We’ve put together a feature recap from the Fall of 2018 for all of our Livingtree Engage users. Here are the updates that went live this fall:
New “Share A Message” Design
Sharing a post has a new look! At the start of the school year, we updated the design and feel for users sharing messages, photos, videos, files, text messages, or phone alerts. This is just one of several new designs we are rolling out to give Livingtree Engage a cleaner look and feel.
You no longer have to login to share a post. Now you can schedule posts ahead of time! You can plan out the upcoming week, month, or even year if you’d like… This was a popular request that is now in place to help create a more convenient experience for our educators!
Livingtree Engage Fundraising
We’ve removed the need to enter any bank account information. That’s right, principals and admin can now skip ahead to simply creating fast and easy campaigns by going to your ‘Give’ feature inside of Livingtree Engage and we will send you a check at the end of your campaign.
Want to learn more about our fundraising feature? Go to our Fundraising FAQ
Text-To-Join User Onboarding
We’ve added in the Text-To-Join feature for our school and district customers with SIS Integration, allowing us to send a text message to staff and families prompting them to join Livingtree during the onboarding process. Now users can receive welcome emails and text-messages, helping districts and schools increase their adoption rates across the board!
Want to know more about what’s new with Livingtree as a company? Click here to read our last blog: Livingtree: Always Growing
Livingtree was created by a family in 2013 as a solution to keep families connected to the academic lives of their children through technology. As a company, we are on a mission to bring the best tech platforms and practices to schools and families, and believe that together we can bring out the best outcomes for students and families.
One of the first steps in that direction was to acquire Class Messenger in 2016 to keep the tens of thousands of educators and families connected. The acquisition kept the app operational and also provided Class Messenger teachers with access to free Livingtree Engage accounts. Since then, we’ve continued to provide support for Class Messenger users, while assisting many of them in transitioning to Livingtree Engage.
At the beginning of 2018, we grew even more by announcing the acquisition of district fundraising tool, Edbacker, and appointing Edbacker’s founder, Gary Hensley, as our new CEO. The addition of Edbacker helped us continue to fulfill our mission of connecting schools with their broader communities, while also providing districts with a much-needed solution to crowdfunding that fills the education funding gap.
We grew again in the month of June when we hired Dr. Steve Constantino, the nation’s leading expert in family engagement and former Virginia State Superintendent. As a member of the team, Dr. Constantino is helping to shape the Livingtree Engage platform through his research and best practices, and ensure that educators, schools, and districts have the appropriate tools they need to actively engage families.
In the month of August, we launched a new website with the rebranding of our products under Livingtree. The original Livingtree product became Livingtree Engage, while Edbacker became Livingtree Give. And with that, we made enhancements and launched new features in each product for the new school year (which we will take a deeper dive into in our next blog posts).
We’ve had extraordinary growth, and we continue to develop new partnerships with districts across the country to provide family engagement and fundraising solutions. We are continuing to develop Engage and Give, so that school districts have the best tools to help every student succeed.
In our next blogs, we’ll cover the most recent enhancements to the Engage and Give platforms. To learn more about the individual products visit Livingtree Engage or Livingtree Give, or follow us for new and updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
With the number of teachers and school administrators that have increasingly embraced social media as a way to better connect with parents and families, we must address why it’s time to STOP using social media in the classroom.
Problem 1: App Overload
The first problem goes back to the idea of families becoming disengaged through what we refer to as “App Overload.” For schools to continually inform, involve, and engage families, there needs to be open lines of communication among teachers, families and administrators. But if one teacher is on Instagram, and the next is on Facebook, and the school administration uses Twitter, it can be harder than ever for parents to keep up with the latest news.
It’s also easy for important messages to be lost amid all of the photos and status updates (not to mention the different formulas that determine what information a user sees). While private accounts and groups can work, managing who is requesting access and who sees the information year to year can be a hassle.
Disparate apps and social networks make it especially hard for parents to find out what they really want to know: how their child is doing. These different social media channels, combined with different apps, pages, emails and websites can ironically end up fracturing the K-12 community, rather than bringing it together.
Problem 2: Privacy
The second problem revolves around the privacy of social media, and complying with privacy regulations at the local, state, and federal levels. Knowing whether your school or district has policies around social media use and how to comply with them is important. Social media usage in the classroom has the ability to clash with both FERPA and Copyright Compliance. Educators should be aware of FERPA policies, and what they can and cannot share in posts and photos (did you know that student handwriting is personally identifiable information?). A teacher posting public photos of students working on classroom projects has good intentions, but can pose certain liabilities if it’s not carefully reviewed.
Additionally, social media limits the oversight of schools and districts. When teachers are using a number of different social accounts, tools and apps, it makes it difficult for school and district administrators to stay involved in the communication streams. It also doesn’t give schools or districts the ability to see actual data and report on the levels of engagement within each classroom. These analytics would certainly make it easier to find break-downs in communication before a family becomes disengaged.
Solution: One Private K-12 Solution
To be clear, social media should absolutely be used on the school and district levels for the purpose of PR and Community Outreach/Engagement. This is an important tool for engaging the outer community. However, educators should be using a classroom-only tool to safely share information about their students with families.
Parents should have one place to look for everything they need to know about their children’s education, not five places to look for bits and pieces of information. That’s why K-12 school districts need a unified communications solution that gives parents the equivalent of a front row seat or a window into the classroom.
So when evaluating a solution that you can use to engage with families, consider the following:
– It should connect educators, schools, and the district together in a private and secure space (one that is FERPA compliant at minimum).
– It should allow for two-way communication on every post (regardless of whether it’s a message, announcement, media file, or an event) so that families can respond, coordinate, and know what is happening every day with their children.
– It should allow educators to post messages that allow families to truly understand daily events and reinforce learning at home.
– It should have one central, shared calendar so that families can easily find out what’s coming up in the classroom, at the school, and in the district.
– It should be capable of translating posts within the platform or network, as well as the notifications that go out to families.