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Connecting with Parents-- Through Tech

April 06, 2016

Principal Christine Swanson of Edison Elementary in Michigan knows that in education, there are no “magic wands” that can change things for the better with a flick of the wrist. But she’s found something pretty close – something that has made a difference in everything from academic achievement to the happiness of teachers and students. That something is parent engagement, and Principal Swanson is using technology to get parents (and the whole community) involved in creating a welcoming, inspiring school culture.

What makes technology such a great tool for engaging with parents? It’s all about communication, and as Swanson knows, the connection between teachers and parents can be the hardest one to get right. After all, it’s not easy to have a meaningful relationship when a ten-minute parent-teacher conference every few months is all you get. That’s where the tech comes in. Thanks to an app called ClassDojo, teachers at Edison can update parents about student progress in real time. They share photos of class activities, use the app’s messaging system to give quick updates, and even send worksheets to parents ahead of time (with the answers included and work shown!) so they can help students who get stuck. The digital tool doesn’t just help with communication – it also empowers parents to help their kids continue learning beyond the classroom.

Creating a positive school culture also means keeping parents updated about all the good things that are happening.  As Swanson writes, “I always want to make sure that parents know that when I call, it isn’t necessarily because something negative occurred.” She knows that success inside the classroom depends a lot on what goes on outside the classroom, and that the more communication there can be between students, teachers, parents, and school leaders, the better. And while it may not be a magic wand, technology has given this principal a way to make the culture of communication a reality.