There is an old saying - it takes a village to raise a child, and this is particularly true in schools. The education and welfare of students is something that the whole community has to be part of, teachers, parents and students. But, for school leaders, keeping all parts of that community happy and aligned can sometimes feel like herding cats. Each group presents their own challenges and requirements, so how do schools go about ensuring that everyone is supported and engaged, and how can technology help in this regard?
Step 1: Make it easy to talk
Good communication lies at the heart of any relationship, so find ways of making it easy for people to talk to each other. This means that we need to make sure that as a school we are not just ‘broadcasting’ information, but opening up two-way channels of communication. Whilst emails are a good platform for the former, technology provides many more options for schools. Simple things like a digest of messages once a week, rather than spammed inboxes are a really quick and easy way to remove many of the frustrations of parents for example.
Step 2: Work together
Strong collaboration is the key to achieving the best outcomes for students. Technology can make it easy for teachers to share their resources, as well as ensuring that the students have what they need where they need it. However, parents also need to be part of the picture. A good parent portal will not only provide a communication channel for parents, but also make sure that they have access to the same learning resources as their children. In this way, teaching and learning does not have to be confined to the classroom, because parents can support the learning process at home, in collaboration with teachers.
“Firefly has delivered significant improvements in areas such as organisation, progressive assessment and feedback. It lets students learn in ways that work best for them, while effectively engaging their parents.”
Billanook College, Australia
Step 3: Embrace transparency
Of course, knowing what a student is studying is only part of the picture. It is also important to be open about how well they are doing. Celebrate student success, but also make sure that everyone, student, teacher and parent, understand a child’s challenges and what steps they have to take in order to improve. Technology makes it easy for teachers to share a student’s assignments and feedback with all those involved, as well as making sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to next steps.
Step 4: Listen
Another key way of making people happy and engaged is ensuring that they feel listened to. This doesn’t mean just those with the loudest voices, but conducting regular feedback sessions from all groups to get their views. Online surveys and questionnaires are a good way of getting the overall ‘pulse’ of the school, and these can then be followed up for more detailed feedback where appropriate. In this way, schools can identify the barriers to engagement, and then can remove them.
Step 5: Make sure you act
Feedback on its own has a limited shelf-life. If everyone is to be fully engaged, then schools need to make sure they act on feedback. This is particularly true of the way schools use technology, which is often flexible enough to be adjusted relatively quickly to meet the needs of each group. And, if you do make changes, then let people know. Regular communications with ‘you said - we did’ features help to let the whole school community know that their ideas bring value to the school and engender a strong sense of engagement and worth.
Like any community, schools thrive on an atmosphere of openness and communication, and technology provides the tools to engage everyone in this common goal. This is the time for teachers, students and parents to embrace the opportunities available to them, and grow the relationship between home and school still further.
“Firefly has become an integral part of who we are. It brings our community together like nothing else and allows us to do what we do best... learn together.”
The British School New Delhi
Discover how to effectively support your students, teachers and parents with our blended learning guide with 7 best practices to help schools use technology to its full potential.