In the past two years, several of the leading education web portals have started providing “communications hubs” through which parents can stay in touch with events in their children’s schools and classrooms. Some teachers are even using the eMail functionality of these sites to communicate directly with parents.

All of the sites require that teacher-registrants provide some basic information for identification of their class and for security reasons. Teachers can then create eMail lists of the parents of their students, as well as information to uniquely identify each student. From this point, it is easy to send out universal notifications to all parents, or to send private messages to individuals.

Here are a few of the leading portals that provide this service, in one form or another:

  1. Bigchalk (http://www.bigchalk.com). Teachers can display a classroom calendar and related homework assignments. They also can link parents to basic educational information, such as state education standards, as well as databases and educational services.
  2. Myschoolonline (http://www.myschoolonline.com). Teachers can post calendars and assignments, as well as class policies. A separate, related function, mygradebook.com, enables teachers to post grades on secure sites that can be viewed only by holders of special passwords. Also links to reference materials.
  3. HighWired (http://www.highwired.com). Targeted to high schoolers, this site offers all the basic functions, but also provides a forum for information about the many school related activities of teens (clubs, school newspaper, etc.). It also enables students to build their own information about their activities, for display to parents and peers. Links are focused on issues of concern to high schoolers, such as college selection and financial aid.
  4. SchoolNotes.com (http://www.schoolnotes.com). Enables teachers to provide ancillary information for homework assignments and other activities. These may be electronic “post-it” notes from the teacher or links to web sites. Also provides easy one-button click for parents to communicate with teachers.