It seems so simple. There must be an efficient and convenient way for teachers and parents to communicate during the school year. With seemingly infinite choices of technology available, this should be a no brainer, right?
Photo courtesy of Unsplash
Not so fast. Options may be plentiful, but which is best? Teachers must choose a method that engages parents while not sacrificing social boundaries of their own.
Let’s examine a few of the options teachers use:
Clearly not designed for teachers to communicate with parents, there are more cons than pros here. A delicate professional boundary may be compromised when teachers become "friends" with parents and/or students on Facebook.
Additionally, privacy is an exposure. For example, as a parent, I don’t want to be in a “private” Facebook group with other parents in my child’s class. Why? First, I don’t know all of the parents in my child’s class- nor do they know me. With the frequently changing Facebook privacy settings, I cannot be assured that an unknown member of the group isn’t “stalking” my Facebook page. No, I’m not paranoid. Let’s be honest- it's easy to find out a lot about a person via their Facebook page, without even being connected to them.
Third, Facebook is not an efficient way to manage important events in a classroom. Can you imagine how overwhelming it would be to have every pajama day, party, unit change, test, and student birthday in Facebook?
Finally, I’m not convinced that even a “private” Facebook group is truly private.
While great for random snippets of information and planned Twitter chats, this is not an effective tool for notifying parents. First and foremost, not all parents use Twitter. Secondly, the Twitter feed moves so fast that if you aren’t keeping a constant eye on it, you’ll miss an important tweet. Unless, of course, you consciously remember to go in and check a Twitter handle that is managed by your child’s coach or teacher. Seriously, how many of us need one more thing to remember on our plates?
I don’t think there is one person reading this who would disagree with me on the fact that a top priority is to REDUCE the amount of current email. Honestly, when a retail cashier asks for my email, my standard answer has become “firstname.lastname@example.org.” That said, I get that it’s the default mode of communication from my kids’ schools. I have to believe they can do better. I receive several emails per day - from the district, principals, various teachers, and the “PeachJar flyer”, etc. I know I miss important information. I just simply can’t get to them all, and I’ve learned that most of it is not mission critical.
I only have one comment about this form of communication, and yes, it is still used. If a paper newsletter goes home in the backpack of an elementary school child whose parents are divorced, what are the chances that one of the parents won’t get the information? Given the fact that only 46% of kids under 18 in the U.S. live in a household with two parents in their first marriage (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/12/22/less-than-half-of-u-s-kids-today-live-in-a-traditional-family/), it would seem to be a relatively safe bet that one parent (in the other 64% of households) will something important.
This is great for quick last minute reminders, but not for engaging parents and communicating larger bits of information. Teachers who use Remind are also forced to add other modes of communication to supplement what Remind can’t do, which leads often leads back to email for communicating information that can’t be sent out to parents via a quick reminder. Ugh, more email.
School student management system (SMS).
There are significant merits to a school’s SMS. From a school perspective, the SMS is an invaluable way to manage and store student data. However, from a parent perspective, the only thing I will use an SMS for is to log in and see my child’s grades and/or assignment status. They are not an attractive mode of communication with parents for information beyond grades and general engagement, because most parents are not going to log in to an app they use for nothing else.
I’m a huge fan of Slack for business communities. But, that’s what it’s most used for- business and professional communities. I don’t know of any stay at home moms (or very many parents outside the business world in general) who are familiar with or would use Slack. It isn’t useful to them beyond a group for their child’s classroom.
MYLO (web: http://www.mylogroups.com/ and mobile) is private by design and created for all social groups in a person’s life. Clicking on a member of a group will not allow you to see anything about that member outside of what the member has specifically shared with the group. Educators and coaches can inform, remind, and engage parents inside a private group using Events, Photo Albums, Lists, and Chat. There is also a prominent message board for an announcement to the group. MYLO also eliminates the need for email or additional forms of communication. However, it is not an SMS, so it doesn’t house coursework or grades. MYLO is an ideal method of communication, because parents use it for other uses in their lives like they do other social media that isn’t private.
A parent's wish list...
I commend school districts that value innovation and foster creativity with their educators, encouraging them branch out and try what works best. But, I also think it's important to consider what works best for parents. So, here's my wish list:
Private (truly private, not Facebook "private" group private)
A single app that is comprehensive enough to eliminate multiple forms of communication
Has purpose outside of school i.e. I can use it for other areas of my life
What’s yours? What do you think is the most effective way for parents and teachers to engage?
Janel is the CEO and Co-founder of MYLO, a division of Frienedy, LLC. MYLO is a lifestyle app designed for private group networking. Janel left a 20-year corporate career in sales and marketing to form a private media platform around her vision for social group productivity and positive digital citizenship.