A key component in the success of our students is recruiting parents as allies in the learning process. For my exploration of ISTE Coaching Standard 3G, I wanted to learn more about the most effective digital tools for communication with students and parents. The standard asks teachers to “Use digital communication and collaboration tools to communicate locally and globally with students, parents, peers, and the larger community” (Iste.org, 2017).
An important starting point is to consider the needs of parents. The Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning polled parents and principals in 2016 to compare the communication preferences of both parties. Highlights from the study can be found below in infographic format. What stood out to me was the disconnect that existed between principals and parents. Some of this disconnect likely trickles down into the classroom as well. Two significant methods of communication that principals believed to be effective (personal phone calls and Facebook) were viewed much less favorably by parents. Parents indicated a preference for email and text message communication.
Source: School-to-Home Communications: Most effective tools for parent communications & engagement; Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning; 2016. Link.
I kept these preferences in mind as I sought out digital communication resources. In exploring Common Sense Media (a fantastic resource for teachers to use when exploring new tech tools), I found a curated list of communication tools. Common Sense Media begins their list of communication tools with a rationale for digital communication:
- Digital communication is an easy way to keep parents informed about what is going on in class so that they can facilitate productive discussions with their children.
- Digital communication tools allow for mass communication which saves time when compared to individual phone calls or notes.
- Frequent digital communication increases student productivity. When teachers and parents present a united front, there is increased accountability for students. (Knutson, 2016)
Of the six tools recommended by Common Sense Media, I chose to focus on one that I felt would meet my needs as a high school teacher as well as parents’ desire to communicate via text message: Remind.
Remind is a digital communication tool that allows teachers to communicate with students and parents by sending out whole-class, group, or single messages. The great part about Remind is that you can send messages on your phone with the app while never revealing your personal phone number to parents or students. Likewise, students can send you messages and you see only their name, not their number.
Remind is an ideal communication tool because you can send messages to the entire class, a select group, or an individual student or parent. Messages can even be translated in order to facilitate communication with parents whose primary language isn’t English. I like the flexibility to communicate in these different ways within a single app. In addition to whole-class reminders, I can use the app to send resources or feedback to a group working on a project. You can even create a group message between a parent, student, and yourself. This would be ideal for detention reminders since everyone is in the loop.
I’m a believer in communicating the positives with parents and not reaching out only when there is a problem. However, it can be very time consuming to make individual phone calls and a teacher’s time is already limited. I love that I will be able to take and send a quick snapshot of a student’s work using Remind. Within the app, you have the ability to send photos, PDFs, and voice clips.
Creating an account with Remind was quick and easy. I set up two classes for the upcoming fall term. Each class has a unique URL which students and parents can navigate to in order to sign-up. Parents and students can also join by texting my class code to a Remind phone number. You also have the option to add people yourself via a phone number or email. If you log-on to the Remind website, you can generate a printable PDF that can be shared on the first day of school or Back to School night.
One concern I had with using Remind was getting messages in the middle of the night or on weekends. Using the Office Hours feature, I was able to select the days and times I can be contacted. Students and parents who send a message outside of those hours get an alert warning them that the message may not be viewed until office hours begin.
Another feature of Remind (which I hope to play around with more once school begins) is the option to integrate files from Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. If you use Quizlet, you can also integrate a link to a quiz within your Remind message.
I am looking forward to using Remind as a digital communication tool with my students and parents this fall!
Iste.org. (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches [Accessed 19 Aug. 2018].
Knutson, J. (2016). 6 Tech Tools That Boost Teacher-Parent Communication. Retrieved from https://www.commonsense.org/education/blog/6-tech-tools-that-boost-teacher-parent-communication
School-to-Home Communications: Most effective tools for parent communications & engagement [Infographic]. (2016). Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning. Retrieved from http://tomorrow.org/speakup/speakup-2016-school-to-home-communications-september-2017.html