Smart phones require smart communication strategies

By Nora Carr, APR, Fellow PRSA
October 10th, 2012

When parents perceive a communication void, they will work to fill it, by creating their own mobile apps or alternative social media sites.

With as many as 49 percent of all U.S. adults using smart phones, according to Nielsen reports, it’s time to get smart about school communications as well.

Today’s on-the-go parents, teachers, and principals require fast, easy access to news and information. In most cases, this requires access to stripped-down mobile websites or special applications (apps) designed for smaller screens and sometimes sketchy wireless internet connections.

Smart-phone use is nearly ubiquitous among young American adults. According to Pew Research, two-thirds (66 percent) of young adults ages 18 to 29 own smart phones. This jumps to 68 percent for adults of any age with household incomes of $75,000 or more. At 59 percent, adults ages 30 to 49 don’t lag far behind these top groups in terms of smart phone ownership.

Unlike other technologies, America’s smart-phone obsession cuts across gender lines as well as racial and ethnic groups. Women are about as likely as men to own smart phones (45 percent versus 46 percent, respectively), while smart-phone ownership rates among blacks (47 percent) and Hispanics (49 percent) surpasses those of whites (42 percent).

Driven perhaps by widespread wireless access as well as personal finances, urban residents (48 percent), college graduates (50 percent), and those with some college (50 percent) are more likely to own smart phones.

A small, qualitative research study we conducted last spring in my district confirms these results. In-depth interviews with a diverse group of parents whose children attend high-wealth, middle-income, and low-wealth schools showed similar patterns.

See also:

How to engage parents online more effectively

Using QR codes for school communications

Ten tips for using social media in school communications

While we expected and did find technology gaps in terms of home computers and broadband internet access, smart-phone use was much more widespread among low-income families than anticipated.

For our low-income families, the smart phone served as their connection to the internet, making text messaging, social media networks, and mobile access to websites and online services even more important—factors we likely would have missed without the additional, local research.

At the other end of the spectrum, we learned that high-income families used their smart phones to stay connected via social networking sites they created and maintained to keep families informed, often without any principal awareness, input, or knowledge.

While all but one of these alternative sites were supportive of school administration and teachers, it’s sad that so many actively engaged parents felt their schools did not meet their communication needs.

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4 Responses to “Smart phones require smart communication strategies”

October 10, 2012

This is all fine and dandy for speeding up existing elements, but where are the deep learning, transfer and application benefits to individual advanced student learning outcomes?

We again try to find a use for technology rather than focusing in research driven pedagogy.

“Backing these new apps with sophisticated databases and other programs that make upkeep easier can go a long way in helping time-stressed school personnel manage communications more effectively and efficiently”.

What about the students and advancing their educational outcomes. This is where the priority should be.

October 11, 2012

Thanks for sharing this useful information with us. Ever since man invented technology, the use and dependency on it has been tremendous. The use of technology has been seen not only at work place but also in schools. I am sure many schools after reading this post may schools will think of using technology is a smarter sense for the success of the students.

October 11, 2012

Thank you for the feedback. Communications and parent outreach are the focus of my columns, not teaching and learning. My view? We need to focus on student learning and advancing outcomes for them, and keeping parents informed and engaged is an important part of making that happen.

November 14, 2012

Couldn’t agree more Nora. The huge communication gap and lack of parent involvement at schools where I taught is what led me to step out of the classroom and into the business world to create an easy solution for schools to connect with their communities and for parents to be excited and engaged, through Mobile. Do check out – would love your thoughts, ideas and feedback, if you have a moment!