Time to do away with the trusty parent newsletter or phone call? Well … perhaps not yet, but the moment has come for teachers to reevaluate the means in which they communicate with parents about their children. Whether it’s as simple as a reminder about bringing library books or as involved as sharing concerns about a missing assignment, teachers need to find out exactly how parents prefer to receive this information. Be prepared, though, for social media tools to be among the top choices.
To determine what parents want, just ask. Using a survey or other means of feedback is the best way for teachers to customize parent preferences. Paper newsletters, email, Twitter, Facebook, texting … put those choices out there and see what happens. Teachers, though, will find that families will probably elect some form of social media, if not two. It makes sense, of course. Parents are on the move these days getting to work and chauffeuring kids to evening events, so fishing out paper newsletters at 8:30 p.m. becomes problematic. However, while waiting in the parking lot for the end of basketball practice, mom and dad can be viewing classroom text messages or a Facebook post.
Using social media for communication also requires some consideration on how it’s used. For one, social media is not equal opportunity when it comes to the type of information shared. Twitter and texting, for example, are best for reminders and quick links to additional information. Academic content, though, is usually better suited for a blog or other platform. Another consideration is staying aware of how often information is provided. Too little or too much — both are a problem. Don’t wear people out with 5 texts a day or fail to post on a regular basis. Either sends a bad signal to parents. Regardless of how or what updates are shared, the information should always be professional and distributed through classroom-dedicated accounts. Complaints to Delta Airlines about missing luggage, for example, needs to happen on personal tools.
While Facebook, Twitter, and blogs easily come to mind with regard to social media, texting is one that teachers should give special consideration. Traditional texting involves parents knowing the teacher’s cell phone number, something about which most teachers aren’t too thrilled. New online text messaging services exist, though — ranging from free to paid — that can eliminate this issue. They all share the common ability to hide teacher phone numbers and eliminate the work of enrolling parents via an “opt in” function. Teachers tell parents how they can sign up for the service, parents enroll, and the phone numbers automatically populate into a messaging group.
All text messaging services have pros and cons, but here are some worth investigating:
- Free, safe, one-way messaging system created specifically for education
- Simplest to use
- Teacher sends info. to group.
- Can set up reminders and postdate them to go out automatically
- Stores all sent messages
- Phone/tablet app available
- Free, owned by Scholastic
- Allows for announcements and two-way private messaging
- Strictly for education use
- Share texts, photos, video and documents, create forms — such as Volunteer sign-ups — and meeting requests
- Unlimited classes
- Can see which parents read a particular message
- Accessed from a variety of mobile devices
- Free for 25 students/one classroom with unlimited texting
- Price plans after that
- Allows for personalized feedback to individuals or groups
- Any device
- Can also do polls
- Currently working on iOS and Android apps
- Requires Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Internet Explorer 10 browser
- Site says it works best with the app (for the teacher – parents don’t need anything.) Note: Devices running pre-iOS7 may have to go through additional steps to set up.
- Members can exchange group messages, polls, reminders, etc.
- Record of all texts sent and received
- Can use to create a “Twitter Wall” or polls
- Can open to anyone or keep it restricted. Restricted can require a password
- Can choose how everyone chats
- Can schedule messages up to 90 days in advance
For those teachers ready to get up and running with parent communication using social media, contact Paula Setser-Kissick or anyone in the Office of Instructional Technology for assistance. We are happy to provide individual, group or faculty training!