8 ways to use social media to connect and coordinate with parents

2/7/2013 12:00:00 AM
Social media can be a powerful tool to coordinate and connect with parents.  At the school level, this is important work for everyone, from the classroom teacher to the principal. Some districts even have paid school employees called parent coordinators who are responsible for engaging with and involving parents in the school community. It is their job to create a welcoming environment for parents as well as to identify and address parent and related school/community issues.

While many of us are familiar with traditional notes home in the backpack, flyers, and newsletters, social media takes our ability to create, maintain, and grow connections with parents to a whole new level.

Here are some ideas that explain how. 

1) Facebook

Parent Coordinator Sara Cottone of P.S. 46 in Staten Island, N.Y., welcomes parents to “like” the Facebook page she created for them. Most recently, the page was a terrific vehicle for sharing planning and logistics information as it pertained to the bus strike. Earlier this year it was a godsend as one of the few ways parents could communicate during Superstorm Sandy. The page is also used to update parents on trips, school performances and other events like picture day. The page is interactive, too. Parents can use the page to comment, ask questions and find out information. Cottone and other parents are always on hand to respond and provide feedback.

For more information visit:  Parent Guide to Facebook.

2) Edmodo

Edmodo is a free tool that enables parents to communicate by posting messages, alerts and reminders. This is great for field trips, class projects, absences and more. Notifications can also be received from the Edmodo mobile app.

Teacher Rob Zdrojewski of Amherst Middle School keeps his students' parents informed of grades and progress throughout the year via Edmodo. Zdrojewski invites parents to create an Edmodo account, where they can see their child's assignments, grades and upcoming events. It also serves as a way for him to keep absent students and their parents up to date on classroom activities. He says it's brought parents and other interested adults into the loop on what happens within our classroom, for more transparency of learning.

For more information, visit our Parent Help Center and 5 tips for getting started

3) Twitter

At The Kurt Hahn School Expeditionary Learning School in Brooklyn, N.Y., PrincipalMatt Brown goes around the school with his cellphone to catch teacher and student greatness. The feed goes right on the school website. For parent coordinators who don’t have a tweeting principal, not to worry! You can be the one who goes around and tweets the terrific things that are happening in school. Just remember, only use first names, and if you plan to use a picture you must have consent.

For more information visit A Parent’s Guide to Twitter

4) Blogger

Technology teacher Mr. Casal at P.S. 10 in Brooklyn, N.Y., is working with his parent coordinator to start a blog to help her simplify fielding calls. He explained that often she’ll answer the same question six times a day. While he doesn’t want her to stop helping parents, he’d love for her to have an avenue to post information to help mitigate the phone time she spends so she can devote more time to the other parts of her job that she loves like face-to-face meetings, tours, outreach, etc.

For more information visit: 5 Rewards of Teaching Students to Blog and A Parent’s Guide to Blogging from a Teacher

5) Tumblr

Urban elementary-school teacher Stepan Pruchnicky uses Tumbler as a tool for kids to be stakeholders in their education. On the site, students post artwork they’ve created, videos of performances and presentations, stories they’ve written, game instructions and much more. What a great way to let parents see the work their kids are doing! You can take a look.

Pruchnicky also invites parents to participate in their child’s learning. This can be as simple as suggesting that parents ask their children about a particular post on the class site or more complex such as inviting them to comment on posts or even adding their own content.

For more information visit: Parents Guide to Tumblr

6) Chatzy
Chatzy is a free and simple tool that allows multiple participants to chat. It takes seconds to set up a chat room, then once you do, just share the link with others who you want to join. You can choose to have your room password protected (for private conversations) or open. Here are some ideas for using Chatzy to to connect with parents. Hold a weekly or monthly fireside chat about timely topics. Have a room as an ongoing place where parents know they can come and find fellow parents to shoot the breeze. Use Chatzy to plan an event. Use Chatzy for a online book club to chat about books parents may find of interest.

For more information visit: Chatzy Help Guide

7) YouTube
Creating a channel in YouTube or other video sites is a great way to capture what is going on in your school  to share with parents.  High School Principal Johnny Bevacqua uses their St. Patrick’s Secondary School YouTube Channel as a vehicle for parents to watch student council, school plays, alumni memories, and more. It’s also a great way for to share updates and announcements with parents. If your parent population is multilingual, you might want to invite students to help you make videos in the languages in which their parents speak. Here are St. Patrick school’s privacy principles and consent form.

For more information visit a Parent’s Guide to YouTube. Sample video: Student council welcome assembly

8) LiveStream

Principal Nancy Amling at Hudson High School of Learning Technologies in Manhattan, N.Y., connects and coordinates with parents by using live-streaming services like UStream or LiveStream. She provides parents a way to see right into her school even when they can’t be there by streaming things like PTA meetings, morning announcements and more. She may also encourage her teachers to stream lessons or student presentations so parents can watch and respond. Parent coordinators are in a great position to work with their school leader and teachers to set up a stream to share with parents who are unable to make face-to-face visits to the school for important events. This could even be a possibilty for parents who can't make parent / teacher nights.

For more information visit: Guide to using LiveStream. Photo link: http://www.diigo.com/item/image/2s99/3ehk

So, what do you think? Could some of these resources be helpful in building the home - school connection where you work?  Which ideas do you think will be, or have you experienced as being, successful?  Are there challenges or concerns that are getting in the way of you implementing some of these ideas? If so, what are they?  

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

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