Streamline Parent-Teacher Communication Before the Year Starts

"It’s going to spark more communication between the student and the parent -- and that can only benefit the child."

August 30, 2016
Rae Ann Smith
Technology coordinator
Hempfield School District
Landisville, PA
CATEGORIES Parents and Families

Right now we are in Year Two of a 1:1 iPad implementation with our students. I've been doing a lot of professional development with the teachers, a lot of co-teaching in their classrooms, and brainstorming how we can do things differently to make the most of these kids each having an iPad.

Technology tends to be something that kids are more comfortable with than adults. That's been a challenge and a contributor to our success at the same time. We’ve worked hard to get devices into teachers' hands early, sometimes a year in advance of their class going 1:1, as well as providing five full days of training.

It's my job to support after the training ends. Teachers can email me and say, "I want to use the iPads, but I don't know where to start." No problem. We set up a time to sit down over lunch and look at what's coming up in their curriculum. If they're studying types of severe weather, I can give them a suggestion such as, "Google Slides is a great tool for fifth-graders to use to demonstrate what they've learned." The teacher and I then work together to decide what the learning goals are and structure an activity for the students.  

I may be in a classroom multiple days, but I try to hand over the reins by doing an intro on Day One, having the teacher take the lead on Day Two, and by Day Three just being in the background for support. As our 1:1 implementation expands, we expect to see things shift.

Based on what we've seen so far, the more teachers we have using iPads in their classrooms, the more they rely on each other and less on us.

And this is exactly what we want. I know from 20 years of experience that teachers always surprise themselves and always do better than they think they will.

Because of our 1:1 implementation, our kids are excited about learning again. School looks more like how they actually live and communicate. It's incredible to see the things they can put together in the form of presentations, digital stories, or whatever they create. It's just so natural to them.

With the increased technology use, we knew we'd need something that teachers could use to put things online to provide resources, website links, and documents to students. That’s where Schoology comes in. With Schoology, parents have real-time access to their child's digital classroom, where they can see a calendar of upcoming events, assignments, and quizzes, as well as work their child has submitted (including feedback from the teacher). They can even "eavesdrop" on class discussions that happen in Schoology to view what their child has contributed along with anonymous responses from their peers. Teachers and students can post photos and videos, allowing a parent to be a fly on the wall to see what's been going on at school as well. We're trying to make it into the place that parents, teachers, and kids go to get what they need.

So far the parents love it. They no longer have to say, "What did you do in school today?" They can actually see for themselves. Teachers love that it doesn't take extra work to share with parents. Everything is there for students and parents in the same place.

One of the very first workshops I ever taught as a technology specialist was How to Create a Class Newsletter Using Microsoft Word. That was in 1998, and that's still the way some teachers communicate with parents. They write a newsletter, they send it home once a week in kids' backpacks or post it as a PDF on the class website, and then they're done.

But those newsletters aren’t very timely. If you send out your newsletter on Monday and something happens that day, you have to wait a whole week before you tell the parents. You can't add a PS, you can't add an additional link. You're done. It’s static.

With Schoology, all of that has changed. It’s all right there -- the parents know they can go in and access that on any day. Think of all the pictures, videos, and everything else you can post for parents to see, not to mention the student work, that just wasn't available in that Microsoft Word newsletter.

The parent and the teacher working together is really what's critical to student success. The more parents know what's going on at school, the more they can support that and have conversations that they probably wouldn't have had before. Instead of asking, "How was school?" they now can say, "I saw the video you made on hurricanes. That was really interesting. What did you learn from that?" It’s going to spark more communication at home between the student and the parent on what's happening at school, and that can only benefit the child.

Rae Ann's Top Tips to Get You Started Using Schoology

1. Begin by using the Schoology calendar to post events, tests, and assignments.

2. Switch from blogging to posting announcements and news in Schoology updates.

3. Create media albums to quickly post pictures of things going on in your classroom.