Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Connected Teacher: Staying Connected With Parents and Students

The Connected Teacher: Staying Connected With Parents and Students

It is very important to stay connected to students and parents and have open lines of communication. Below are a few things that I do to help students and parents stay connected and informed to the comings and goings in my classroom.

Google Calendar:
One thing I use to help keep students and parents current on daily classwork, project deadlines, and upcoming assessment dates is the use of Google Calendar. This is a very easy and an effective way to keep students and parents up-to date. I am able to input the week's agenda on my computer's iCAL and I have it set to automatically sync to my Google Calendar. I provide a link to parents to my Calendar at the start of the year and keep a permanent link on my course description on my online grade book. If you are a MAC user and use iCAL, syncing to a Google Calendar is very easy and instructions can be found here on Google's Help Page. I also just learned from Richard Byrne's on FreeTechnologyForTeachers about using Google Calendar to add attachments and assignments.

The Team Weekly Newsletter via a Shared Google Doc:
My interdisciplinary team sends out a weekly newsletter to parents on what is going on in each of our classes. Sending weekly e-mails to our Team Leader to compile the newsletter got to be a big hassle, so we started last year using a shared Google Doc that everybody on our team has permission to edit and we make the Google Doc available to view for our parents.  We send a weekly e-mail to parents at the end of each week with a link to our Google Doc with a reminder that it has been updated. Each teacher shares a little about what is going on in their classes, and we also share the "Word of the Week" and the Student of the Week.

I try and send out an e-mail to parents the week before any major due dates or unit assessments to let parents know of any important class news. Parents have always been very appreciative of this. However due to  the  Google Doc newsletter, I no longer send out as many weekly e-mails.

Online Course Management (Blackboard):
Teaching in a one to one laptop computer environment requires me to have a central location to keep important documents, files, etc. This is an essential way I communicate with my students. I am very lucky that my school district has made the commitment to using Blackboard. If your school does not have a Course Management system, I would look at using tools such as Wikispaces, Blogger, Edmodo, Wordpress, or others to have a virtual 24 hour presence with students.

Remind 101
(Update: Now this service is just Remind)
Something new I'm trying this year is using the free texting service Remind101. I am very excited about using this tool this coming school year. It is a safe place for me to send out text messages to students and parents without having to give them my cell phone number. I am really excited about the possibilities with this service this year. As a High Teacher told me about why they use Remind101, "Students have stopped reading their e-mails, but students have not stopped carrying their cellphones. They are always looking at them."

New Class Twitter Page:
I am also trying this new feature this year with my students. I have created a class Twitter page titled @little_abe_213 to connect with my students in a different way. I am hoping to use this to get out information to students and parents and perhaps run weekly history contests. I don't know how many students have Twitter or will connect to me this way, but I am curious to find out how this platform of social media works. With any history contests I run, I will also make them available on my Blackboard Site for students who can not access Twitter.

To help parents access the various resources and information about my class this year, I am going to use the "Share Feature" in Dropbox as a place for students to access things like textbook information, handouts from curriculum night, etc.. I used to rely on parents navigating through my Blackboard site, but  hope by using Dropbox I can make it easier to share important digital documents to my parents.

Some of these methods of communicating with parents I have used for awhile and there are a few things I am trying new this year.

What are some other ways you connect with students and parents in your classes? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.

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