How Can We Best Engage Families?

Guest post by Brad Currie

Transforming the way in which we engage families in our classrooms, schools, and districts is paramount if educators are going to exhaust all options to promote the success of students. A multi-faceted approach must be implemented. Families live busy lives and have unique circumstances pertaining to their availability on a given day. Educators must never discount the opportunities that technology provides to a parent or guardian on an internet enabled device. Grades, learning experiences, event information, feedback, praise, constructive criticism, highlights, and a plethora of other insights can be transmitted to families from educators through a variety of technological methods. 

How can we best engage families in the 21st century? Very simply: Leverage the power of available technology and web applications as a way to connect in the virtual world. Now, more than ever, people look to their devices for real-time information. That’s why schools must take it upon themselves to activate stakeholder engagement with social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter. Moving the educational conversation forward and telling your school’s story can easily be done in today’s world with a few taps of the screen or clicks of the mouse.

How might this look in the school setting? Picture a sixth-grade class that is studying currents events from around the world. The building administrator pops in to find a tremendous conversation taking place among students. He quickly takes out his iPhone and captures a great visual of students taking ownership of their learning. The picture, with a brief description, is then posted on the school’s Facebook page. Then, a parent posts a comment on Facebook saying how appreciative she was to find out what was going on in class so she can engage in meaningful conversation with her child at the dinner table.

You see, a simple social media post can go a long way in activating family engagement in the school setting. Coupled with an existing amicable relationship, schools can now garner more support and strengthen a transparent school culture that is all about promoting the success of students. Utilizing mobile devices, web applications, and a host of other technologies is imperative in today’s society. In fact, school stakeholders expect it and would not have it any other way.

Various forms of technological hardware can also help keep families engaged with their child’s educational experiences. Take for example the Swivl, which provides users with a hands-free video-recording experience. This comes in handy for schools that are hosting events for parents, especially those where some parents might not be able to attend in person. At least once a year, our schools in the Chester School District, in New Jersey, will put on a program for parents that speaks to the importance of mental health. There is no doubt that families need exposure to this important topic. On the night of the event, the school guidance counselor sets up the Swivl and records the presentation. Not only was it streamed in real time, but posted on the school website to be viewed by parents at a later date.

The fact of the matter is that we need to meet families where they currently are in terms of availability. Some families might be available to experience the presentation, but just not in person. Which is why schools need to find creative ways to provide families with a way to take in the content. Connecting with families in the digital world is along the same lines as providing customers with the option of dining in or taking out. Depending on what is going on with a family’s schedule or situation, schools need to find multiple ways for them to experience the products that they are making available. Technology has given the educational world more opportunities to connect with families in ways once thought unimaginable. Now, it’s just a matter of putting our collective educational minds together to find the resources necessary to make these innovative engagement strategies a common reality.

Often educators, particularly school leaders, struggle with engaging stakeholders in the virtual world. How can technology be leveraged to push information and drive communication?

Brad Currie is the author of All Hands on Deck: Tools for Connecting Educators, Parents, and CommunitiesHe was a 2014 ASCD Emerging Leader and the 2017 NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year. Currie currently serves as the director of planning, research, and evaluation for the Chester School District in New Jersey. Learn more by following him on Twitter @thebradcurrie or visiting his website at www.thebradcurrie.com

1 Comment

  • Daniel Scott says:

    Thanks, Brad, for the visions you are casting here! Much appreciated.

    A couple ways I’d love to see schools utilize technology is to break down language and culture barriers. I’m all for updating and engaging families when they’re not physically available. What’s on my mind now though is…how can technology create opportunities for families who may not know English to stay informed as well as create two-way communication in the same scenarios?

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