Magazine article Technology & Learning

The Right Connections: Schools Are Turning to Various Forms of Technology to Keep Their Communities Informed

Magazine article Technology & Learning

The Right Connections: Schools Are Turning to Various Forms of Technology to Keep Their Communities Informed

Article excerpt

Teachers often say they wish they had stronger communication with their families, but it's one of a thousand things on their plates and can be hard to solve. Look no further, folks. Here are seven eight ideas for strengthening the home-school connection.

INCLUDE PARENTS IN TRAINING FOR A 1:1 PROGRAM

Challenge: When Oxnard (CA) School District passed a bond to start a 1:1 program and buy iPads for its 17,000 students,

Ramona Elementary School knew it would have to address parental concerns about safety and cyberbuilying, among other issues.

Solution: "I started by talking with staff and preparing them on how we could increase

parent buy-in, says Mary Arias Elisondo, principal of the Title I school. "We created a Prezi (www.prezi.com) that described the 1:1 and its importance, our expectations, and how to care for the iPads so parents could support their children at home." Since very few families have wifi at home, the school started a program called wifi30 in which teachers stay late at school three or four days a week so that children have wifi access to do their homework.

A lot of the parents were unsure about the need for iPads and thought that because the apps were fun and engaging they were not necessary, so Arias Elisondo offered a night of basic iPad training on using the machine, downloading apps, etc. Approximately 80 percent of the students are English language learners, so the training was offered in Spanish, Mixtec (Baja y Alta), and Zapotec (indigenous languages primarily spoken in southern Mexico). Additional training sessions covered how to use myON (www.myon.com), how to download books, and how to promote written language. Another workshop briefed parents on how to set up email, communicate with teachers via email, and use ClassDojo. Now our parents can communicate with teachers, which is a huge deal in our community, especially when many parents come from places without a written language," says Arias Elisondo.

TRACK STUDENT PERFORMANCE

Challenge: We had a lot of lag time between teachers inputting grades and parents being able to view those grades," says Scott Iler, assistant principal at Monrovia High School in Monrovia, CA.

Solution: Thanks to School Loop (www.schoolloop.com), the school now provides instant feedback. "Parents can view up-to-date grades and have the clearest possible picture of student performance. They also have the ability to track their child's progress, which allows us to work in concert to help students get the earliest interventions possible," says tier. The school began using School Loop's daily attendance feature this year. "In the past, we used a 'robo-calling' machine and a blanket phone message was sent at the end of the day. Now we can report in real time and parents will know if their child was not in class and for which period."

STREAMLINE DIFFICULT-TOFIND INFORMATION

Challenge: Understanding the impact of school choice and keeping up with the movement of students is challenging in the best of scenarios, but in the Miami-Dade County (FL) Public Schools, where there are 365,000 students and a high transfer rate, effective communication with families is a monumental undertaking.

Solution: The district uses GuideK12 (www. guidekl2.com)'s technology to follow the trends as students transfer in and around the area and to assess programs to meet their needs. Geovisua] technology also makes it easier for parents to find information. "We have a 'Find Your Neighborhood School' link on the district home page," says Jorge Fernandez, executive director for client and business services. "You can type in an address and get the home school on a map as well as links to nearby magnet programs, IB programs, Cambridge programs, and Capstone programs." Having this information so accessible has also reduced hundreds of calls to the district office; during back-to-school time, the link gets nearly 49,000 hits in a month. …

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