- Disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic required school districts nationwide to rethink approaches to communication as remote learning required parents to take a more direct role in their children's education, according to EdTech: Focus on K-12.
- In many cases, this required the addition of tech training opportunities for parents. Florida’s Orange County Public Schools, for example, hosted online tech tours on Facebook to teach parents how to use ed tech tools and systems so they could stay informed and connected.
- The virtual tours were created for the district's videoconferencing software, e-textbook set, class portal and learning management system, and parents reportedly showed the most interest in the videoconferencing platform and tools allowing greater communication with teachers.
Virtual learning models gave parents a front-row seat to their child’s education, and that only increased the need for clear communication from schools to teachers. Though public schools nationwide are expected to return to full-time, in-person schedules in the fall, many of the lessons learned around strengthening parent communication over the past 16 months will apply in any educational setting.
Near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a May 2020 survey from Learning Heroes found 71% of parents had a greater appreciation for teachers, but only 33% felt they had reliable access to them. Additionally, a Canvas survey from April 2020 found nearly 50% of parents struggling to keep their child engaged in learning, and another 30% reporting school instructions were unclear.
To keep clear communication coming, experts recommend ensuring learning plans are posted and documented. With the greater presence of tech in classrooms, districts can also establish an IT request protocol and professional development for teachers that allows them to help parents troubleshoot minor tech problems.
Navigating learning technology can become an even more complicated issue for parents of English language learners, many of whom don’t speak English. In spring 2020, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance that districts must do as much as possible to support ELL students during the pandemic. To better serve these families, schools may need ed tech tools embedded with translation software.
Establishing clear communication early starts off the school year on a more positive note, Crystal Frommert, a board member at St. Theresa School in Houston, Texas, writes for Edutopia. Frommert, a middle school educator and administrator, recommends launching the school year by sending a personalized note to each family that includes at least one positive comment about the student. She also advises families about how best to reach her, and prefers a personal approach, especially when addressing problems.
Though emails may be suitable for minor problems, it’s best to place a phone call to parents for more complicated issues. Frommert suggests while 90% of parents will be respectful when discussing issues about their child, educators should expect 10% to be more challenging.