Monday, October 24, 2011

21st Century Leaders Use 21st Century Methods to Communicate with Parents

Keeping parents informed has become rather easy in the 21st century. There are all kinds of tools for educators can use. I’ve personally tried blogs, wikis, and specifically designed web pages, but the bottom line is you just have to find what works best for your parents. My parents are email users. I have told them that the best way to contact me is through email, so they often use that first. It also means it is the quickest way I can get information out to them. My parent communications have become entirely paperless, so the forests can rest at ease. Central to my 21st century parent communication plan are the following:
  • Sending parents a weekly email update. I spent some time at the beginning of the year collecting parent email addresses and polishing my parent email contact list. Now, I have a reliable list of email addresses, so I just compose an weekly “Email Update” and send it them. Perhaps it is not as “sexy” as a blog, or as “techie” as a wiki, but it is highly effective. During the course of the week, I collect information to be shared in Evernote, Diigo, email folders, and even a sticky note pile on my desk. On Thursday afternoon, I usually begin compiling those items into what eventually becomes my “School Weekly Parent Email Update.” I include news and happenings from the week, information and advice, upcoming events, and a short calendar of events among many other things. It is the center of how I communicate with parents. (For those who still don’t use email, there’s a PDF version posted on our web site.)
  • Twitter Updates. This one is not quite as effective for me. Our parents just haven’t bought into Twitter yet. I’ve offered to show them how to set it up, but it just hasn’t taken root. However, we’ve installed a Twitter app on our main Web page, so our updates appear there for all to see. It is another way to get the word out.
  • Maintaining a Web announcement page. I still use our main Web page to make significant announcements. Parents do notice if your Web page never gets updated, and they are quick to let you know that too. I have a small section on our main page where I make significant announcements on a regular basis.
  • Computerized phone calling systems. I use this for significant announcements. Over used, and this one can be annoying. No one likes getting “telemarketing-like phone calls” each evening. Used strategically and parents will pay attention to your phone calls and not hang up. Use less seldom and for important announcements and parents will pay attention.
I realize there’s nothing really fancy about these items in my 21st century communication plan, but the reality is, 21st century communicators find out what works. They don’t just use a tech approach so they can say they use that approach. After all, what good is using any medium if there’s no one on the other end?

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