“Edmodo launches new app aimed at increasing parental involvement”

Edmodo launches new app aimed at increasing parental involvement is the headline of a piece in Education Dive.

Here’s how it begins:

Social learning network Edmodo this week announced the launch of an Edmodo for Parents app, allowing parents to track their child’s work and learn how they can help meet learning goals.

I’m adding it to A Beginning List Of The Best Resources On Using Technology To Help Engage Parents.

From Edutopia: “5 App and Mobile Use Guides for Parents”

Edutopia has just published 5 App and Mobile Use Guides for Parents.

Their post includes:

A Guide for Using Apps During Family Time (Grades K-5)

Apps to Share With the Children in Your Life (Grades K-5)

Recommendations for Fun, Engaging Family Apps (All Ages)

A Smartphone Guide for Parents of Tweens and Teens (Grades 6-12)

A Parent’s Guide to Phone Safety (All Ages)

Large Florida District Creates App For Parents

Pinellas schools hope app engages parents is an article from a Florida newspaper about a large school district creating a smartphone app for students.

Here’s how it begins:

Pinellas County schools have launched a new smartphone application meant to encourage parents to play a more active role in their children’s education.

The “PCS Family Engagement Mobile App” has a link for every Pinellas school and gives parents information on academic standards, student scholarships and ways to get involved in their child’s education. Links in the app provide “How To” videos to help children be successful in school, parent workshops and support groups, information on upcoming events, ways to volunteer in the district and family engagement tips.

The free app, available for Apple and Android devices, allows users to message teachers and other school officials directly, sends users notifications and adds events to the phone’s calendar.

I’m adding this info to A Beginning List Of The Best Resources On Using Technology To Help Engage Parents.

“Connecting Families” Program From Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media, which has been doing a good job reviewing different media for its family-friendliness for years, has created “Connecting Families” (and it’s supported by the National PTA).

Here’s how they describe it:

From cyberbullying and photo sharing to digital footprints and online safety, the Connecting Families program helps parents and kids address important topics and have meaningful conversations about making great choices in their digital lives.

This free, year long program includes everything parent facilitators need to encourage their schools and communities to use connected technologies in ways that are both fun and safe. Our resources include a step-by-step hosting guide, conversation topics, and printable resources to share — all carefully researched and crafted by Common Sense educational technology experts.

“Parental Involvement: A Neglected Resource”

Parental Involvement: A Neglected Resource is an ASCD post sharing some ways to develop parent involvement with technology.

I’ve got to say that I’ve got some questions about how effective the tools and strategy described there really are but, nevertheless, I’ll add it to A Beginning List Of The Best Resources On Using Technology To Help Engage Parents.

I’ll let readers make the call.

“Parents’ Top 12 Back-to-School Tech Questions”

Parents’ Top 12 Back-to-School Tech Questions is a useful article from Common Sense Media.

It shares answers to these questions:

What’s the right age for my kid to bring a cell phone to school?
What are the rules about using cell phones at school?
Should students and teachers be friends on Facebook?
Back-to-school shopping has gotten so commercial. How do I avoid ad overload?
Should I let my child bring an iPod (or other music device) to school?
Should I upgrade my kid’s iPod Touch — even though it works fine?
Does reading on the iPad or Kindle count toward my kids’ daily reading minutes, or would it just be considered screen time?
How do I make sure my kids are ready for learning when school starts?
What should students know about sending email to a teacher?
Should schools teach responsible online behavior?
What should I know about my school’s 1:1 device program?
Are there parental controls for schools’ 1:1 device programs?
How can I find the best educational programs to use at home with my kids?

It doesn’t quite fit, but I’m still adding it to A Beginning List Of The Best Resources On Using Technology To Help Engage Parents.

“Celly” Can Facilitate Parent/Teacher Communication

Teacher and blogger Vicki Davis highly recommends Celly for parent/teacher communication.

Here’s what she writes (followed by the video):

I love this app. Here’s the video about how you set up a parent “cell” so you can communicate with them via cell phone WITHOUT giving all of them your cell phone number! LOVE IT! Awesome.

I’m adding it to A Beginning List Of The Best Resources On Using Technology To Help Engage Parents.

A Few Potentially Useful Tech Tools For Teacher/Parent Communication

I thought readers might find it useful if I a handful of tech tools that might be helpful with teacher/parent communication.

Remind 101 is described by teacher Lisa Mims as “a safe way for teachers to text message students and parents without giving out your phone number or requiring theirs!” You can read more about it at her blog post.

Over at my other blog, I’ve posted a list of easy ways anyone can create their own website, including teachers and students.

However, there are also a few web tools out there specifically designed for creating class websites. I haven’t tried any of them, but they might be worth a look:

SchoolRack

Class Jump

Weebly For Educators

Mommazoo

Otter is a new tool for creating class websites. You can read more about it at Richard Byrne’s blog.

Let me know what tech tools I’m missing!

I’ll add these resources to A Beginning List Of The Best Resources On Using Technology To Help Engage Parents.

A Beginning List Of The Best Resources On Using Technology To Help Engage Parents

I thought topic would a useful post for readers, and hope you’ll suggest other resources.

You can also see all my “The Best…” lists related to parent engagement here.

Here are my choices for A Beginning List Of The Best Resources On Using Technology To Help Engage Parents:

Joe Mazza, the coordinator of #PTchat on Twitter and a school principal in Philadelphia, has put all his parent presentations online in one place.  He has many more resources on his site there, and should be the starting place for anybody interested in using social media to connect better with parents.

Tech May Have A Role, But Is Not Cure-All, For Parent Engagement is a post I wrote on the topic, and Myrdin Thompson wrote a response titled Did the Tech fail or was there a failure to connect to the Tech?

Lorna Costantini has developed an excellent presentation on how schools can use technology to connect with parents.

Check-out her Digital Parent Engagement – k12Online Conference 2010 presentation.

is how she describes it:

video some of the best practices of innovative teachers and parents who are using digital technology to form strong positive working relationships and give parents tools that they can use to support their child’s learning.

The Impact of Technology on Parental Involvement: Perceptions of teachers and guidance counselors regarding the impact of a parent portal component of a student information system on parental involvement at the high school level is a very long title for a potentially useful report.

‘Public Square’ Website Solicits Parents’ Insights is another good post from Michele Molnar over at Education Week. She reports on how a Florida school district is using social media in an ambitious effort to discuss and plan ways to increase parent involvement, and includes several good links.

Data Through Parent Portals: An Exploration of Parental Motivation, Data Use, and the Promise of Prolonged Parent Involvement is from The Harvard Family Research Project.

Here are a post on schools providing computers and home internet access to families:Home Computer Project Expansion & Assessment Results

Could Providence’s Word Counting Project Be A “Boondoggle” As Well As Being Creepy?

I’m A Bit Wary Of Harvard’s Plan For Online Parent Surveys

“Flipping” classroom instruction is pretty popular these days, and Peter DeWitt has two posts over at Education Week suggesting ways to apply the concept to parent communication:

Flipping Parent Communication?

Take a Risk…Flip Your Parent Communication!

I thought readers might find it useful if I a handful of tech tools that might be helpful with teacher/parent communication.

Remind 101 is described by teacher Lisa Mims as “a safe way for teachers to text message students and parents without giving out your phone number or requiring theirs!” You can read more about it at her blog post.

Over at my other blog, I’ve posted a list of easy ways anyone can create their own website, including teachers and students.

However, there are also a few web tools out there specifically designed for creating class websites. I haven’t tried any of them, but they might be worth a look:

SchoolRack

Class Jump

Weebly For Educators

Mommazoo

Let me know what tech tools I’m missing!

Ideas to Increase Parent Communication in Schools is a post by principal Eric Sheninger that includes a number of useful ideas.

How Should Schools and Parents Be Involved in Kids’ Online Lives? is a very useful post from MindShift that provides advice to parents on how to handle online access with their kids.

It doesn’t quite fit in list, but I’m adding it, anyway.

Teacher and blogger Vicki Davis highly recommends Celly for parent/teacher communication.

Here’s what she writes (followed by the video):

I love app. Here’s the video about how you set up a parent “cell” so you can communicate with them via cell phone WITHOUT giving all of them your cell phone number! LOVE IT! Awesome.

post by Jess Young at Edublogs discusses a parent survey and offers a useful “take” on using tech tools for parent involvement.

Two Easy Tools Teachers Can Use to Coordinate Parent Volunteers is a useful post by Richard Byrne.

Parents’ Top 12 Back-to-School Tech Questions is a useful article from Common Sense Media.

It answers to these questions:

What’s the right age for my kid to bring a cell phone to school?
What are the rules about using cell phones at school?
Should students and teachers be friends on Facebook?
Back-to-school shopping has gotten so commercial. How do I avoid ad overload?
Should I let my child bring an iPod (or other music device) to school?
Should I upgrade my kid’s iPod Touch — even though it works fine?
Does reading on the iPad or Kindle count toward my kids’ daily reading minutes, or would it just be considered screen time?
How do I make sure my kids are ready for learning when school starts?
What should students know about sending email to a teacher?
Should schools teach responsible online behavior?
What should I know about my school’s 1:1 device program?
Are there parental controls for schools’ 1:1 device programs?
How can I find the best educational programs to use at home with my kids?

How social media helps bridge the gap between home and school is an article in The Guardian.

Here’s an excerpt:

But there’s no point in shying away from changes, says Stewart. “The way that we communicate has changed dramatically over the past five to 10 years: why shouldn’t the way we communicate with parents reflect ?”

“Parent engagement is paramount,” adds Thomas. “The more parents are involved in children’s learning, the more children want to do better and the harder they work.”

Parental Involvement: A Neglected Resource is an ASCD post some ways to develop parent involvement with technology. I’ve got to say that I’ve got some questions about how effective the tools and strategy described there really are but, nevertheless, I’ll add it to list. I’ll let readers make the call.

Ways To Use Technology To Engage With Parents is a useful short article at EdTechReview.

Parents Look to Teachers for Help Using Educational Media at Home is a useful article from The National Writing Project.

It different ways schools are providing assistance to parents in helping them guide their child’s use of online sites.

The Flip Side of Parent Communication is a blog post from ASCD In Service that discusses taking the popular ideas of flipping classrooms and applying to parent communication:

DeWitt started documenting school events and introduced parents to the concept of flipped communication. Some of the videos he shared recapped the week’s activities (e.g., 11-26-13 and 11-18-13) and others chronicled bigger occasions such as Fire Prevention Day, which brought together fire departments from two communities (Poestenkill welcomed 100 new students when a nearby school closed, making the collaboration especially significant).

Bill Ferriter sent a tweet out about a site called Sign-Up Genius. It looks like a very easy tool to use to have volunteers sign-up for just about anything, including volunteering at school.

Talking to parents in 140 characters: how are schools using social media? is a useful article in the British newspaper, The Guardian.

SchoolCircle – Organize Your Communication to Parents is a post by Richard Bryne about a new online teacher/parent communication tool called… SchoolCircle.

Parent Communication Toolbox is a very useful post from Edutopia, written by Gwen Pescatore.

Using Scannable Technology to Reach Parents Year Round is from Edutopia.

Richard Byrne writes about Class Messenger from Scholastic.

Pinellas schools hope app engages parents is an article from a Florida newspaper about a large school district creating a smartphone app for students.

Here’s how it begins:

Pinellas County schools have launched a new smartphone application meant to encourage parents to play a more active role in their children’s education.

The “PCS Family Engagement Mobile App” has a link for every Pinellas school and gives parents information on academic standards, student scholarships and ways to get involved in their child’s education. Links in the app provide “How To” videos to help children be successful in school, parent workshops and support groups, information on upcoming events, ways to volunteer in the district and family engagement tips.

The free app, available for Apple and Android devices, allows users to message teachers and other school officials directly, sends users notifications and adds events to the phone’s calendar.

5 Ways to Engage Parents Using Google Drive is from Corkboard Connections.

Parent Communication: Easy and Convenient Tools that Keep Parents Informed is a useful blog post from teacher Rachel Lynette’s blog. She offers suggestions of how she uses tech to connect with parents and, most importantly, shares some concrete examples.

How using technology can keep parents in the loop is an article in eSchool News that shares several examples of how schools are using tech to connect with parents.

Homeroom lets teachers create private photo albums of classroom activities for their students’ parents.

You can read more about it at TechCrunch.

Connecting Parents With Common Core Through Remind & Twitter is a useful post at Education Week.

Here’s how it begins:

How often does this conversation happen for parents? “How was school today, what did you do?” We all know the response – “nothing, not sure, can’t remember, don’t know” etc.

At John Swett Elementary (@jseroadrunners), we’ve torn down the classroom walls and are connecting parents with school life and Common Core implementation on a daily, even hourly basis! Remind and Twitter have profoundly changed our communication flow from what’s happening in the classroom to directly connecting with parents, via their phone.

Is Facebook the New School Web Page? is an article appearing in Ed Tech Magazine.

Here’s its subtitle:

The popular social media site has revolutionized how some schools communicate with students and parents.

Edmodo launches new app aimed at increasing parental involvement is the headline of a piece in Education Dive.

Here’s how it begins:

Social learning network Edmodo this week announced the launch of an Edmodo for Parents app, allowing parents to track their child’s work and learn how they can help meet learning goals.

Five of the best apps that help teachers communicate with parents is a useful post from The Guardian.

Apps that connect teachers and parents can help overcome language barriers is from Education Dive.

“Connecting Parents and Schools Via Social Media Initiatives”

Joe Mazza is co-leading an upcoming Ed Week Webinar on Connecting Parents and Schools Via Social Media Initiatives. Here’s the description:

Connecting Parents and Schools Via Social Media Initiatives

This event takes place on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 12 to 1 p.m. ET.

From using Skype to run parent-teacher conferences to live streaming PTA meetings, the variety of digital-outreach tactics employed by school leaders continues to grow. But socioeconomic disparities like access to technology and digital know-how are limiting participation. As a result, some districts are forging partnerships and providing resources to help parents become more digitally literate. Join this webinar, which will explore some promising practices being undertaken to engage parents digitally and address digital divides.
Presenters:

Joseph Mazza, principal, Knapp Elementary School, North Penn, Pa.

Elisabeth Stock, chief executive officer and co-founder, Computers For Youth

Register now for this free live webinar.

Guest Post: Did the Tech fail or was there a failure to connect to the Tech?

I invited Myrdin Thompson to write a guest commentary on the article discussed in my last post, Tech May Have A Role, But Is Not Cure-All, For Parent Engagement.

Myrdin is Contributing Editor at MOMentumNation, Group Leader at RESULTSLouisville, Advocate for the UNF Shot@Life program, White House Champion of Change (Parents on Education), Regional Director at National Family Engagement Alliance, and public school parent of three students. She lives in Louisville, KY.

Our school district in Louisville, KY is similar in size and scope to the Dallas school district mentioned in a recent article about Parent Portal. We are a diverse, urban district, with a student population of just over 110,000, consisting of a large ESL (English as a second language) student population, and a robust magnet school program.

And we use parent portal. Not perfectly, but effectively, connecting middle and high school students and their families with teachers and the school community as a whole. Parent Portal can serve as a great home-school connection tool, offering parents (and families) access to student assignments and grades, as well as encouraging teacher to home correspondence. But it is only one tool that our school district provides in order to facilitate stronger partnerships with families which can hopefully lead to an increase in student success. Our district also has a monthly newsletter (which is both mailed and can be accessed electronically), a easily navigable website, and key staff (including our district superintendent) can be found using social media, such as Twitter. Our school board also works with district PTA and other community members and encourages parents, grandparents, and extended family members to serve on key communications committees as well as school site-based management boards. In addition, our district leadership has held a series of community meetings encouraging public participation and building better relationships.

But the technology is only effective if effectively communicated about. It sounds from the article that the Dallas school district staff, teachers, and principals have tried (through different methods of engagement) to encourage families to utilize this communication system…and have somehow failed.

Certainly part of the issue is a lack of dedicated technology in a student’s home. This can mean that while a family has a cell phone, they don’t necessarily have a smart phone or the ability to support the parent portal application. In addition, we often assume that student’s have computers, laptops, or tablets which support and enable their learning opportunities in their home environment. Far too often this is not true. As the economy has faltered, many families are giving up access to cable as well as broadband or wi-fi access as a way to save money. Furthermore, for many students, the only place they can access technology is either at school or by visiting a public library. For example, many students frequent the local library I live nearby immediately after school, but because there are a limited amount of computers and also a time limit attached to computer usage, this may actually prevent connection with the parent portal. And while the adults in their lives may also go to the library, it may be that they have a rather long laundry list of items to address on the computer as well, and visiting Parent Portal may not be the priority.

The perspective in the article given by parent Dawn McMullan who fears that Parent Portal usage may “enable parents to micromanage their children’s lives.” It has been my experience within my district that this is far from the reality. Knowing what assignments my High School freshman son has helps me keep him on schedule, as I only remind him, whether he does the assignment is actually his personal responsibility, not mine. In addition, knowing his grades as he turns in assignments helps all of us know what areas he may need to pay closer attention too and focus on. It seems that Ms. McMullan’s attitude about Parent Portal is echoed in her community as evidenced by the lack of users.

And that to me is the real failure of the technology. Not that is is flawed, far from it, but that it’s purpose and potential have been somehow ineffectively communicated to the community. There seem to have been some crucial conversations missed prior to the introduction of the Parent Portal. And it although it appears that the district has made some effort to help train parents (via the Parent Teacher Association or other parent groups) it has continually fallen short.

Parent Portal is but one tool, and effectively used can facilitate greater collaborations and partnerships between a school and home, empowering parents by giving them knowledge (grades, attendance, assignments) which can help them help their children. But reliance on one method neglects other opportunities for engagement: open houses, having district personnel visit community centers, houses of worship, or libraries. It assumes that the families which haven’t signed up are neglectful or uninterested in their child’s academic life when it could be

  • a lack of understanding of how technology works (due to a language barrier) or
  • a lack of time (working multiple jobs or only having access when support staff are perhaps unavailable) or
  • a a lack of technology all together.
I get the sense that the district is frustrated and feeling discouraged by this lack of participation. I would suggest that they connect with those families who are using Parent Portal and ask them to be ambassadors to the program. Encourage and support public forums where parents tell other parents about how beneficial they have found Parent Portal to be, and then have district staff assist those in attendance on signing up. These meetings can be held at the school during an already scheduled event or at a library or even community center. These parents could speak to Ms. McMullan’s fears about micromanaging a student’s academic life by pointing out that it actually helps create better parent-student communication and partnerships concerning education and the purpose of going to school. By being engaged, having a dialogue and planning together, all family members have an investment in the student’s academic success. Create videos featuring these parent ambassadors telling success stories and again, show how easy it is to sign up and utilize. While it’s great that a Principal or teacher may remind someone to sign up, wouldn’t it be better to stop a parent, take them to a computer lab, and sign them up

Technology without technical support is always going to be a “tech fail” no matter how great the tech is. And the only ones who are truly failed in the process are the students, who need all the support they can get in order to reach their fullest potential.