Back to School: Engaging Parents

A few weeks ago, I was faculty at the CUE Rockstar event in Crescent City. Last week, I attended the #edcamp here in Portland, #edcampPDX. At both places, I talked with teachers about better ways to engage parents, based on the techniques we use in the Army, but I also talked about tools teachers can use in better engaging parents.

And since school has actually started in many places, to include our own school district, I should probably share some of those ideas here as well. Here they are: Some tools to consider, when changing how you engage parents during this coming school year.

Remind – formerly remind101, it serves as a cut-out between teachers and their students and parents. Through a web interface or a phone app, teachers, students, and parents alike can send messages back and forth – without seeing each other actual phone numbers or email addresses. Remind has some strong features, to include being able to set and send one-way announcements, which are great for everything from updates during snow days, to reminders as school breaks are coming to a close. And as it works with parents equally as well with students, it’s a great tool for sharing information and for engaging in two-ways chats, or send audio clips. It’s a good and powerful tool that can work well with some needs.

Slack – This is the app and suite of tools for teachers who are ready to embrace parents as a part of a team. Slack is a messaging app designed for full team integration, but it doesn’t have any of the barriers or shields of Remind. It’s direct messaging. As a team, you’d be able to create private groups (think, for projects or special issues), but conversations get organized into channels. It’s hip, it’s sleek, it’s got full web, tablet and phone integration, but this is the approach for a teacher who has parents who are wonderful and awesome. Or for a group of parents who are their awesome, go-to team – their Avengers. (I’m sort of in love with Slack right now.)

Blab – Blab is somewhere between Periscope and a Google Hangout. Blabs a public video chat sessions, of up to four people, that you can record and save to your device if you want. They are public – anyone can watch them. But only up to four people can be a part of the video discussion – not less than two, and not more than four. There’s also a means for people not on the video session to also provide input, too.

WhatsApp This is the best and most commonly used texting app – outside of the United States. There is no Remind-like cut out – you’ll be in direct contact with your parents. But for teachers who have students (and parents) who have immigrated, you may find that this is their preferred method of communicating – since it may be how they are staying in touch with friends and family back home. Cross platform, it runs on iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Nokia and yes, even Windows – in addition to web browser based access.

Edpuzzle / Zaption – Ostensibly, these are both websites teachers use to make watching videos interactive learning experiences. By providing a video source – from youtube, Vimeo, or other, teachers can then create an overlay that asks questions, makes points and observations, and gathers feedback. Which is fine – but the same tools and concepts can be used with parents. These are also great tools to be used an engaging parents, when carefully thought thru and applied with care.

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