Networks like Facebook and Twitter, because these networks offer a direct connection to parents, students, and the local community. It is not just an effective way to market your curriculum services and communicate news and information to your student body and their independent schools social mediaparents.
Social media in education is also a great monitoring tool to help you keep a pulse on your community and competition so you always know what’s going on. Posting quality content that holds value for your community will build buzz around your school and can create positive word-of-mouth marketing to get you more enrollment leads.
Increasingly we live in the world of disruptive technology. It almost ceases to amaze us that just 20 years ago phones hung on walls, computers were business tools not entertainment and learning devices and most relational correspondence happened on a piece of paper. K-12 schools uniquely challenge this notion of disruptive technology. They are simultaneously fortresses of tradition (think “Back-to-Basics” and “The Three R’s”) and the place where young minds are prepared for the innovation they need to succeed. The struggle for educators is often how to balance this duality. How to decide the timing and balance of old and new.
Parents want their children to be learning fundamentals while continuing to be prepared for the 21st century.
The duality extends to school-home dialog as well. Should schools rely on photocopied school newsletters or move exclusively to email or text messaging? How should a phone list for emergency notifications be maintained when many families are going cellular? How should we inform parents of the various activities happening in the classroom?
The answer is that each school is truly unique. Each will find its own balance between individual challenges and assets in the art of school and home communication.
The new possibilities for active, two-way communication are exciting – and overwhelming. Teachers and administrators tend to feel more comfortable in “traditional” communication standards, while parents seek more innovative methods that match increasingly hectic lifestyles.
Here are four points to consider when evaluating your school’s communication and community-building strategies:
1) Parents want to be involved – even when life makes it challenging to do so.
Just about every mom and dad will say volunteers positively impact a school’s community.
Parents want to contribute to a safe, nurturing environment at their child’s school, but working parents may struggle with finding free time to contribute.
As a working parent of school-age children myself, I know firsthand the frustration of missing out. It’s difficult to continuously throw cash at every fundraiser and at the same time not be able to volunteer my time on campus. Parents who share these circumstances know how easy it is to fade into the background.
School leaders and teachers need to be creative in providing new ways to bring the parents who want to contribute but who can’t work the traditional methods, back into the circle of engagement.
2) Parents – even those without home computer access to the Internet – are more connected than you think. According to the Speak Up National Research Project’s 2010 study The New 3E’s of Education: Enabled, Engaged, Empowered – How Today’s Students are Leveraging Emerging Technologies for Learning, “58-percent of parents have a smart phone…and 57-percent are using discussion boards, social networking sites and chat rooms to interact and collaborate with others.”
Those are 2010 statistics for a broad sample that cut across many demographics.
It’s safe to assume that these stats are indicative of a growing trend with increasing numbers of parents ‘plugging in’ online and increasingly using social media networks like Facebook and Twitter to obtain and share information about your school.
3) Facebook and Twitter are your friends. No really, they are. Clear policies and procedures must certainly be implemented (see Are you empowering your faculty to use Social Media?), but don’t let the fear of social media prevent your school from missing out on a powerful way to engage parents in real time.
A return to teaching for me would absolutely include a class Facebook page and Twitter account for sending instant information about class activities or assignments.
Can you imagine getting a tweet every day after school at 3:45 with a link to the day’s most up-to-date homework assignments? The Facebook wall can serve as a place for parents to coordinate a carpool, and the Events tab can help the class plan the next volunteer activity. Now that parents and the school are connected, the possibilities are endless!
4) Parents are highly trainable! Parents and teachers alike want to see students be successful, and parents understand they are important contributor to their child’s success.
Many schools offer classes to help parents assist their children with homework, understand their children’s growth and development or teach parents the importance of good nutrition. Parents eagerly embrace these opportunities to be better moms and dads when they know about them.
So as you find the unique balance between traditional learning and communications techniques and adoption of new disruptive technologies, don’t error on the side of utilizing new technology or strategies for parental participation because you think it’s over their heads. When in doubt, offer a class!