Text, tweet, email, call—what do parents want in school communications?

When it comes to school communications, parents today want more information from their children’s teachers and schools, but they also want that information to be timely, targeted, and personalized to their children or their interest areas.

The latest data from Speak Up Research Project gives insights on school-to-home communications. In “Text, Twitter, Email, Call—What Do Parents Say About School Communications?” Dr. Julie Evans, chief executive officer of Project Tomorrow, shared these insights from parents, educators, and administrators, and discussed takeaways from the research.

Currently: How Most Parents Receive Information…Read More

School leaders reveal the common sense keys to ELL success

English language learners (ELLs) are not a monolithic population. They come from different countries, have different levels of English exposure at home, and have widely different educational needs. Here, two district leaders discuss their approaches to giving every ELL the best possible chance at reaching their literacy goals.

Vicky B. Saldala: Seeing Bilingualism as an Asset

Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) is the sixth-largest school district in the nation and the second largest in the state of Florida. In a diverse student population, with students representing 208 countries and 181 languages, ELLs comprise almost 14 percent of our student body. Promoting language development and achievement for our students has always been my priority; however, when Florida joined the WIDA Consortium in 2015, my team and I saw an opportunity for improvement.…Read More

Finding the right parent-teacher communication app for your class

With a smartphone glued to 90 percent of the parent population’s hands, how is it that schools still depend on old methods such as sending notes home, newsletters, and emails to communicate with parents? A recent study by Gallup found only 1 in 5 parents are fully engaged with their child’s school, meaning 80 percent of parents are either indifferent to or actively disengaged from their kids’ school. It’s clear there is a disconnect between the way teachers are communicating and the way most of the world is getting its information.

As a trailblazer in classroom technology, it seems like I’ve tried every form of communication out there: printed newsletters, emails, texting, blogging, a YouTube channel, even Facebook. But along with grading, lesson-planning, and everything else a teacher is asked to balance, it all got to be too much.

I wanted the communication process to be easy and streamlined for my parents and me. Finally I asked my parents, “What’s the best way for me to communicate with you?” Essentially, all of them said “email” or “texting,” implying that their smartphone is their lifeline to the outside world. That’s when my hunt for the perfect communication app began.…Read More

How today’s tech departments are moving into the future

Tech directors are a busy lot these days. With big changes to federal funding models, pressing bandwidth needs (on campus and at home), and the everlasting conversation between IT and instruction departments, there’s a lot on their plates.

Fortunately, districts appear to be meeting these challenges head-on, as evidenced by a recent panel discussion for administrators and tech directors in Dallas, hosted by the IT products vendor PCMG, called “Preparing the Next Generation of Personalized Learners in the Digital Age.”

Moderated by Gabe Soumakian, the former superintendent of Oxnard Union High School District in California, the panelists spoke at length about their challenges, solutions, and the spirit of collaboration. Joining Soumakian were Stuart Burt, chief technology officer for Royse City ISD; Doug Brubaker, an assistant superintendent at Garland ISD; and Tom Murray, a former educator and tech director who now helps coordinate the Future Ready Schools project for the Alliance for Excellent Education. What follows is an excerpt of that conversation.…Read More

Survey: Parents prefer texting and mobile communication from schools

Determining the right mix of traditional and digital tools to best engage with parents and district stakeholders remains a primary challenge for district communications, according to a new report.

A large part of a school district’s ability to implement successful initiatives or pass bonds lies in its communications and its ability to connect with community members.

Now, a new report from Blackboard and Project Tomorrow outlines the different roles district communications officials play in today’s schools. The results reflect the increasingly important yet challenging role of communications in today’s K-12 districts.…Read More

Elementary and high school students build Maze Runner-like challenge for Sphero

Naper Elementary School students could be the envy of their peers when it comes to a labyrinth for testing their robotic skills.

With technical assistance from Naperville North High School, Naper fourth-graders will be rolling robotic Sphero balls through what one elementary student likened to the always-changing maze in “Maze Runner,” a literary reference that brought a smile to the face of Ryan Shambo, Naper’s learning commons director and lead teacher.

The collaboration between the two schools started after Shambo had trouble finding a maze to complement the school’s technology.…Read More

5 ways to improve your school website design right now

These days, before visiting your campus or even speaking to anyone on the phone, the first impression anyone will ever have with your school is via its website. When researching existing schools, the majority of people will automatically undertake in-depth online research to learn more about their options. Therefore, it is crucial that your website contains enough relevant information that is eye catching and easy to navigate through so as to provide helpful information and not confuse the visitor, causing them to leave the website. After enrollment, the website will serve as a vital link between parents, students and school administration.

Content seems to be key here, yet it is not merely enough, meaning if it is not organized in the right way, it will be difficult to find or there will be too much of it, therefore it will not serve its purpose. This is where design plays its part in providing solutions for content display and organization.

That being said, design is not something you should fear since it does not present a difficult task given the development and advancement in the CMS that enable even those without much designer skills achieve great results. Yet, there are a few steps you should consider and implement if you want to maximize your website’s effectiveness.…Read More

Stanford course prepares educators for the new school year

The ability to communicate effectively is increasingly recognized as an important skill for students entering the workforce. Two new initiatives that guide educators – the College and Career Readiness Standards and the Framework for 21st Century Learning – identify communication and collaboration as key elements of student learning. The standards particularly describe the importance of students understanding the reasoning of others and engaging in meaningful conversations using critical thinking.

Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education has launched a short online course designed specifically to help educators create rich and meaningful opportunities for communication within the classroom. The course, Effective Conversation in the Classroom, launches this August with three online sessions. K-12 classroom instructors, instructional coaches, and educational administrators are invited to enroll.

Each session includes expert video screencasts, classroom video clips, readings and resources, and assignments that will help participants create a strong foundation of communication within the classroom. The course has been developed by Understanding Language/SCALE, a Stanford research and practice center focused on K-12 language and performance assessment. The teaching team consists of Stanford Professor Emeritus Kenji Hakuta, Senior Researcher Dr. Jeff Zwiers and Lecturer Dr. Sara Rutherford-Quach.…Read More

How flexible learning spaces improve active learning

For generations, most high schools have been designed with a cookie-cutter approach “that can be reproduced easily,” said Ashley Smith, who works with the architectural firm Smith Design Group. But that’s certainly not true of the new THINC College & Career Academy in LaGrange, Ga., which Smith helped design.

Housed in a building on the campus of West Georgia Technical College, THINC looks nothing like a traditional high school. Instead, it has the look and feel of a Google office building, with brightly colored carpet tiles, lots of glass walls, and stylish furniture that can be moved around easily to create flexible, collaborative workspaces.

Within those spaces, students work in teams to design and build parts for forestry machines, market a college radio station, or even launch their own start-up company. To complete these activities, they use the same technologies that professionals in those fields would use to do their jobs.…Read More