How can teachers and parents connect digitally

Technology often brings new opportunities and tools, particularly for industries and sectors that have been around for a long time. Education is no exception. So what’s out there to get parents and teachers communicating beyond brief after-school chats and Parents Evening? We did some research and spoke to some teachers to find out.

What’s the point?

The academic success of a child doesn’t just rely on their relationship with their teacher. Successful communication between parents and teachers helps too.

In a study carried out by Coleman, Tabin and Collinge (1994), it was found students felt more responsible for learning when they, their parents, and their teachers engaged in “mutually supportive activities”.

If digital communications can help support and facilitate that, it will mean pupils achieve more out of their school work and experience.

There’s another important side too. Increased communication is just generally useful to ensure parents are always in the know. Rather than relying on a student delivering a crumpled up school trip letter from their bag, a teacher can send an email with all the info and know it will arrive.

It’s not just emails either. “We communicate via emails, social media, the school website and parents book Parents Evening and pay for trips digitally”, says David, a senior leader in a Kent primary school.

On top of that, it enables parents to get a better idea of how their child is progressing. This avoids a massive update come Parents Evening and instead highlights issues and success far more immediately. This means parents can better manage their own expectations and make sure their kids are getting the support they need at the time.

It also makes previously inaccessible parents accessible. Alex, a teacher from Kent, says digital options means he can “speak to parents who don’t pick their kids up from school” for example. With many parents tied to inconvenient work hours, this can only be a good thing.

The Downsides

Unsurprisingly with the good, often comes the bad. As we’ve noted, we’re more accessible these days, but that isn’t always a positive. Alex has some concerns such as “constant messages” that could be “received throughout the night”.

Sarah, a primary school teacher from Milton Keynes, has similar fears saying “parents whom message on a regular basis at different times of the day and expect replies” can be a problem. Other teachers also talked about negative comments on social media and parents failing to update their details.

Luckily these aren’t problems with the technology itself. It’s just old-fashioned poor etiquette. You can be just as mean in a letter as you can in an email; it’s just emails are much easier to write and send.

We can’t blame digital communication here, but it does mean schools have a greater responsibility to educate parents, teachers, and pupils how to properly and effectively communicate.

What’s out there already?

Google Classroom

One of the main aspects of Google Classroom is to help schools go paperless. They do this by offering a range of services for assignments and grading, while apps help to connect pupils to the system with their smartphones or with school-supplied tablets.

When it comes to parents, they can opt in to receive updates on missed work, upcoming work, and class activities, such as announcements, assignments and teacher’s questions.

ClassDojo

ClassDojo is another classroom piece of software. It aims to get kids involves and offers extra opportunities for teachers to interact with their pupils, with virtual high fives for example. It also has “Student Stories” where kids can post their own work to be seen by everyone else.

There’s extra options for parent communication too including sharing videos, photos, and the ability to send private messages.

ParentPay

ParentPay was mentioned by a fair few of our teachers. Its main function is to collect payments from parents for things like school trips. This is obviously a lot easier for parents to be able to do from home.

There’s also the option to send out alerts through texts and emails to ensure there aren’t any missed payments.

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