At the beginning of every school year I set a goal to contact a few parents every week to pass on an encouraging word about their student. Every year this plan works for about three weeks and then the days begin to blend together into a hectic tapestry of planning, grading, assigning, copying, etc. Maintaining an accurate log of parent/teacher contact becomes a secondary priority in light of all the other responsibilities that begin to pile up as the year progresses. These are a few tricks to make this task a little more manageable…
Using technology that you already have…
During orientation every year I have a parent contact signup sheet that I use to ask for phone numbers and email addresses. Parents with email addresses are usually happy to provide this means of contact and it saves me loads of time when I need to send out a lot of information to a large group of people. Sending out a group email is quite easy and you could use it for your students as well. You could even have students create a class newsletter summarizing the learning for the week and then distribute a digital copy to their parents using email or even post it to your class website (but that’s a different post, click here for some great ideas).
To distribute an email to a group in three easy steps:
- You’ll need to create a group in Outlook. This is easy to do from your contacts page which is located in the bottom left portion of your Outlook dashboard. (Click here to see what this looks like.)
- Create a new group and add the parent’s email addresses to this group. Now save the group and you’re ready to email.
- Make sure you send the email to your school email address and “Bcc” (stands for “blind carbon copy”) the group so that the recipients of the email don’t receive each other’s email addresses. (No “Bcc” option? Click here to learn how to turn it on.) This is an easy way to ensure that your group’s email addresses remain private.
Using contact groups is an easy way to send out your information to many recipients at the same time. You could use this option to communicate and prepare students as well. Think of all the time and paper you could save if you sent out an assignment or your lecture notes to students before the class meets. Email is a great way to share documents and periodic reminders to your students. Another advantage to using email is the digital paper trail that you can easily store and access in a student’s file on your computer. This way you’ll always have a record showing the distribution of a homework assignment or the makeup work from that absence last week.
Try something new…
There are even ways to make traditional ways of keeping in touch with parents, like using the telephone, a little more efficient. Using the phone is more personal and has a greater impact when specific problems or concerns surface with a student or arise in the classroom. However, I don’t always have time to stay at school to make my calls home to parents. To be honest, I’m not always sure how to use the phone in my office. It is quite old and doesn’t work correctly all of the time.
One alternative that will allow you the freedom to make phone calls to parents and students without giving out your personal home or cell phone number is Google Voice, a free and easy to use service. (Unfortunately, this service is not available through the Google Apps account provided by the county.) So you’ll need to setup a Google Account if you don’t already have one, but it is very easy to do and free!
Once you’ve signed up for your Google account head over to the Google Voice page. Your initial visit to the page will require you to setup your Google Voice account. You’ll need to pick a number. The great thing about this service is that you can pick any number that is available. The search field will give you the option to search for numbers and words. So, if you are looking for a number that spells MATH you could search by that word. Once you’ve picked a number you’ll want to forward your calls from your Google Voice account to your cell phone or home phone. This will give you the ability to make and receive phone calls without giving out your private line to students and parents. Check out this video for a quick overview.
Now that you have a Google Voice number you have a wealth of other options beyond the regular caller id, voice mail, and call waiting that your regular phone supports. With Google voice you can find out who’s calling and why before picking up, record your phone call and even create a conference call. Another handy feature of Google Voice is the transcriptions of your voicemails. You can read them from your email account and save them in a student file on your computer.
For more on Google Voice, check these helpful tutorials.
Constant contact even from your school computer?!?
Additionally, Google Voice makes text messaging simple and convenient right from your computer desktop. Have you ever wondered how the kids type so quickly on such a small keypad? They have tiny fingers and are more dexterous. Fret no more! Google Voice gives you the ability to send and receive text messages from your computer. It will work on any computer that is connected to the Internet. So, you can send out a group text message to your students from your school computer and receive and save their responses right to your desktop in the classroom. This is a huge time saver and a great way to communicate to students on their level. Send out assignments, homework and quiz reminders, provide additional resources, and much more with the power of the text.
The last tool that is becoming more popular among teachers is the use of educational social networks. One example of this type of social network is Edmodo. It is a powerful tool for reaching students through a medium that they are not only familiar with, but also one they are likely to engage outside of the classroom. The appearance of Edmodo looks a lot like Facebook and has many similar tools that teachers and students can use to communicate and collaborate. For example, once signed up and logged in an Edmodo teacher has the option to create classes for their profile. The teacher is then able to distribute homework assignments, send out quick quizzes, and start online discussion boards. These are all useful tools that can enhance and extend instruction beyond the classroom into a medium in which students are comfortable and more likely to participate. Watch the video for a quick overview of Edmodo and its features and uses for the classroom.
For more information and how to set up your Edmodo account visit their tutorials page.
As always, if you’ve enjoyed a post or have something to add please comment below and let us know your thoughts. We enjoy your input and are happy to answer your questions. Technaughtlogy is about learning: to use technology and to create connections.