Ten Ways to Use Technology to Increase Parent Participation

Research has consistently shown that parent participation is a leading factor in determining student success.  However, our modes of parent participation have remained largely unchanged in decades.  Parents rely on sparsely scheduled open houses and parent-teacher conference nights.


 Additional appointments are usually only available during the teacher's contractual time, which is often going to clash with work schedules or other commitments.

Educators should be exploring ways to encourage meaningful parent participation and there are a number of ways that technology can help to connect parents to the classroom experience.  Technology can provide greater ease of access to student grade information, it can improve communication between teacher and parent, and provide an avenue for parents to have a more meaningful role in the learning process.  Here are ten ways to do so:

1. Create a class webpage that provides contact/biographical info, updates on class activities, a calendar, and a place to communicate with the teacher.  This is the first step in opening a window for parents and I am surprised at how many teachers neglect to create a web page.  Ideally, a school system would provide a templated system of webpages ala Schoolworld to make it easier for teachers.  For savvier teachers, facebook or edmodo allows the teacher to increase the level of communication using a recognizable social media format.  This would allow for "wall posts", integration with Twitter and/or text messaging and e-mail, and realtime chatting.  As long as you are not friending students, I think a class facebook page for information sharing would be a valuable tool.

2. E-mail list for regular updates to the parents en masse

Many pre-school teachers do it so why not at the upper grades?  Use your e-mail program to create a shortcut to e-mail your entire class and their parents.  This is a quick way to announce major assignments and be sure that there will be no question about whether the adequate information to complete the project was provided.

3. Parent portal to grading system so that parents can get updates regularly

Why have the end of the semester provide a surprise to an unsuspecting parent?  Provide ongoing access to grades.  If your school system uses one of the major student management systems such as iPass and Rediker, this may already be done for you.  If not, explore ways to make your grades available to parents on an ongoing basis.  For example, you could use turnitin.com to manage student papers and check for plagiarism, but you could also post grades on the site.  Parents could then be instructed to get the user name and password from the student.  Or you could use a teacher website creator like edmodo or learning management system such as Moodle to post grades and make them available to parents.  

4. Class newsletter that is sent home regularly

Another common pre-school practice that should be exported to the upper levels.  Rather than relying on occasional e-mail updates to parents, you could create a class newsletter that is sent home regularly - such as once a month.  This could be created using a word processing or publishing program and include photos of students, examples of student work, or upcoming assignments.  You could also make the newsletter itself a class assignment.

5. Blogging

If e-mailing a newsletter attachment is too 2004 for you, set up a class blog.  Provide all of the content of the newspaper, but online and send brief reminders to parents to check the blog.

6. Twitter account for homework updates, projects, tests

If you would like parents to have the ability to write back to you easily, but without total freedom, twitter is a great option.  Send home quick updates and get brief responses from parents.

7. Make videos of class activities available online - teachertube, youtube, vimeo

With parent permission, you could shoot video of particularly interesting class activities and then upload the video content to a video sharing website.

8. Live chats for meetings - skype, iChat etc.

Why restrict parent teacher meetings to the narrow intersection of the teacher workday and the parents' availability?  Set up video enhanced meetings online using Skype, iChat, or other video services.

9. Virtual open house via a live colllaborative session - twiddla, zoho

There are a few free tools out for live online collaborative sessions.  All of these allow multiple participants to communicate with one another and shared ideas.  A couple options include Twiddla and Zoho, but there are many others.

10. Online photo collection of class activities - dropevent

Create a photo gallery for parents to view.  Better yet, give parents the opportunity to share their own photos of school events.  Drop Event is a great new website that allows for such collaboration.

Adam Steiner, highdefteacher.com

Photo Courtesy: ClipartPanda.com