- Apps are connecting teachers and parents, even if a language barrier exists. Charter school teachers from Lee County, Florida, have launched the new school year with two teacher-parent communication apps — Bloomz and Class Tag — that allow teachers to update parents on their students’ progress, NBC-2.com reports.
- Teachers can send messages and pictures to parents throughout the school day, as well as reminders about upcoming projects. The apps also translate English messages into several languages, effectively overcoming language barriers between parent and teacher, teachers said.
- The apps allow educators to share both positive news and individual student concerns through the app. The Lee County School District uses a similar app, called School Messenger, for communication.
Increasingly, technology is being used to connect schools, students and parents with each other as well as a number of outside resources. Student badges, which can be used as students enter and exit school buses, are gaining popularity as a way for school officials and parents to track students and their attendance.
New platforms are also connecting educators with community resources, like organizations looking to partner with schools.
A Chicago arts education advocacy group called Ingenuity is working with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as part of its Any Given Child initiative, to expand a data platform that connects schools looking to expand their arts education programs with local art organizations. The platform is spreading six more cities in addition to Chicago, including Jacksonville, Florida; Baltimore; New Orleans; Houston; Portland, Oregon; and Sacramento, California.
Virtual mentor models have also improved student performance and, in some cases, have helped carry at-risk students to graduation. Mentoring programs that offer virtual support, like online communication apps, extend the support that students need to outside the classroom, allow for "close, candid personal bonds" and provide a consistent schedule for both mentor and student.
For schools looking to adopt communication apps that enhance parent-teacher interactions specifically, it is also important to consider how often and extensively teachers will be in communication with parents. A well-defined and well-communicated plan, including guidelines around use, is key to the successful implementation of any new technology.
It is also important for schools to first vet third-party vendors to ensure student, parent and school data are protected.
One of the most important features of parent-teacher apps is that they improve the communication between teachers and parents of ELL students. As of 2016, 9.6% of the total student population was considered ELL and 46% of teachers have had to talk to a parent through the student translator. Teachers are concerned that language barriers exacerbate a disconnect and new technology could help solve the problem.
The importance of parent involvement has been well researched and documented over the last 40 years. Students with involved parents have higher test scores, overall grades and graduation rates. In particular, students from different cultural backgrounds do better when parents work with educators to bridge the differences between home and school culture.
Technology designed to keep parents in the loop can improve student performance, as well as increase trust between parents and teachers.