Beyond Email: using technology to provide a window into learning for parents of middle schoolers

How can we use technology to create more communication points between parents and teachers AND students and parents?

Photo of Lynn Bowman
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Keeping parents informed of what their middle school students are doing and how they are doing is a challenge. How can we build relationship with parents throughout the semester so that the mid semester parent teacher conference is not full of surprises and results in just a  a list of strengths and challenges for the students?  At my school teachers are exploring ways to use technology; blogs, weekly emails, class newsletters- some written by the students,  and even shared google documents that monitor weekly or bi-weekly progress and include very brief comments from teachers. We have found that more frequent, brief points of contact with parents are more meaningful and effective in providing parents with a window into their child's school experience as well as updates on how their children are doing. These brief check-ins can actually take less time. Having students bring home work on a weekly basis to review with parents using a checklist, is another way for students to be more accountable and reflective of their learning, and get in the habit of articulating their own successes and areas of growth. 


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Photo of Clint Heitz

Lynn - I think your post here has some ideas that would be quite relevant for the one I have in the selection process. If you'd be willing, I would greatly appreciate your support for Guideposts to Success by heading to the post and leaving a positive evaluation, as well as suggestions to grow the idea even more! Thank you!

Photo of Lynn Bowman

So I am intrigued by this idea of SLC- student led conferences that people have been posting about. I also read something about a "triangle"  kind of online communication between the teacher, parent and student. I want to explore more about the idea of ritualizing reflection- weekly? bi-weekly in the form of some kind of online document where parents, teachers, and students are contributing-- I am also thinking of how to construct it so it doesn't feel burdensome to teachers. So I guess I would like to work on the idea of online communication between teacher, student and parent in preparation ore leading up to the SLC because I think that could be a way that a student can gain "voice" in the conference. 

Photo of Paula Marra

Hey Lynn,

Awesome idea!!! As Emma asked which one do you think would be interested in evolving? By reading your post I also thought about a "teacher open hours" Like online courses offer, like parents can jump in and ask questions. You wrote a great post! Shall we work on a gdoc?

Photo of Lisa Yokana

I love the idea of a class blog, written collaboratively or with students taking turns writing it. Lots of photos etc, would keep it interesting for parents. If you've used blogs, are they internal to your school? How do you handle the privacy issue of photos of students.

Photo of John Faig

This is one of the reasons I'm reviewing personalized learning solutions.  They provide autonomy and individual pacing, but the often overlooked benefit is the continual flow of information between teachers and students and parents.

Photo of Emma Scripps


Lots of ideas in this contribution! I'm wondering - of the things you listed - what's the ONE solution in here you'd be interested in exploring more? 


Photo of Kate Friedman

Lynn! You nailed it. I was going to write exactly this but thought I'd check first to see if others had the same idea. While teaching kindergarten I had a class website and often texted or emailed photos of the children working (process) as well as their creations (product). This kept parents in the loop so that when we sat down at a formal conference they ALREADY KNEW how their child was doing and we could have a more productive conversation around problems at home, or strategies I was using in the classroom that we could tweak for home, in order to build consistency. Because the parents already had so much info the 20 minutes during the formal conference was relaxed, and we also had time to celebrate the child's work, and share what we all saw as the strengths and challenges of the child.