Bridge the home-school divide with these digital tools.

There is no longer a typical American family -- it is not unusual to see families headed by same-sex unions, teenage parents, single moms, or immigrants or for kids to have incarcerated parents or blended families. With the changing structure and evolution of the American family, our students' home lives have become more multifaceted and complex. In struggling to make a living, parents often neglect staying in the loop with their children’s teachers and fail to understand how they can best assist in their children's educations.

As educators, our role extends beyond teaching skills and concepts to our students -- we are also a resource for our families. To help parents raise strong students, it is imperative that we build strong connections between our school community and home. To assist parents in realizing their goals for their children, consider implementing these resources today!

Communication Apps

Finding a way to effectively communicate with parents is always a priority among teachers. Luckily, a few great apps are available to help facilitate a home-school connection.

  • Remind. One resource available to help educators best meet parents where they are is Remind. Remind enables teachers to schedule reminders for a future date to remind parents what students need to complete, bring, or remember. Remind 101 can also serve as a way to contact all subscribing parents in the event of a school closing or early dismissal.
  • ClassDojo. Another app and site, ClassDojo, enables parents to share special classroom moments through pictures and videos while at work or at home. Students can document their learning by creating their own portfolios.
  • GroupMe. GroupMe is an app that allows teachers to stay in touch with a group of participants at the same time. This makes disbursing information very convenient for something like monthly workshops.

Early Literacy Workshops

By establishing recurring early literacy workshops for parents, educators can teach parents how they can be their children’s first teachers. By spending quality time reading to their youngsters, parents can instill a love and appreciation for books at an early age. School book rooms often have an excess of books that can be used as attendance incentives at each workshop. Check with your administrator to use these resources. If no books are available, plan in advance by writing a proposal on or writing to Scholastic to solicit donations. If your school is eligible for Title I funds, free download codes are available on for the Open eBooks app; readers can download up to 10 ebooks at a time!

At these workshops, parents learn various ways they can promote literacy through everyday tasks such as reading food labels, creating grocery lists, and cooking. Promoting early literacy is more than reading a book together at bedtime -- it’s about creating habits that work to keep children enjoyably immersed in text as a shared family activity.

Technology Workshops

Educators have invaluable technical expertise, and by partnering with parents through the school library media center, teachers are empowering families and building students' support systems. Many parents, particularly in urban environments and low socioeconomic neighborhoods, are in need of technology workshops. Parental-engagement workshops are the perfect place to conduct sessions about digital citizenship, financial literacy, accessing educational sites, and finding free ebooks.

  • Common Sense Media. Parents and teachers alike should make Common Sense Media one of their first stops for digital citizenship lessons and honest ratings and reviews of movies, video games, books, and more. Parents can even access guides that help them plan and implement learning activities for their children. From creativity to coding, Common Sense makes it easy for parents to connect with their students.
  • PBS – Your Life, Your Money. Financial literacy can be tough to teach, but the resources provided by PBS will help any parent navigate budgeting, personal spending, saving, and credit with their child -- they may even pick up a few tips for themselves!

Studies have proven that economically disadvantaged children make the greatest gains when parents are involved and on board. This translates to higher grades, higher test scores, higher graduation rates, and higher expectations for students. It also translates to engaged families and works to bridge cultural gaps between home life and school. In essence, the saying "families that read together succeed together" holds a great deal of credence.

Tracey W.

I am a School Library Media Specialist in NYS. I teach K through 5th grade students information literacy, transliteracy, web 2.0 tools, digital citizenship, source evaluation, citation and the Stripling Model of Inquiry. I have 14 years teaching experience as an elementary teacher, Reading Recovery teacher, LLI (Leveled Literacy Intervention) Specialist and as a School Library Media Specialist. I have 5 years teaching experience at the college level. My work and my library are featured in the UFT NY paper in the Sept. 2013 issue, . My digital portfolios can be viewed at and . My blog can be viewed at

This board serves as a model to the learning community as to how they can document their own educational apps for both educational and professional growth. By viewing, reflecting and critiquing my board and then creating their own board, teachers can begin to participate in a online, collaborative learning environment. Today's learner creates, collaborates and curates online. By fostering the dispositions of persistence, curiosity and an open mind, students can be taught to be curious and they will eventually become self motivated and propel their own learning forward. Students need to develop the habit of being persistent since obstacles are always present in both life and learning. When a person tends not to give up, one can accomplish a great deal in life and acquire a lot of knowledge along the way. Teaching children to have the disposition of an open mind allows them experiences that will further their intellectual growth. The below curated apps promote these dispositions.