LivingTree Pride: Abbey Buchert, 2nd Grade Teacher
Abbey is in her seventh year of teaching, and second year at Cascadia Elementary School in Seattle, Washington. Greatly influenced by her own 5th grade teacher, Abbey became an educator because she desired to show children that learning could be a positive and exciting experience. Understanding the link between parent involvement and student success, Abbey has practiced communication with her parents throughout her career. In search of an engagement platform that guaranteed privacy, Abbey began using LivingTree for her class in the fall of 2015. Here’s Abbey’s LivingTree Story!
Describe your parent engagement strategy and methodology prior to LivingTree. “I started out by sending newsletters to my parents; then I tried Edmodo, and later, Blogspot. There was no form of privacy or security with Blogspot, and I didn’t like that. If someone was searching for our class, they could have found our site and saw the pictures and messages I posted. I was initially attracted to LivingTree because of its privacy.”
How did you find out about LivingTree? “I first heard about LivingTree through my brother. One day while helping my nephew with his homework, my brother brought up LivingTree to check the day’s homework assignment. After hearing the good things he had to say about LivingTree as a parent, I became really interested.”
Why did you decide to use a new method or tool for parent engagement? “My main issue with using a blog was that it lacked privacy. My principal wanted me to use something more secure. I also used a newsletter the first couple of years of teaching, but I didn’t like that – it felt too old school. I thought it would be nice to have something like a social network.”
What was your implementation of LivingTree like? “I thought it was simple. I didn’t read any tutorials; I just played around with the platform. I loved how easy it was for parents to join – I really, really like the printable group code sheet – I just had to print it out and hand the directions to my parents. Unlike other applications I’ve tried, my parents haven’t had trouble understanding how to use LivingTree. They were excited about how easy it was… It did take a couple of “don’t forget to check LivingTree,” reminders for my parents to get in the habit of checking the feed. At first, I was worried about the two-way conversation piece. I thought I might get an overwhelming amount of messages from parents, but I haven’t had a parent abuse this capability – Parents message me in LivingTree, and I can easily check my LivingTree inbox during class. “
What were your results using LivingTree? “I have always communicated with parents a lot; but with LivingTree, I think they have a better sense of what’s going on in the class. Parents can always look at their feed to check our calendar or scroll through posts. Before, all of the information was in a newsletter that got lost. I know my parents are using LivingTree because I receive comments and ‘likes’ on my posts. The typical emails asking, “when is this test happening?” or “when is this assignment due?” have stopped. I also just like how easy it is to share pictures. With LivingTree, it takes two seconds to share a photo post, so it is no hassle at all. It is also nice to have everything in one space – parents can go back and find everything right there.”
What feature do you use the most? “I share a lot of messages & photos throughout the week; and every Monday I’ll share a newsletter-type post with my class. We’ve been doing a postcard project all year, and so that’s an ongoing update. I use the calendar periodically for due dates, book reports, and events I want the parents to come to. I upload book reports as files, and I share a lot of photos throughout the week.”
What would you say to teachers who are hesitant to use technology for engagement? “I think technology is something that is accessible for everyone. I would say it’s a great tool for keeping parents in the know. Most parents are used to Facebook or Instagram, so they really enjoy seeing photos of their children in class. I think parents like to see what’s going on in the classroom. When they see their children happy, it makes them happy.”
What would you do if LivingTree were taken away? “I would be really sad because I like LivingTree a lot. I do know I would stick with something safe and secure!”
What one thing would you say about LivingTree to others? “I would definitely say it’s easy! I’m a big fan of things that aren’t complicated. It’s easy and organized, which are the two biggest things for me. And my parents love it – they feel like they’re a part of the classroom. I don’t have to stress out when I forget to share information because I can just make a quick post at home with my phone.”
“LivingTree allows us to take a leap forward in community building by providing us with our own private social network for collaboration and engagement across our district, school, and classroom communities.” – Adrian Garcia, PSJA ISD Chief Technology Officer
Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD, located in South Texas just north of Mexico, serves ~32,000 students. By the numbers, PSJA ISD is 89% economically disadvantaged, 98.9% Latino, 11% ESL, 35% Bilingual, and 6% migrant in population.
As a nationally recognized district, PSJA ISD has done incredible work in pushing the bar for high school graduation and college success rates. PSJA wanted to build on this success and develop broader community within their schools and district. PSJA faced language, technology, and cultural barriers when building community and partnership. They sought to reach as many parents as possible and to empower parents by giving them a voice into the education community. To do this, PSJA ISD implemented LivingTree in an effort to include all families via mobile application and two-way translation. PSJA ISD has been using LivingTree since the spring semester of 2014. In the fall 2015 school semester alone (time period beginning August 1, 2015), PSJA opened a virtual window to their classrooms more than 20,000 times. Their community has engaged within the network by commenting 2500+ times and showing appreciation in 42,999 instances: