Parent engagement is a driving factor behind any child’s success in school—but a nationwide survey of more than 1,000 teachers found that parents are often disengaged in their child’s learning journey. To harness edtech tools that can help school-home communication, it’s essential to first secure teacher buy-in.
More than half of the teachers surveyed believe parents do not understand the importance of their involvement in their child’s school experience, and they assume education is a teacher’s job–not a collaborative effort between parents and teachers.
As the district technology integrationist in a rural Title 1 district, I continually look for affordable and/or free edtech resources that will bridge the communication gap between teachers and parents. But those resources also require teacher buy-in.
Up until a few years ago, our district’s main communication line with parents was the traditional “old school” format. We would send countless paper copies of information home with students in their book bags at the end of the week, and those same papers were coming back the following week because parents weren’t checking their child’s backpacks regularly.
A drastic change in our communication efforts with parents needed to occur. After researching numerous platforms to help with parent-teacher engagement, I discovered ClassTag, a simple and free communication platform to address the problem of streamlining teacher and parent conversations.
In order to get teacher buy-in, I knew I needed to just introduce the ClassTag feature that would instantly save them the most time – scheduling parent-teacher conferences. Past practice had my teachers creating parent-teacher conference slips to “send home in backpacks” where parents would “sign-up” for times. When and “if” those slips came back, teachers were spending countless hours “scheduling” those students to coordinate times with other siblings, etc.
As soon as I introduced the parent-teacher conference feature to my teachers, they were instantly on board. In fact, within minutes of teachers creating their conference schedules, they were seeing parents “grab” spots. This immediate feedback by several parents really reinforced the value of making a change in the way we communicate with our parents. We had nearly 100 percent parent participation too.
To achieve outcomes like this, regardless of the problem you’re solving or the solutions you want to gain, you need to get teachers excited and engaged so they see value in integrating the technology. You need teacher buy-in. My motto is: Teachers need to be equipped with a big digital toolbox. They need to have the right tools in their toolbox to efficiently and effectively perform the task at hand.
Here are seven tips to encourage personal development and create district-wide teacher buy-in for new technology:
1. Allow six months of advance prep time to identify pain points before you implement any new solution. Talk to teachers and ask them what their biggest challenges are. Look for trends among these challenges so you can prioritize what to address first.
2. Research possible solutions and identify the one that meets your criteria. Especially consider price, ease of use, and functional features. When trying to find a way to fix my district’s parent-teacher conference problem, I needed a platform that was sophisticated while being intuitive for parents and teachers to use. Since budgeting is a big concern for my district, I also needed to look for options that were free.
3. Don’t assume your students’ parents don’t have access to technology. Although I work in a rural, Title 1 district school, we have a 1:1 student digital device ratio and every parent has access to a smartphone.
4. Once you’ve narrowed down your edtech tool search, create an account and play around with the technology. Familiarize yourself with how it works so you’re prepared to get teachers excited.
5. Run a focus group with key teachers. Have these teachers test out the technology for two or three months to acquire data points before setting up administrative meetings.
6. Showcase the technology at a faculty meeting at least two months before teachers will start to implement. Use your focus teachers to reinforce, provide positive feedback, and get teachers excited. With ClassTag, once I showed teachers how quick and easy it was to sign up and all the valuable features, they became eager to use it.
7. Once you’ve identified and solved a pain point, excitement over the new technology becomes contagious. Many platforms do more than one thing. Even though we initially introduced ClassTag to streamline parent-teacher conferences, this app encourages engagement in many ways, Leslie Aden, our 5th and 6th grade language arts teacher, finds ClassTag an efficient way to contact parents instantly on their communication channel of choice regarding weather announcements, party planning, or student hurrahs and concerns. Additionally, she’s also able to communicate directly with her class and other classrooms in the school.
Technology can solve a number of problems facing educators, and it can do so in a cost effective and easy-to-use way.
Professional development focused on technology can secure teacher buy-in by clearly showing teachers how new tools will help them build a better classroom. By doing this, you can effect meaningful changes quickly, in a way that motivates everyone–parents, teachers, and students.
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