How to engage parents online more effectively

Just as students often learn best from other students, parents often learn the most from other parents, which is why the most powerful programs leverage digital media to show real parents struggling with—and overcoming—real issues.

Simply posting great content online isn’t enough, however. Typically, parents have to hear about these new resources from a friend or other trusted source before they’ll take the time to log on; others will need a note from a teacher, or personal, hands-on experience with the new tools before feeling comfortable enough to fly solo.

As with any other innovation, educators need a plan that will bring parents through all the various stages outlined in the diffusion process, moving from initial awareness and interest to evaluation, trial, and adoption.

Because mass media and information distribution work best at raising awareness and generating interest in a new idea, service, or product, it’s OK to start with fliers, letters, website announcements, and other typical tools. To move from interest to action, however, parents probably will need some face time and one-on-one encouragement.

This is where community partners and other trusted messengers come into play. When parents get to try out new tools in a safe and comfortable environment, such as their church, temple, synagogue, community center, or public library, they’re more likely to engage.

As they experience success online, motivation—and learning—builds. Soon, parents are able to work with their children and their children’s teachers with greater confidence, laying the foundation for a true partnership built on mutual respect

Award-winning eSchool News columnist Nora Carr is the chief of staff for North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools.

For more information about parent engagement, see:

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