Regular communication with parents is important to building a partnership between home and school. A number of tools and apps are designed to support this process. One tool some schools in my district are using is Bloomz, a free mobile app that runs on Android and iOS. It has replaced email and teacher websites as the primary school-home communication tool.
Here are the lessons we learned during our pilot and rollout programs.
Find out what features are important to staff. Staff will be more eager to adopt a new tool if you first ask what they want to see in it. Our teachers wanted a calendar feature, plus tools for scheduling parent-teacher conferences and requesting volunteers.
Make it easy for parents to participate. We plan to target families at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year and assist them in joining their children's Bloomz classrooms. Parents will be bringing their children in for assessment during the first two days of the school year, so we will sign them up then – or at least provide them with information to sign up at home.
Train and support staff. When we began the transition, I did a demonstration of the app’s basic features at a building-staff meeting. I also set up all the teachers and their class lists in our Bloomz community so that they could hit the ground running. One of the biggest challenges in implementing a new technology is getting a building’s entire staff on board, so continual support and training are key to a successful implementation.
Ensure it’s safe. Security is one of our primary concerns. Parents want to know that their information and their students’ information will remain private and safe. Look for features that keep communication within the school or classroom network and give users control over their private information. This will help ease parents’ concerns and make them more willing to participate in the program.
We serve a very diverse population and communication is often a barrier. We are looking at this app rollout as a way to stay ahead of those communication challenges and form tighter relationships with our students’ families.
Karen Londgren is a technology integration specialist with the Marshall Public Schools in Minnesota.
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