In Pearson’s Teaching in a Digital Age research study, we seek to find out what factors make educational technology most effective. We have worked with 12 of the League of Innovative Schools districts around the country to find out how teachers are using technology most effectively to improve their teaching and increase student learning. A major focus of the research has been to identify the instructional strategies that teachers use that lead to better learning outcomes. However, another equally important part of the study examines how technology can be used to improve learning indirectly: for example, the ways technology can foster greater communication between home and school.
Parents and teachers are two of the most influential contributors to a student’s educational success. We know that good communication between student and teacher is one major key to educational success, but what about communication between teacher and parent? When parents and teachers communicate with one another, they are able to support student learning together more effectively. As a team, the two can work to create the best possible environments to foster physical, emotional and intellectual well-being for students. Luckily, recent technological advances have enabled teachers to communicate with parents on a more regular basis, and in a more efficient manner.
During focus group discussions, teachers have told us they find that communicating with parents is now possible “24/7-anytime, anywhere.” Technologies like email, texts, websites, electronic portfolios, online surveys and video chat applications like Skype and Google Hangout have made communication between parents and teachers more timely, efficient, productive, and satisfying for both parties. Additionally, many teachers use online calendars, which can be accessed at any time, from almost anywhere, so that parents can schedule meetings, conferences or volunteer at school. Teachers also create online homework schedules, homework logs and online grade books. These digital tools allow parents to check on their student’s work and to gauge how well their student is doing in school. These tools also provide them with the opportunity to praise their student for positive performance and to intervene early if there is a sign of a problem.
It is important for teachers and parents to have meaningful and regular communication with one another to ensure that the student is doing well both in school and outside of school. If the child is sick or perhaps dealing with the a family issue, then parents can reach out to teachers to let them know that their student might be having an “off” day. Likewise, teachers can report back to parents on student behavior and academic progression in a timely manner. Despite the fact that some teachers struggle to engage parents, today, more than ever, many parents are demanding that schools provide them with timely information about their child’s academic progress. Parents really want to hear about their child’s academic performance and behavioral expectations, and technology is enabling them to do so in an easy and convenient manner. They expect this information to be communicated to them regularly and early, before reporting periods end, while issues can still be addressed.
Parents and teachers alike would be well served to seek out opportunities to communicate with one another on a regular basis to ensure that all students have their physical, emotional and intellectual needs met. New technologies have made communication between home and school more efficient, and improved in both quantity and quality. When parents and teachers communicate with one another, they are able to work towards their common goal of facilitating the best educational experience possible for students.
Liane Wardlow is a Senior Research Scientist at the Pearson Center for eLearning. Pearson is a corporate partner of Digital Promise.