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Family engagement can sometimes feel like a snow leopard: elusive, but beautiful when you encounter it. Yet, virtually all research points to the fact that having parents and caregivers engaged in their kids' education is hugely beneficial. With all of the potential barriers to maintaining meaningful connection, teachers need a solution that works for them and their community. While many districts use a learning management system to message parents, teachers often need more personalized communication with families. Many of these apps overlap in their core features: All of these tools let you target communications, translate messages, sign up multiple ways, and most offer a free version. After lots of research and testing, we chose one platform because it offers excellent versions of the core features found in many apps, and because it's accessible to all communities. We've also called out a handful of other great tools with useful standout features. We hope this info can help you narrow down your selection according to your specific needs.
Please note: Common Sense Education is a nonprofit with a strong commitment to an unbiased, in-depth editorial process. Our ratings and reviews of learning media aren't influenced by developers or funders, and we never receive payments or other compensation for our reviews.
Though TalkingPoints doesn't have all of the extras you'll find in some other tools, it delivers the essentials effectively and is 100% free. You can get started quickly by importing rosters with Google Classroom integration. The onboarding leads both teachers and families through each step, and participants can join via SMS or code. Translation is a core feature and you also can send closed-captioned videos. TalkingPoints also allows for up to five contacts per student, and the student themself. One drawback: there are only "male" and "female" gender options, which won't work for some students. Like most of the platforms we tested, TalkingPoints allows teachers to send messages to individuals or the whole class, send all types of media and polls, set office hours, schedule messages, and create templates. There's also an analytics section to keep track of family engagement data.
Like TalkingPoints, Remind focuses on messaging: It doesn't have a lot of event coordination or behavior management features. Though its onboarding process isn't quite as friendlyTalkingPoints, Remind Chat is free for parents and teachers and provides a 140 character limit on messages. The app also lets you send voice memos, which is handy for communicating with caregivers who prefer audio. The interface is clean and simple, and it offers translations for lots of languages. What sets Remind apart are some small, but very useful, features. For instance, there's a Files section which stores documents right on the platform. Also, there's a place to add a private note -- that's for your eyes only -- which is helpful for any accommodations or personalized information. Finally, like TalkingPoints, Remind feels age-neutral.
If your classroom or school needs messaging; coordination tools; student portfolios, behavior management features, and even a way to check kids' health, Bloomz might just be what you need. Though it overlaps with other platforms on many fronts, it has a look and feel that works for all ages while also letting older students take on more responsibility for themselves. Unlike most other platform -- Seesaw being an exception -- Bloomz also offers screencasting. Like ClassDojo, Bloomz lets teachers track attendance, create student groups, and set class goals. The biggest drawback is that some features are visible but only available if you upgrade to a paid account. For some, Bloomz will actually have too many features, but if you're looking for a comprehensive communication tool, look no further.
Seesaw lets you share students' work and progress in real time, alongside messages for families. Although Seesaw could feasibly work for all grades, it's best suited to the kinds of things students in pre-K through third grade do most often: shorter assignments or visual student work. Keeping parents in the loop and sharing students' work can spark important discussions, and students can share their learning via files, photos, videos, and drawings. Students can even add to their portfolios themselves, which can help them develop their ownership and agency.
Although other platforms have behavior management features, ClassDojo was the original in this category. Alongside elements like behavior reporting, class goals, and even student group creation, ClassDojo brings a few unique items to the table. While short SEL lessons might not immediately seem like they contribute to classroom management, ClassDojo's Big Ideas mini activities around topics like "teamwork," "goal setting," and "courage" offer great opportunities to reflect on your class's goals or behavior. In addition to the student-group creator, the app also includes music, a timer, a noise meter, and a random student selector, among other features. So, even if the idea of awarding points for student behavior isn't your cup of tea, the other elements might be helpful -- or even fun -- tools for your elementary school classroom.
ParentSquare is like the serious, more practical older sibling on this list. It's less about showcasing student work and personal messages, and more about managing communication at the whole-school level. In fact, individual teachers can't set up a ParentSquare account on their own -- everything has to be associated with a paid school-wide account. But, if this is the solution your school or district uses, you have a lot of options, including the convenience of sending and submitting forms through the app. Parents can fill out forms, submit payments, and take surveys all in one.
Compare the tools
|Price||Free||Free, Paid||Free||Free, Paid||Free||Paid|
|Platforms||Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Web||Web, iPad, Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, Mac||Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Web||Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Kindle Fire, Chrome, Web||Web, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac, Android||Web, Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Mac|
|Pros||Automatic translation and excellent user support.||Translation into over 70 languages. Easily share files and links with caregivers.||Communicate and interact in a multitude of ways, including voice, text, and email.||Intuitive for students and teachers. Tons of ideas up for grabs in the Activity Library.||Free site offers ways to document, manage, and boost behavior, learning, and communication.||Bolsters coordination among school communities with a variety of communication tools.|
|Cons||Grammatical and spelling errors might affect translation.||Adults not confident with tech might struggle, not all resources are readily accessible and message length in free version is limited.||Feature set could be overwhelming. Teachers with free accounts run up against paid features.||In the paid skills feature, skills and standards must be manually entered.||Behavior point system could prove problematic if used punitively or publicly.||Only offers whole-school sign-ups, the interface is a bit clunky, and it duplicates functions of a school's LMS.|
|Bottom Line||Easy-to-use tool for supporting communication and engagement with families in 100+ languages.||Well-designed, highly effective messaging tool delivers on its promise to connect home and school.||This multifunctional platform connects families, teachers, and students with a ton of features.||A powerful multimedia learning and communication tool that demonstrates student progress over time.||When used thoughtfully, ClassDojo can help adults support students' growth through goal-setting, reflection, and celebration.||Helps schools comprehensively streamline communication between school staff and families.|
|Read our review||Read our review||Read our review||Read our review||Read our review||Read our review|
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