time; pinning recipes, crafts and home decor ideas? Um, yeah. Me too! Lots of parents are pinning, so it’s a great place for you to share home learning ideas, book recommendations and more! Here are a few easy ways to use Pinterest for parent communication.
- Mainstream social media can help teachers connect with parents since it allows you to meet parents where they already hang out. Survey parents to see which types of social media tools they use, then pick one that the majority of parents favor. If you’re connecting with parents on social media, it’s important to think about privacy issues and make a plan before you start. Think about your own privacy and the privacy of your students. Consider setting up separate professional sites to prevent families from virtually vacationing with you on spring break. Determine if and how you want to show students’ pictures online, and consider the best ways to keep photos and information secure. (For example, setting up private Facebook groups or private Instagram accounts for your class.)
- And back to email. It remains one of the best ways to share updates and general information with parents. Even when you need to discuss something big, an email can help you get the ball rolling and highlight topics you’d like to discuss on the phone or in person. Many of us appreciate a little heads-up in advance, to think about an issue before speaking about a plan or a solution. So email can be a perfect way to preview an important discussion. I love these email etiquette tips from Cool Cat Teacher.
Face-to-face communication in real time will (hopefully) never go out of style, but these cool tools can definitely make staying in touch a whole lot easier for busy teachers and parents.