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Tech to build the home-school connection




Welcome to the first day of school!  New students, new faces, and new families.  What an exciting day knowing your work matters and the profession you have embarked on is one that truly impacts the future.  

What you do in the next few weeks will impact the tone and community of your classroom.  Research supports that the home-school connection is critical in establishing community support for education (Merkley, Schmidt, Dirksen & Fulher, 2006).   As efforts to communicate with parents extend from traditional methods of home delivery to an array of online tools, it is useful for new teachers to consider how and when to employ Information and Communication Technology or ICT.  (ICT in Education).
Developing common goals for learning and behavior is a key feature of parent-teacher communication and relationship building according to Christenson and Sheridan (2001).  The authors provide the following communication framework as you consider your own ICT goodness of fit:

Approach:The framework for interaction with parents
Attitudes:The values and perceptions held about parent-teacher relationships
Atmosphere:The climate for parent-teacher interactions
Actions: Strategies for building shared responsibility for students’ progress and success

Approach:  Welcome letters before school begins allows parents a virtual Meet the Teacher opportunity.  This forum provides the opportunity to share your vision for the year, establish your credentials, introduce basic class information, and student supply needs.  Using ICT is easier than ever before.  An emailed letter is one of many options but sites like Smore.com have built in newsletter and flyer templates easily customized to suit your specific needs.  Facebook Live presents an emerging approach to reach parents through live streaming of video uploads.  As video conferencing options expand, websites like WebEx and Zoom  can connect parents and teacher throughout the school year, particularly for parents unable to attend traditional school conference hours.  While your approach may blend traditional and technology enabled means of communication, you can find more online options than ever before with user-friendly features.  The value of such options open communication channels, adapt to the reality of a more connected society, and bring audio/visual elements of communication that facilitate the work of educators.  

Attitudes and Atmosphere:  We know the value of establishing a proactive classroom management plan beginning on Day 1 of school.  But what about a proactive approach to positive parent-teacher communication?  Imagine if Susie had a strength that you identified early in the school year, a strength which you shared in a note to her parents.  When Susie got herself in trouble later in the year, the positive rapport established early in the school year may help to forge a supportive relationship between teacher and parent.  The parent perception in this situation is that the student is valued for what the child brings to the classroom.  As trust is more easily forged in a culture of honor, building a classroom environment where all students are valued is important and communicating that value is essential.  

Actions: ICT offers an array of communication tools that allow teachers to build with parents a sense of shared responsibility regarding what is happening in the classroom.  Typically, classroom bulletin boards inform, instruct, and display student work.  Adopting the same approach, technology assisted communication bridges the home and school divide.  We acknowledge that not every home has access to the internet or parents with knowledge on how to utilize online communication. Therefore, online communication is a supplement to traditional means with unique and compelling reasons for why ICT it the preferred method of communication for many schools.  As parents seek to support their child’s educational progress, teachers can empower parents with basic knowledge shared in the classroom.  Technology such as online classrooms from Google Classrooms, Edmodo to SeeSaw can be utilized as a repository for assignments, as a place to post deadlines and instructions, and 24/7 access to textbooks and submissions.  Other online communication tools enable teachers to remind students of upcoming deadlines (like the Remind app) and gradebook hosting.  

As you are about to enter your first year of teaching revisit Christenson and Sheridan’s framework: approach, attitude, atmosphere, and actions.  Purpose to know what ICT you will use and why to maintain your focus on how to better serve as a teacher and leader of the community.

About the Author:
Jaimie Orozco is a doctoral student and a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader with over 14 years experience as an educator, Department Chair and Adjunct Faculty.
Resources
Merkley, D., Schmidt, D., Dirksen, C., & Fulher, C. (2006). Enhancing parent-teacher communication using technology: A reading improvement clinic example. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 6(1),11-42.
Christenson, S., & Sheridan, S. (2001). Schools and families: Creating essential connections for learning. New York: The Guilford Press.
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Dr. Patricia Dickenson has taught grades K-9 she currently works with pre-service teacher candidates. She has three school aged children and loves to create curriculum.

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