I always want to be available to my students when they need me, but sometimes they need more than I can give. I remember one student who had trouble remembering assignments, so we worked out a system where she'd write things down in a planner, and I'd sign it each day. It worked great -- except on the days when she misplaced the planner. I could count on a phone call from her mom on those days, often a few times a week.
Another student would forget materials at school or write down incorrect details about the assignment. Almost daily, he would show up asking for help at the start of class, when I needed to begin a lesson, or at the end of the day, when I was often in a meeting. I would find a note on my desk or on the board that the student had stopped by, but, infuriatingly, I had no way to respond, and the student was left without answers to his questions.
Once I started noticing what I began thinking of as a "disconnect," I could see the negative impact it had on my students -- and on me. Sometimes students were absent and weren't able to find out what they'd missed until they were back at school. Or sometimes parents were blindsided by due dates or had no idea what was going on in class, so they couldn't help their kids stay on top of assignments.
Naturally, I tried to keep parents in the loop, but emails or notes sent home didn't always cut it -- papers get lost, and not every student or parent has email. Phone calls were time-consuming and often unsuccessful. Reaching parents or finding a common time to talk was difficult and frustrating for everyone involved. I needed to be more accessible, and students needed a way to ask questions and access worksheets or other materials outside of class.
This disconnect was something that I had to correct.
The first step: Bridging the student connection.
My first attempt at solving my problems? A messaging tool. I decided to give Celly a try and started using it to send reminders and answer questions.
It didn't take long to see the benefits. I could quickly respond to messages about homework or what was missed during an absence. I no longer had to use class time to help students catch up while the rest of the class waited and minutes ticked by. If students needed extra practice or information, I could send helpful links.
It was a good first change to my classroom procedures -- after all, students' needs don't end when the bell rings. I wanted to keep the lines of communication open so my students were successful and supported. And I wasn't letting anyone down.
While Celly was a good first step, it wasn't enough on its own - students were still asking for help finding or organizing class materials, and I hadn't found an easy way to keep parents in the "what's going on in class" loop.
The second step: Bringing students and parents together.
So I decided to give another tool, Edmodo, a try.
I began using Edmodo to post homework reminders and share links. I saw immediate benefits. All my materials were in one place, so students stopped losing paperwork or forgetting assignment details. If they were absent or forgot to bring a book, I or a fellow student could simply post an image or a link to whatever they needed. Meanwhile, parents who set up an account received my daily notes and knew precisely what we were doing in class.
With everyone connected to information and resources, time and space constraints melted away. I no longer had to confine my teaching to the classroom -- I was able to give students the support they needed, when they needed it.
I could see the students becoming more connected to their learning and the classroom. They sought help, were more comfortable asking questions, and enjoyed being able to reach me whenever they needed.
Incorporating Celly and Edmodo made a tremendous difference in my ability to provide the best possible learning experience for my students -- and it made my life easier, too. I really knew my tools were working when fellow teachers started adopting these tools to ease their own disconnect.