How to Leverage Technology to Engage Parents at Scale
Parent engagement is a goal for most educational communities. But at the same time, it often seems like it gets more lip service than serious attention. There can sometimes be the attitude that it is the parents’ job to put in the effort to engage with the school and not the school’s job to engage with the parent. But given that research shows powerful, positive benefits of parent engagement, it is long past time to end the war over whose job it is to engage with whom and to focus instead on how to make it happen.
The good news is that there is a variety of new digital tools that make it easier than ever for schools to engage parents. It should go without saying—but perhaps it doesn’t—that a robust Facebook and Twitter presence will make it easier for parents to be engaged with what is happening in their kids’ schools. Whether it is news of the latest PTA meeting or a reminder that standardized tests are on the horizon, it’s never been easier to communicate with parents.
There is no longer any need to worry about flyers in backpacks not quite making it to their intended destination. At the same time, it may be that the parents who aren’t on Facebook and Twitter are the ones who are most in need of establishing strong lines of communication with their kids’ schools. So, schools need to be proactive to ensure that they are communicating along channels that reach all parents.
But thinking of engagement as announcements and current events is far too limited. Some very powerful benefits of parent engagement stem from engagement not with the school as a community but rather with the content of what their children are learning. In other words, parents need to be aware of what is happening in the classroom so that they can engage and support their children at home.
One powerful platform for this is Seesaw, which can be thought of as a private social media portal for the classroom. Parents and others can see and comment on what their children are doing in class when students post video, audio, and text showing their work. This can be an especially powerful way to engage non-custodial parents and distant family members. Teachers have long known that giving students an audience beyond the classroom can be an important motivator, and a variety of digital tools can make that a simple reality.