Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2017
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TalkingPoints Education

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Basic multilingual texting tool enhances school-to-home communication

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration

Subjects
N/A
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Pre-K-12
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Pros: Automatic translation and excellent user support allow teachers to communicate with parents with ease.

Cons: There are sometimes delays in message delivery; grammatical and spelling errors might affect translation.

Bottom Line: Easy-to-use tool for supporting communication and engagement with families in any of 20 languages.

Use TalkingPoints Education to inform parents about student progress without worrying about language barriers. Send parents pictures of their kid hard at work. Invite stakeholders to volunteer or become involved in classroom activities. Take a poll to garner opinions about event dates, conference times, or class parties. Make all parents feel welcomed and valued by communicating effectively. Be careful not to assume, though: Ask parents about their preferred language communication preference, and realize that messages and tone aren't always translated the way you intend. Help is available if the response messages are unclear. 

Although the user interface is clean, initial setup can be cumbersome on the mobile app, so a desktop is recommended. Also, users should be aware that there's sometimes a lag between when they send the messages and when users receive them due to the translation process. In the free version, users will have to add parents via spreadsheet, so having that information beforehand will be helpful. Be sure to check out other free tools that include language translation with their messaging services, like Remind or ClassDojo

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TalkingPoints Education is a messaging app that allows teachers and school leaders to communicate in parents’ home languages via their phones or internet-connected devices. Users create a database of message recipients by including their name, their student’s name, their phone number, and their home language. Users must have accounts tied to email addresses, but parent participation is voluntary and they can opt out at any time. Once a teacher sets up the initial list, TalkingPoints will use an app-generated phone number to send an introductory message to each parent explaining the purpose of the tool. From there teachers can schedule or immediately send messages in their language, and parents will automatically receive it in their home language. Parents can type responses in their home language, and teachers will receive a translated version with an option to receive notifications.

Teachers can send messages to individual parents, to a group, or to the whole class. They can also attach pictures to messages or conduct polls to ask for parent feedback. In addition to the initial tutorial that walks users through the app’s features, there's a help option for messages that don't come through coherently as well as a “chat with us” support feature for additional assistance. 

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TalkingPoints Education allows teachers and school leaders to communicate and get feedback from parents without worrying about a potential language barrier. This can be especially helpful for younger students who may not be able to effectively communicate school events and deadlines to their parents; teachers can pull back as students become more independent learners. TalkingPoints also lets teachers create polls, allowing parents to give feedback on any number of classroom-related issues. Teachers can use this information to plan events or gather valuable information that can help them to enhance curriculum. While back-and-forth text messages can be slow and cumbersome, this app allows teachers to invite parents who might otherwise feel excluded to participate in the conversation and more effectively engage with their kids. TalkingPoints could be improved with an explicit reply (or do not reply) option in order to not inundate users with responses.

TalkingPoints, like any tool that uses machine translation, is bound to send text messages with errors. Bilingual parents and educators could benefit from an option to see, and edit, the translated message before it goes out. Also, it would be nice if parents could see -- in addition to the translation -- the original text in the teacher's preferred language, which could help with language learning. And while TalkingPoints is focused primarily on translation, similar tools like ClassDojo and Remind have more features.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

While there's nothing particularly flashy about the tool, parents will love the opportunity to be involved and communicate in a comfortable way.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Promotes communication and parent-teacher partnership opportunities vital to a student’s success. Lack of options to self-edit before sending or see original translations might be missed opportunities for learning.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Intuitive setup, tutorials, message support, and developer contact form will have teachers sending and receiving messages in no time. 


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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