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Parent Communication: Using Social Media

EducationWorld is pleased to feature a variety of book excerpts in collaboration with Stenhouse Publishers. The following excerpt comes from Attention Grabbing Skills for Involving Parents in their Children’s Learning, by Jane Baskwill (Pembroke Publishers, 2013; distributed in the U.S. by Stenhouse Publishers). The book retails for $22 and is available on the Stenhouse Web site.

school home communicationToday’s teachers are increasingly turning to a variety of digital technologies to make communication with parents easier and more current. Social-media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, are helping teachers keep parents and other community members informed. Teachers are encouraged to go where the parents are; more parents are apt to be on Facebook or Twitter every day, whereas they might check the class webpage only once in a while or when reminded. For more great tips from this book, check out: Portfolios and the Student-Led Conference and What Did You Do At School Today? Get Great Answers.

Below is an overview of the most popular platforms. As you consider what platform to use, keep in mind that not all parents have access to (or feel comfortable with) new technology. This might be the case for you as well.

 

Blogs

Blogs are powerful communication tools. When done well, they are opportunities for teachers to read, think, and reflect, connecting their students’ learning to their classroom practice.

  1. A blog attracts parents’ attention. Having a blog that talks about teaching and learning, with the aim of sharing knowledge with parents, is a great way for you to help parents deal with issues that affect their children and to support them by helping them support their children’s learning.
  2. A blog lets parents see that teachers are people. Parents appreciate getting to know their child’s teacher as a person. It helps to build rapport and establish a closer relationship. Of course, there is a danger of being too personal, so be sure to keep blog posts and photos related to your professional life.

Online Resources

It is now easier than ever to create a blog. Some user-friendly sites that can help you create your blog:
http://www.weebly.com
http://edublogs.org/
http://wordpress.com/
http://googleblog.blogspot.ca/

Blogs can be general in nature, focusing on your teaching and your students’ learning; or they can be devoted to a specific topic such as math, science, nutrition and physical activity, etc. Regardless of the focus of your blog, here are the steps you can take to get it going:

  1. Find your voice. Stay away from too much jargon and keep the tone friendly and upbeat.
  2. Make a commitment. It takes time to maintain your blog and to see it through once you begin.
  3. Seek help. Talk to a colleague or friend who is a blogger and seek out tips. There are a number of websites with tips for blog writing. A very helpful one can be found on the Teaching English website.
  4. Be mindful of school policies. School districts have guidelines and acceptable use policies (AUP) regarding the use of school- and division-wide computer networks and the Internet. These terms and conditions identify acceptable online behavior and access privileges. Policies regarding the use of photos and the display of student work must be adhered to strictly. Be sure to check into your district’s policies.

 

About Stenhouse Publishers

Stenhouse publishes professional development books and videos by teachers and for teachers. Their titles cover a range of content areas -- from literacy and mathematics to science, social studies, the arts, and environmental education -- as well as a variety of topics, including classroom management, assessment, and differentiation.

Facebook

Many parents are already on Facebook, so it makes sense to communicate with them on a platform with which they are already familiar.

Facebook allows you to share class news and information with the parents of your students. You can create a private parents’ group for your class and share information only with the parents of your students. Types of information you might share: details of upcoming field trips, school closings (scheduled or unforeseen), special events or parties, pictures of student projects, students’ published writing, etc.

It is important to be informed about policies or guidelines concerning the use of Facebook that might be set out by your school district. If your district permits teachers to use Facebook for communicating with parents, there are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Be professional. Maintain the same personal boundaries that you have with parents in the classroom setting.
  • Your classroom Facebook page should relate only to your classroom. Nothing should be on the page that you would not proudly share with your principal or superintendent.
  • Keep the focus on teaching and learning.
  • Label your page with more than just your first and last name, such as: Mrs. Macintosh’s Grade 4 Class.
  • Use a picture of your class mascot or a favorite image (perhaps a child’s drawing of you) as your profile picture to keep the page geared to the classroom and curriculum.
  • Include your Facebook address in your first letter home to parents and explain what you will use the forum for. Be clear and explicit so parents will understand your reasons for having a variety of ways by which you will communicate with them.

Facebook has a feature that allows you to post updates that parents will see immediately when they log onto their page. You can post information that pertains to homework—for example, “Don’t forget that the Science Fair project is due on Wednesday”—to clarify a new policy, or to detail directions for an assignment. Parents can also send you a private message to ask questions about homework or to ask for a meeting. Parents who might be uncomfortable asking questions in person might feel more at home when using this medium.

 

Twitter

Twitter is another platform with which many parents have experience—or about which they are eager to learn. Twitter is a communication tool in which information is communicated in short posts of up to 140 characters (called Tweets). It is also possible to post links, photos, and videos.

Just as with Facebook, it is possible to set up your Twitter account so that only approved followers can view your Tweets. Tweets are most often sent using a smartphone, but can also be sent via computer. Twitter can be used to:

  • post reminders about events
  • share news of the day
  • share photographs and information from school-wide activities and class trips

Teachers of young children can use Twitter to let a parent of an upset or nervous child know how that child is doing. With children who are on a behavior plan, building Twitter into the plan can let the child know that the parent and teacher are on the same page. A Grade 5 teacher who uses Twitter has designated one of the jobs in her classroom as that of Tweeter. The student with this job Tweets two or three times a day about classroom learning activities; sometimes a photo is included (the student also has Photographer as a class job).

 

Virtual Pinboards

Platforms like Pinterest support a virtual pinboard that allows users to pin images from blogs and websites, making them easier to refer to later. Virtual pinboards are visually appealing and easy to use. You can use this tool to create boards that you think would interest your parents, such as Books and Activities, Places to Go, or Math and Science Activities. For example, if it is Science Fair time, you might have a board dedicated to science activities and experiments. Make parents aware of your site and how to set up an account so they can access it.

Pinterest is a lot of fun to use and is very easy for both you and your students’ parents. Starting parents off with something that is practical, enjoyable, and easy to use is a great way to initiate them into using technology.

 

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