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How technology is improving parental engagement

Elliot Gowans, Vice President EMEA at D2L, discusses how technology is helping teachers to engage with parents effectively

Posted by Lucinda Reid | August 15, 2017 | Technology

For teachers, half the battle is often engaging students and the other half is engaging parents. Parents have always wanted to know how their child is doing at school ¾ whether it’s through progress reports, parents’ evenings or by simply asking their children how their day was. However, parents are increasingly being encouraged to be much more active participants in their child’s education.

It’s been widely reported that parental involvement can improve a child’s chances of success in school. Indeed, not only has this been proven to help with academic results, but it leads to better student behaviour. Research from the Oxford University Press has indicated that parental interest in a child’s education is one of the single greatest predictors of achievement at the age of 16. This is largely supported by the National Literacy Trust, which states that involvement in a child’s literacy has a bigger impact on academic performance than any other social variable, including class, family size or parents’ education.

Teachers have often been tasked with keeping parents up to date on their child’s performance, however, with a growing workload and greater pressure to achieve above-average results, this is becoming an unmanageable task. Gone are the days when a monthly parents’ evening or weekly newsletter sent home would be sufficient. Parents today want to feel like they’re a fly on the wall ¾ they want regular updates that will help them encourage and support their child’s development in line with their abilities and potential. Schools are subsequently looking for ways that will enable them to communicate each child’s performance, weaknesses, behaviour and future goals, without significantly detracting from their teachers’ day-to-day work.

Transforming communication through technology

Over the last decade, technology has increasingly played a key role in enhancing parent/teacher engagement. A few years ago, Harvard University research revealed that communicating via technology is beneficial by reporting that text messaging between parents and teachers has a positive impact on students’ academic performance. However, modern-day technology is strengthening the communication network between parents and teachers even further.

Digital tools, such as Virtual Learning Environments (VLE), are becoming more widely available and hailed as a way for home-school communication without the time and distance barriers teachers so often face. These communications can be automated, actually letting the teacher communicate more often and to more people. Using digital portfolios, teachers can now share a child’s work, provide insight into upcoming assignments, divulge test scores, and share classroom conversations and activity feeds in real-time.

Utilising mobile

Having access to this insight at their fingertips is also becoming much more important for parents. With only so many hours in the day, they can often find it difficult to raise a family, juggle work commitments and attend face-to-face update meetings with teachers. Technology is playing a significant role in alleviating these challenges, but without jeopardising the parent/teacher relationship. With nearly every adult having access to a smartphone or tablet, parents can stay connected to teachers and their child’s progress any time, anywhere.

Technology is helping turn education into an engaging experience that accommodates the needs of every child, as well as the teachers and parents. This flexibility is not only relieving teachers of the responsibility of arranging in-person or telephone updates with every parent ¾ allowing them to spend more time planning and teaching their classes ¾ but students benefit from much more informed, tailored support from their parents, whilst parents can play a more active role in their child’s learning development. With the help of technology and digital portfolios, parental engagement and communication is now able to take place beyond the confines of the classroom walls. This is paving the way for a much more streamlined, collaborative relationship between the student, parent and teacher, which will, ultimately, lead to more skilled, capable and well-rounded children.

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