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Online Tools That Foster Parent-Teacher Engagement

The relationship between parents and teachers is an important factor in student success. When face-to-face communication is not possible, many applications and web technologies can help foster engagement between parents and teachers. Some of these are entire suites of tools that enable communication with parents, present student work, and offer other helpful features for teachers. Some deliver one-way communication—from teacher to parent—and others provide two-way communication.

At the beginning of the school year, when many parents attend a meeting or get together before the first day, it could be useful for teachers to ask the parents what kind of platforms they are already using, so that they can engage easily. Teachers should inform parents of the school-wide or district-wide communication tools available to them as well. Even from kindergarten, students benefit from their parents’ engagement with their school experience, and studies have shown that good foundations of engagement build long-lasting success in elementary school and beyond.

Learning Management Systems

Many schools and districts use learning management systems to organize their teacher/student/parent needs. They are considered software for administering, delivering, tracking, and documenting both online and offline learning. They have features like parent portals that allow parents to log in to view grades, assignments, and other information the teacher provides about their student. They usually allow for commenting and direct messaging to the teacher. Some learning management systems that provide great tools for parent-teacher engagement include Blackboard K-12D2L Brightspace K-12, and Google Classroom.

Blackboard K-12: In addition to Blackboard’s online classroom platform, they can also create branded school websites that provide easy access to important information—which is helpful for school-wide parent engagement. Parents can also log into ParentLink to view information about their child and their coursework.

D2L Brightspace K-12: This innovative platform fosters parent involvement even at the kindergarten level, enabling parents to become a “fly on the wall” so to speak in their child’s classroom—viewing work, monitoring progress, and having handy access to all parent-related information in one easy to access space. Kids get excited about having their work featured on the platform, which lets their parents stay in the loop.

Google Classroom: Once teachers set up their students in Google Classroom, parents can get summaries of their student’s progress, classroom announcements, and due dates for assignments, which helps them not only stay informed, but stay on track.

Social Media

Facebook has features that lend itself well to parent-teacher engagement. The only requirement is that a teacher creates a page for their courses, and invites parents to follow or join the group/page. This allows parents to directly message the teacher, either privately or publicly. It’s a simple tool for updates about activities in the classroom, and two-way communication.

Twitter fosters engagement if a teacher keeps parents informed about activities, perhaps using specific hashtags for their class when they write a tweet. Ensuring that parents are also using the platform is key to its utility.

Portfolio and Communication Tools

Remind is a school communication tool, that is a messenger application. It sends messages directly to users’ phones and indicates if a user has not seen an announcement or update. It provides one-way communication, directly from a teacher, to their students' parents or guardians.

Brightwheel is an application that was designed specifically to meet the needs of early education, that lets parents know what their children are up to in their school. It alerts them about school administrative updates, including digitally signing in and out, and invoicing, as well as student activities and assessments.

Seesaw is a student-driven portfolio tool that allows parents to log in to view their child’s progress, journals, projects, and other media they uploaded to the platform. Teachers curate all student-created content before it appears on the platform.

Class Websites

Weebly is an extremely user-friendly platform to create a class website, with its own domain name if you wish, which can be a useful resource to engage parents with classroom updates. Teachers can share whatever they wish, uploading lessons, photos, or content from their students to the site. Parents can then go visit the site to find out what’s been going on, and comment or contact the teacher if that feature has been enabled.

Though not exhaustive, this list of web technologies provides a variety of choices for parent-teacher engagement that will build the foundations for a successful school experience. Staying informed can be challenging when time is limited, or getting to the school for meetings is not an option. Luckily, the experience of staying informed with a child’s academic activities is still possible through these online tools.


Written by Melissa Pelletier, Education Technology Contributor