Sixty years of research have led to family engagement strategies like Family Academic Socialization, Home Visits, Phone Calls, Parent-Teacher Conferences, and Academic Nights. However, a commonly overlooked component is the dedicated connection between school and home that allows families to understand and engage in their child’s learning.
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 dedicated district-wide communication platform for this type of interaction provides a reliable 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.
Using a district-wide communication technology is one of the easiest ways to engage today’s families. Don’t overlook the 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 family engagement expert Dr. Steve Constantino said in one of Livingtree’s family engagement webinars: 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)
A district-wide communication platform provides a dedicated 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.
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 parents information, parents soon find themselves going one place for this, and another place for that. Soon, the sporadic teacher-by-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.
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.
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.
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