Positive parental engagement is a powerful contributor to children’s learning. While schools readily acknowledge the importance of having parents ‘on their side’, it can be difficult to consistently translate this belief into everyday practice.
Fortunately, more and more edtech platforms are embracing the benefits of including parents in school life. Many now include the ability to communicate easily with parents, share academic achievements and results, and more generally open up the channels of communication between home and school as standard.
However, although this digital window into the classroom provides a fantastic opportunity for parents to engage meaningfully in the learning process, many schools fail to achieve this ultimate goal through inconsistent or inappropriate use of the tools that they have invested in.
Keep reading this article to learn some practical tips to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your edtech platforms when it comes to interacting with your parent community.
A window into the classroom
If parents are to be engaged in their child’s learning and actively contributing to their education, it is important that parents are kept in the loop. Many schools now have a digital platform for communicating with parents; some use dedicated apps while others have school-home communication tools built into their virtual learning environment (VLE) of choice.
Yet far too often these updates are treated as a bureaucratic exercise, rather than a real opportunity to welcome parents into school life. While it’s common practice to share news about the upcoming school play or changes to the morning drop-off routine, not enough schools are using digital platforms to share classroom activities or school achievements with their parent community.
Rather than saving these updates for the end-of-term newsletter, it is now easier than ever to regularly share information with parents and ensure they are kept up to date with what children are doing and learning.
Parentkind, in their series of parental surveys conducted during school closures at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, point out that secondary school parents feel more divorced from their children’s learning than primary school parents, highlighting the fact that many are unsure of what exactly their children are learning and what the curriculum entails.
It is important for teachers to embrace the communications tools they have access to as a chance of opening up the daily activities of the classroom to parental eyes. Make it a habit once a week to put together examples of good work that can be shared digitally with parents, alongside quotes or thoughts from students and pupils.
Many VLEs provide the opportunity for teachers to share progress updates and results with parents on a more regular basis than traditional school reports, yet coupling these with photos of work and learning helps parents to feel more connected to the educational process and the fantastic work happening in the classrooms.
Appealing to more than those at the school gates
Every school has its core group of parents that are more vocal in their thoughts than others, for better or worse. Whilst it’s great to have the engagement and support of these parents, schools are becoming more competent at including other groups that have been pushed aside by the traditionally used forms of communication. Not all parents have the time, confidence, or ability to approach teachers directly, and so the best that they’ve had as a connection to their child’s learning has been a half-crumpled newsletter shoved into the bottom of a school bag.
Thanks to the digital nature of edtech platforms and VLEs, schools are finding it easier to engage with those parents who don’t have as much of a physical presence at the school. Mobile applications mean that busy parents can have access to school information on their own terms around the clock, and the distanced nature of online communication provides a space in which less confident caregivers can contact the school for updates and find the information they need without having to go through that playground conversation first.
Involving as much of the school community as possible is the first step to building up an environment of positive parental engagement, and edtech solutions provide an alternate means of appealing to parents that schools have traditionally struggled to engage.
Fostering good parental engagement is not a one-way street. Many schools that think of themselves as being good communicators focus heavily on the content that they are pushing out towards parents but fail to consider the questions, thoughts, and comments that are coming back.
Having a dedicated communications tool that offers inbound communication provides your parent community with an additional avenue of interacting with the school and its staff. Not only can these provide a channel that’s available 24/7, it’s also a great platform to access the correct member of staff directly without having to go through the school office first.
However, managing this inbound communication poses its own challenges. Without considering the workflow and procedures for responding to parents through the messaging system of VLEs, staff can feel overwhelmed by the perceived nature of round-the-clock communication.
It is therefore imperative that schools make sure procedures are in place for managing these messages, and that these are communicated clearly, internally and externally. How long should parents expect to wait to receive a reply? Does your VLE system allow you to log important messages that come in, or should these be forwarded to an external mail system? What are staff expectations around urgent messages received outside of school hours?
These considerations should form a part of a digital communications policy in school, but the key aspect is making sure that parents are as aware of these conditions as staff are. There is nothing worse than not receiving a response to a message, unsure of whether it was even received or how long you should expect to wait for an answer. As great as these additional channels of communication are, the last thing you want is to actively disengage parents from the communication process.
Edtech software and virtual learning environments are doing their best to provide the tools schools need to foster good parental communication, and ultimately better parental engagement.
Using these tools successfully though requires as much forethought as any other marketing and communications tool, both before choosing to invest in a platform and continually over the course of its usage. By considering not only what you should be communicating with parents, but also how you want them to interact with the information you’re sharing is essential to any good communication platform.
If you feel like you could be getting more out of your school’s VLE or edtech platform, don’t hesitate to contact the Eduprise team today.