Amy Jessica McMillan
Byrne, R. (2013). Two things you can do to increase communication with parents. Free tech for teachers. from http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2013/04/two-things-you-can-do-to-increase.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+freetech4teachers%2FcGEY+%28Free+Technology+for+Teachers%29#.VBwzYC5dWQh
Education blogger Richard Byrne gives two technology-related strategies for improving communication with families. One idea is to create a classroom blog and to consistently add important, relevant content. He explains that many teachers quit blogging based on the initial low response, but Byrne argues that parents will start checking classroom blogs frequently once they realize important information is stored there. Another idea is to allow and even encourage text messages from students and parents. He argues that for the “under-30” generation, texting is the easiest way to communicate. If teachers don’t want to provide personal cell phone numbers, services like Google Voice and Remind 101 allow messages to come to the user’s computer, no cell phone number required.
Keeping a consistent, useful, and relevant blog is a challenging task for many teachers. Byrne is probably correct that blogging is the most effective way to communicate with most 21st century parents, but many teachers—if they are telling parents about classwork at all—are still sending out newsletters on paper. For the blogging idea to work, teachers need professional development on how to blog and create websites. They also need to believe it will work before they devote the significant amount of time required by keeping an up-to-date blog. Finally, most parents are online, but not all. How can we communicate with the parents who do not have computer literacy skills and / or do not have an internet connection?
The idea about text messaging is very helpful. Google Voice, in particular, is easier to use than most school voice mail systems. It alerts your email when you have a message and keeps an automatic record of all messages received. Google Voice even transcribes voice mails, saving the teacher time when he or she looks over messages. Remind 101 is another useful app that provides a simple communication path for parents and schools. I prefer Google Voice since it integrates with Gmail, but both apps work well. The only downside to encouraging text messages is that teachers could potentially be overwhelmed by the quantity of messages received. However, the pros outweigh this concern because our overarching goal should be to improve communication and to make it as easy as possible for all stakeholders.