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Monday, September 26, 2016

Best Practices for Parent School Communication with Mobile Technology

Best Practices for Parent-School Communication with Mobile Technology

As mobile technologies take off in school environments it is important for teachers and administrators to ask, "What is the best way to leverage technology to build our classroom environments?" After posting the title page of my latest conference session, "Parent/School/Student Communication with Mobile Tech-The Good, The Bad, and The Dangerous," I was asked, "What do you consider 'Dangerous?'"

In this post, I want to take a proactive, positive approach to the question by addressing the Best Practices for Parent School Communication with Mobile Tech. While presenting at the local, regional, and state conferences, and my state's PTA convention, I've asked the questions and am willing to share the answers participants shared.

1. Choose the right Mobile Technology Service for you.
As a classroom teacher or administrator, you must know what you want to share with students and parents.  This will drive your choice of services available. If you only want to send short text reminders, and/or many of your parents don't have data services on their phones, then Remind might be best for you. If you want the ability to send longer messages and schedule conferences, then you might prefer Bloomz. For an all inclusive service with messaging, student portfolios, and behavior data, ClassDojo is an amazing choice. It is important that you understand the features available and make the choice that best meets your needs. However, keep in mind that all of the services are continually evolving and improving their services by adding new features.The examples above are overly simplistic. It is important to do your research and chose the service that best fits your needs. Links to three of the most popular, and that I have tried personally, are provided below.
More about Remind
More about Bloomz
More about ClassDojo

2. Know and be able to explain the security features to support the service you choose.
Each mobile communication service that specializes in parent school communication, is continually challenged by student rights and privacy groups, as well as the media. No service is 100% secure. Some teacher or parent may leave their app open. Some student may share their password. A hacker may steal passwords or gain access by impersonating a teacher or administrator. However, each service will make it really obvious to you that they are COPPA and FERPA compliant. Make sure you know the requirements and be careful not to share student photos without permission. The badges below are borrowed from ClassDojo.

3. Know your audience.
Teachers and administrators need to know their parents and students comfort level with mobile technology and mobile communication.

How often will your parents want to receive messages?
In my conference sessions, with both teachers and parents, the answers range from daily to weekly. As the teacher or administrator at your school, you will need to decide what is best for your site. Most services allow you to send to the entire group, a subgroup of parents, or individual parents. This will allow you to share major reminders about days off and field trips with everyone, and still allow the flexibility to share classroom celebrations with individual parents that appreciate it. 

How long of message are you parents comfortable receiving?
Just as I scan my emails, blog posts, and professional learning network posts, parents will quickly scan your communication. Long, rambling emails or messages will soon be put off to look at later, and often, later never comes. It is best to keep your most important messages short, positive, and in active voice. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, proofread every message with a critical eye before sending anything.

What time of day is the best time to send messages?
I once signed up for an encouraging message for teachers. It turned out that the sender sent wonderful texts that were positive and uplifting every day at 4:00 AM. The best news, arriving at the wrong time, hinders the parent-school communication more that enhances it. In our discussions at conferences, and by asking my own student's parents, it seems that most parents prefer to receive messages after school and before 8:00 PM.  The most common time that is considered "Ideal" is 6:00 PM. This is after most parents are off work, before students go to bed, and early enough to get something done if needed (complete an assignment or pick up a lunch for a field trip).

Parent/school communication is changing at a tremendous pace, and the tools available are changing rapidly as well. The best practice is to:
Know your parents.
Know their wants and needs.
Know their schedules.
Choose the right service for you and them.
Be able to explain and support your choice to both parents and administration.

Twitter @ahancock516

About Me
  • Sixth Grade Teacher in a k-6 elementary school teaching all subjects
  • Over 20 years of classroom experience in grades 3, 5, and 6
  • Former Interventions Specialist specializing in behavioral interventions
  • Technology Focus Teacher implementing 1:1 iPads for the last 4 years
  • Just in Time Trainer
  • Presenter (Idaho Core Days, Technology Showcases, Idaho State PTA Convention, and Idaho Educational Technology Association conference) on “BYOT-Making it Work in Your Classroom,” “Parent/School Communication with Mobile Tech” and "Build it and They will Learn-Making Space for MakerSpace
  • Remind Connected Educator
  • Class Dojo Mentor & US Ambassador
  • Contributor to the IEA Reporter