Moving Beyond The Newsletter: Using Technology To Meet Parents Where They Are


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Workshop for the 2013 BCCPAC Fall Conference that focused on using technology to enhance school's relationships with their families. Purpose of parent communication is explored as well as examples of tools are shown.

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  • Thank you Stephanie and also Tracy Green for helping to set this up. It is an honour to be coming in virtually to the BCCPAC conference speaking with parent about parent communication. I do want to thank BCCPAC for this opportunity.Everything in this session that I will share has been learned from many parents that have coached me in this area.I often find it interesting that people will discuss how to better involve and engage parents in schools… without speaking with parents… when it is clear that if you want to find out how to best meet parents where they are… actually LISTEN to parents.So today, I will share our school’s story of how we have used to technology to move beyond the newsletter and meet families where they are.We will also have a chance to share ideas that we can take back to our schools and speak with members there to see how we can use technology to enhance communication.So although this session is for parents, it will come from a principal’s lens.
  • Father of 2 year old twin girls. Currently principal of Kent Elementary School in the beautiful community of Agassiz in the Fraser-Cascade School District. I enjoy having fun at school not only with the kids (Dora) but also with the parents – have to rub in the fact that I won a bet and made a die hard Leafs fan wear a Canucks jersey for the day (and I won’t talk about how this week I had to wear a Riders shirt as I lost another bet with a different parent).I am passionate about a few areas in education… with parent engagement being one of them. Our school has embraced technology as a way to engage with our parents to enhance our family:school relationships.
  • Where have we come from?When we think of parent communication of the past, what do we think of? Take 3-5 minutes to discuss. Respond in the chat or use the mic after your conversation.So how much has parent communication changed in schools?
  • We know that parent involvement helps our students; however, there are many structural/cultural barriers that can make this difficult.Before we embrace new ways to communicate with parents and families, we need to be clear of our PURPOSE.Simon Sinek: Start With Why.., then move to the how and what.So what is OUR why at OUR school?
  • Traditional reasons for parent communication. Newsletters, report cards, phone calls etcStill very important and something that can be enhanced with tech.
  • Build culture, build community, share the the daily happenings in schools and in classrooms.Share the stories, provide windows. (ie. Remembrance day photo above)Also share who WE are. Let people in to get to know us as people.
  • We communicate with parents to build partnerships and foster relationships. We all know that we need to work together to support the students. We also know that, for a variety of reasons, it can be intimidating to talk with a teacher or a principal. I don’t think of myself as an intimidating person… but I was shocked to hear a comment from a parent. One thing I do is each week, I make 5 positive contacts with parents (either on the phone, in an email, or in the parking lot after school). One time I was walking toward a parent after school and I asked her if she had a moment – I then went on to talk about how much we appreciated having her 2 girls at our school and that they bring such a caring nature to our students. She said thank you and walked away… but a few days later, we were at a parent lunch and she apologized to me as she said that when she saw me coming up to her, she just froze because when a principal is coming up to a parent, it is never a good thing – when it turned out to be a good thing, she wasn’t quite sure how to respond. So this just showed me how much work we have to do to continually foster relationships with our families.
  • When we have better relationships, we can build trust. Communication is not just about the school sending out information. Communication is 2 way.We need to ask parents.We need to take the time to hear parents andREALLY LISTENWe need to move from communication TO parents to communication WITH parents.We don’t always need to agree but we need to seek to understand.When we get feedback and say we are going to do something, we must do what we say we are going to do or any trust could be lost.
  • As I said, we know that parent involvement helps with achievement but that is not the mainfocus for our school.The focus for us is community. Effective relationships with families make school more enjoyable for families, students, and staff. This will have a direct and indirect impact on so many things in schools… including achievement.
  • It is not enough to have parents with the main goal of fundraising. Although this is important in schools, it is more important to have parents as part of the team and actually engage parents in the conversation as much as we can. This is important at the individual child level (talking about how to best support each child and understanding the stories that make our children who they are) to the school level in which parents are included in the conversation around changes taking place.We have a fantastic School Planning Council at our school and we meet regularly throughout the year – not only to discuss our goals but also some changes occurring in education.Exciting times in education that includes significant changes with pedagogy, curriculum and assessment. With change, the first question is often WHY? That is why it is so important now that we work to include parents in the conversation from the start so we can start with why and move from there. Technology can help spur conversations – story of “zero hero” and conversations that led from a post on Facebook.
  • So if we move from the traditional mindset of parent communication as simply informing… to one that includes relationships, sharing of stories, community in the broad sense, and real engagement… how we can we best communicate with the tools we have?
  • Knowing our purpose, how can we use tech to enhance, Not replace, face to face.Before I share my ideas… I want to hear from you. Please take 3-5 minutes to discuss this question or whatever else may be on your mind thus far. Use the chat function and/or the microphone to add to the conversation.
  • I want to meet parents where they are and this means options. Also, rather than only newsletters, I started a school blog – comments and more “in real time” info for parents. Parent communication that embraces WITH rather than TOHeidi Hass Gable – critical friend and mentor to me – parents appreciate small bits of information more often. ONGOING classroom and school communication.Also with an understanding that we have options for paper model.
  • School Facebook PagesClassroom Facebook Accounts (less public)Creating a community… information in real time
  • Media consent – we never use names with photos and only post those that we have consent for. We have also run a parent forum on youth and technology that focused on social media.Go through comments clockwise from top left.
  • Class Facebook Account – creating community, sharing. (less public)A parent that was very anxious about sending her daughter to school… this shows how a picture can have a huge impact.
  • Smaller bits more often. Focused on sharing the positives.Every other week plus information about events and changes to our school.Place to comment or ask questions.
  • Classrooms, music, libraryStay informed, ask questions, share projects and learning activities happening in the classroom.
  • Twitter – linked to Facebook – information goes to both so people can choose how to interact, stay informed.
  • Why write the same message on multiple platforms when you don’t have to.Time becomes less of an issue when the technology does the work for you.
  • Parents choose to sign up. Used only for important events. Communication TO (not with)
  • Another way to stay informed (Communication TO)Appazur Solutions – Trevor Cox
  • Sharing videos, principal’s messages, highlightsSchool messages from students.
  • Video conferencing, video chats for those unable to make it to the school, have questions for the schoolGroup or 1 on 1
  • Blogging, voicethread, videolicious, youtube, animoto
  • Made me reflect on what is truly important. Much like technology and one day events can portray that we are doing great things… what happens on an ongoing basis is what really matters. Technology should ENHANCE our face to face relationships
  • Digital portfolios – assessment in real time. Feedback for growth based on performance standards. Parents, students, teachers included in ongoing dialogueAssessments moving from formal reports 3 times a year (at the end of the learning process) to conversations happening throughout the year.
  • Go deeper and understand what is really important. Events and tech are ways we can reach out to parents… but the most important this is what happens after this. Do we acknowledge the feedback? Do we do anything with the feedback? Do we engage in the conversation? Use 2.0 tools to enhance, not replace relationships.
  • Share your school’s stories… blog, create videos, student blogs and videos, images. 10 Good Things to Talk About each Friday blog.
  • Regular Windows into classrooms, ongoing transparent assessments,
  • Take 3 minutes at your tables to discuss and report out using the mic or the chat
  • Any other ideas to share?Any questions?
  • Moving Beyond The Newsletter: Using Technology To Meet Parents Where They Are

    1. 1. Moving Beyond the Newsletter How Schools Are Using Technology to Meet Parents Where They Are cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Judy Baxter: Chris Wejr with Stephanie Longstaff @chriswejr
    2. 2. About Me
    3. 3. Parent Communication: How Far Have We Come? cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Danie van der Merwe:
    4. 4. cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by Eric:
    5. 5. Inform cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Anthony Crider:
    6. 6. Share
    7. 7. Foster Relationships cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by Nomadic Lass:
    8. 8. Build Trust
    9. 9. cc licensed flickr photo by gibsonsgolfer: Build Community
    10. 10. Engage cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Mila Araujo @Milaspage:
    11. 11. Purpose of Parent Communication
    12. 12. cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Jeremy Keith: How can we use tech to enhance communication?
    13. 13. Use Technology to meet parents where they are.
    14. 14. Connect, Create an Online School Community
    15. 15. Our School Blog
    16. 16. Classroom Blogs
    17. 17. Image from
    18. 18. Free Text Messaging to Families
    19. 19. PP
    20. 20. Connecting Students & Families
    21. 21. You can work hard to run all these events to get parents into the school… but the most important thing is how they are treated when they are there. School Parent Kent
    22. 22. Assessment as a Conversation From: Sue Bannister Queneesh Elementary Courtenay, BC
    23. 23. It is not about technology nor is it about events… it is about how we view parent engagement in our schools. cc licensed flickr photo by Dominic's pics:
    24. 24. Share the School’s Stories
    25. 25. Move from… “what did you do at school today?” To… “tell me more about…” Move beyond the newsletter cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by TMAB2003:
    26. 26. What is one thing you can DO to enhance parent communication at your schools?
    27. 27. Q&A Ideas? Questions?
    28. 28. Connect With Me @chriswejr