Schools' community communications tools evolve
Many districts keep parents informed with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media, but more sophisticated tools have emerged as technology has evolved.
Platforms and apps that provide parents direct communication and unfiltered access to grades, schedules, school news and emergency announcements offer better access than ever before. Text messages and push notifications regarding delays or emergencies for mobile devices, tablets and smartphones are now the norm, granting educators instant access to parents.
Streaming video and photo galleries provide opportunities for schools and families to better share experiences such as sporting events.
Products originally developed specifically for administrators have become more parent-centric, says Nate Brogan, senior vice president at SchoolMessenger.
“Users are expecting to see products simplified, and they want to see integrations with their own devices,” he says. Customizable user options, from alerts to interfaces, continue to be popular. More refined apps will allow administrators to better target specific audiences. “Handling diversity is a major challenge,” says Brogan. “Being able to handle languages other than English, in a delicate and an intelligent manner, will be at the core going forward.”
In addition to sending homework assignments and school events to parents’ smartphone calendars, the School Rush app allows teachers to share pictures, documents and text messages with parents. The app also offers push notifications, and has a daily planner (for both teachers and parents) in addition to a student and staff directory.
The Parent Portal
Class announcements, behavior, attendance and progress reports are all available via The Parent Portal’s personalized dashboard.The system sends parents individual student learning plans and information regarding upcoming classwork and tests. Also, the platform generates automatic parental updates for reports posted in the platform so that teachers don’t have to.
A District Administration Readers’ Choice Top Product, this customizable mobile app allows district administrators to share news, schedules, emergency alerts and school closures with parents by integrating school websites and mass notification tools. Parents can also access grades, assignments, cafeteria menus and balances, and receive instant notifications.
eChalk Groups is part of a suite of online communication tools specifically designed for K12 schools and districts. It provides clubs, teams, departments, PLCs and other school groups with a public web presence and private online space, plus options such as a news feed, calendar, discussion tool and shared file folder. Easy-to-use controls allow users to manage accounts and to collaborate with other users.
ClassDojo lets teachers engage parents directly with photos, videos, public and private messages, announcements and classroom updates. And it offers a series of short animated videos aimed at developing a “growth mindset,” the theory that intelligence and abilities can be developed over time through the right kind of encouragement. ClassDojo operates on any digital platform and allows messages to be translated into 35 languages.
MemberHub consolidates multiple functions into one system—notifications, reminders, calendars, directories, emergency alerts and extracurricular information. It also offers secure parent signups, newsletters, whiteboards, file storage and photo albums. Because it’s customizable, it allows for viewing multiple students from a single family at a glance and is available as an iPhone app.
A student-life community for schools, PlanetHS/K8 allows parents to receive important notifications of school closings, bus route changes and early dismissals. Users can also stay connected to extracurricular student activities. Features include live and archived video streaming, survey, polls, elections, contests, media sharing, service hours management, discussion groups, and fundraising tools.
Designed to improve connections between administrators and parents, Let’s Talk coordinates inbound and outbound communications from schools, including email and phone calls. It also continually scans social media and news sources for school mentions to help improve responses and address developing issues. Let's Talk integrates with district or school websites to allow users to directly share questions or comments.
SchoolMessenger combines notifications, mobile apps and web content management into one platform that’s customizable to a district’s or school’s specific needs. With a large notification network, SchoolMessenger sends messages—including school emergencies, lunch balances or attendance updates—via voice, text, email, social media, web or push notification.
Smore allows educators to easily create professional-quality announcements and newsletters that can integrated with email, social media and mobile device formats. Features include being able to create items that protect student privacy and eliminate ads, plus enjoy high-quality prints and downloadable files. Analytics are also provided to track reach and views.
eSchool Plus Family App
Like the name infers, Family App provides all the information that parents need to keep up with their students, including attendance, class work, schedules, grades and school calendars. The latest version also provides information on extracurricular activities, including practices, games and special events. Additional features are available for schools, such as sharing lunch menus, social media accounts and RSS feeds.