The Benefits of Taking a District-Wide Technology Approach to Family Engagement

Sixty years of research have lead to family engagement strategies like Family Academic Socialization, Home Visits, Phone Calls, Parent-Family Conferences, and Academic Nights. However, a commonly overlooked component is a district-wide platform that allows families to engage in their child’s learning at home.

As digital communication has evolved, many schools and districts often forget to evaluate how their communication methods promote family engagement. Consequently, many end up using one-way communication methods. These methods don’t provide families the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations about their child’s learning.

For districts to enhance family engagement, it’s important to recognize that families expect to communicate through technology in ways that are familiar and safe. Using a district-wide platform for this type of interaction provides a consistent space for families to connect with educators and promote better learning outcomes for students.

This type of technology can help districts: conform to the needs of our younger-generation family populations, eliminate “app overload” and the sporadic usage of different tools, eliminate the burden of educators having to manage the setup of their own technology, and provide everyone with a tool that is unified with the district’s overall family engagement strategies.

Benefit 1: It’s an easy and impactful way to engage today’s families

Using a district-wide technology is one of the easiest ways to engage today’s families. Don’t overlook the today’s changing culture, as family generations shift from Baby Boomers to late Gen Xers and early Millennials. Today, 95% of people in the United States own a cellphone, nine-in-ten or more adults younger than 50 say they go online or own a smartphone, and young adults report preferring texting to phone calls. By accounting for these changes and adapting family engagement strategies, school districts can establish an impactful way through technology to have more meaningful two-way conversations with families that promote efficacy and engagement.

By accounting for these changes and adapting family engagement strategies, school districts can establish an impactful way through technology to have more meaningful two-way conversations with families that promote efficacy and engagement.

As Dr. Steve Constantino, a national family engagement expert has said: we don’t need to do extra to engage families, we just need to “do what we already do, only differently.” In this case, a family engagement technology can help districts sustain their family engagement efforts, but through a new channel that is familiar to families. (Read our previous blog for more on how technology improves family engagement)

Benefit 2: Families Have A Consistent Place to Rely On

A district-wide platform provides a consistent place for families to engage in their child’s learning from classroom to classroom, school to school, and year to year. Regardless of the classroom, grade, or school that a child attends in the district, a family will always remain on the same unified platform. Without a district-wide platform, schools and teachers are typically left using one of the many teacher-parent communication tools out there such as Remind, ClassDojo, or even social media. This leads to a number of sporadic tools and apps throughout the district.

Families Frustrated by School Communication App Overload

This is important in regard to the concept of “App Overload.” If one teacher is using a free EdTech app, and the next is on Instagram, and the school administration uses Twitter in addition to a website, it can be harder than ever for families to keep up. While these apps are typically helpful in providing an array of information, their sporadic teacher to teacher usage consequently causes an “App Overload” effect on families. This unfortunately leads to frustration and disengagement over time.

By providing one consistent place for families to see what’s going on in the classroom, message with their child’s teacher, and receive notifications from the school and district, engagement in their child’s learning increases.

Bonus info: Get the Family Engagement Technology guide for the 4 capabilities your engagement platform must have and the best practices for school districts to implement a unified solution.

Additionally, establishing a district-wide platform saves teachers time from the common “upkeep” associated with typical teacher communication apps. When schools and teachers resort to using free apps, they are often tasked with having to set up their classroom, upkeep the roster of students and families, and most of all push for families to onboard and adopt the platform. This is a lot of time and energy that educators shouldn’t have to spend when it comes to family engagement.

By partnering with a family engagement platform like Livingtree Engage, classroom networks are built for every school, rosters are created and updated with SIS integration, and families are automatically onboarded through emails and text messages at the beginning of every year. This eliminates the burden and saves time for educators throughout the district.

Benefit 3: Align With the District’s Family Engagement Strategy

A further benefit of using a district-wide technology is that everyone can align with the district’s family engagement strategy. Years of research, planning, and development typically go into a school district’s family engagement process. Sustaining those efforts over time is crucial. When staff members take part in professional development, it’s beneficial to have a platform that staff can then effectively use. Schools move backward if families are becoming frustrated and disengaged from the overwhelming number of apps. However, when educators have a unified platform that they can incorporate strategies with, family engagement improves.

Adopting a District-Wide Platform

Livingtree Engage is a district-wide platform designed to provide a safe, secure space for educators and families to engage in a child’s learning – because engaged families ultimately produce better learning outcomes for every child. So, if families have one consistent place to see what’s going on in the classroom, have conversations with their child’s teacher, and view upcoming events from the classroom, school, and district, school districts will see increased family engagement, and ultimately student success.

Searching for a district-wide platform to enhance family engagement?

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Family Engagement Technology Guide

Can Technology Improve Family Engagement?

Every model of reform has as a necessary component: the idea that families need to be connected to learning. Family engagement is therefore not a nice-to-have, but a MUST-have if schools want to meet the goals they have for all students. Leaders in education can no longer ignore what sixty years of research has told us. Instead, they must focus on developing strategies and practices to engage families. This is what is going to ultimately increase the success and achievement of all students.

What’s Lacking in Family Engagement Strategies?

Family engagement strategies typically incorporate a mix of Home Visits, Phone Calls, Family-Teacher Conferences, School Events, etc. One of today’s most important components often overlooked in family engagement is the technology connecting school and home.

Technology Connects School and Home

In a time when 95% of people in the United States own a cellphone, nine-in-ten or more adults younger than 50 say they go online or own a smartphone, and young adults report preferring texting to phone calls, it seems that technology is making one of the greatest impacts in society, as well as education.

While we know that technology can make communication with families easier, can it improve family engagement? To answer that question, let’s first take a look at a key component of family engagement: Meaningful Two-Way Communication.

A Key Component: Meaningful Two-Way Communication

Family Engagement Two-Way Communication

To improve family engagement, it’s important to truly understand the role of meaningful two-way communication in promoting better learning outcomes. Research shows that when schools place an emphasis on effective two-way communication, they are more likely to create environments that are conducive to family engagement because of the trust that is restored and the relationships that are built. Relationships that promote family efficacy are the key ingredient in supporting learning outside of school.

There are an abundance of ways to communicate with families, but schools often forget to evaluate how these methods affect family engagement. Many schools and districts are proficient at one-way communication. But, this provides families with information that may or may not be understood. Often, there is little or no mechanism for families to engage in meaningful dialog about the information they received.

One Way Communication

Weekly folders home, website posts, newsletters, blogs, social posts, mass texts and emails are all examples of one-way communication that at best, ask a family to verify that they have received the information. In order to actually register positive change and create meaningful dialogue with families to improve student achievement, schools must empower families and provide them the opportunities to have conversations about their child’s learning.

In order to actually register positive change and create meaningful dialogue with families to improve student achievement, schools must empower families and provide them the opportunities to have conversations about their child’s learning.

What Research Has Taught Us

According to national family engagement expert Dr. Steve Constantino: “family engagement is a process, not an event or a series of events.” Families do not become engaged or stay engaged through standalone school events, but instead the relationships that are built. With family engagement hinging on the relationships that are built with families, it’s important to realize that educators are the catalysts of the relationships. Families depend on the educators of their children to keep them informed, answer their questions, and involve them in the learning process.

In today’s digital society where new generations of families are consistently connecting online, it’s now possible to “go to” families and reach them anywhere, at their convenience. With the right online platform, educators can move beyond information sharing to meaningful two-way conversations which promote both family efficacy and engagement.

Bonus info: Get the Family Engagement Technology guide for the 4 capabilities your engagement platform must have and the best practices for school districts to implement a unified solution.

To promote the active engagement of families, Dr. Constantino suggests educators can “supply [families] with information about what is happening in school before it happens; prompt them with questions (and answers) they can ask their children…provide a mechanism so that families can share with teachers how their children responded to questions.”

Another idea is to “integrate families into homework assignments and maybe even projects.” Not only are these proven techniques that promote the efficacy of families, but when facilitated through a secure family engagement platform, they effectively start meaningful conversations that engage families in their child’s learning.

So can technology improve family engagement?

Technology Can Improve Family Engagement with Livingtree

The answer is yes – technology can improve family engagement immensely, especially when used to connect families with learning and enable conversation – instead of just sending information. By accounting for cultural shifts around technology, and adapting family engagement strategies, school districts can establish an impactful way through technology to have more meaningful two-way conversations with families that promote efficacy and engagement. At the root, providing a safe, secure space for educators and families to engage is what sustains relationships that create engaged families, and ultimately student success.

At the root, providing a safe, secure space for educators and families to engage is what sustains relationships that create engaged families, and ultimately student success.

Every family, regardless of their station in life, desires that their children exceed them in their quality of life. If we pursue family engagement just for the sake of family engagement, then we’ll never be able to truly change the lives of our students and we will quickly dash the hopes of families everywhere. Engaged families produce better learning outcomes for every child.

If you’re interested in finding a technology that enhances family engagement, then….

DOWNLOAD OUR FREE GUIDE!

Family Engagement Technology Guide

To learn more about how Livingtree Engage (previously mentioned) can help sustain family engagement efforts and promote efficacy in your school district, click here.

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