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I had no idea how many people were actually online using social media until I drafted my literature review and found the latest data on the topic. The numbers are astounding. For those school districts NOT taking this into account, how many of those 460,000 new Twitter sign-ups (per day) are parents of your school district?
So where to begin? There are so many social networking tools out there. The big ones you’ve heard of – Facebook, Youtube, Google+, LinkedIn & Twitter. How about learning what your parent population is already using and “meeting them where they are?” Keep in mind it’s not the tool you use, but how you use it. What result are you looking for in using these tools? What are your family engagement goals?
To begin using technology to partner with parents, we must “talk” with and include them in dialogue – without technology. Home & School Meetings, informal discussion, during events, Back to School Nights and anywhere you can listen and learn from what they are already doing. Do you know what population of your parents are on Facebook? On Twitter?
“eFACE” or electronic Family And Community Engagement is using technology tools to bridge home and school. It is when parents and teachers partner together to connect home and school. What ways does your school use technology to share information with parents? For true partnerships, this communication needs to have plenty of two-way options. Does your school employ any electronic tools that act as two-way communicators?
I currently have the privilege of working with Dr. Joyce Epstein on my dissertation topic: “Measuring the Impact of Social Media on Home-School Partnerships.” Dr. Epstein has done a great deal of research over the years in parent involvement, and has identified 6 Types of Involvement that, for me, encompass most areas I can think of in terms of connecting home and school. Does your school employ technology tools that coincide with each of the 6 Types identified? If you’re like me, I find more tools used with Type 2 – Communication.
Where to start? Make sure you identify who your home Internet users are and who they are not. Provide hard copies for any families who do not have access to what you are sending home electronically. Interpret where necessary. Develop a system for new families. Get them on your list. Add a “Add to Parent E-Mail List” tab on your website. The email distribution list will provide your school the communication foundation to lead your parents to other worthwhile places on the Internet and on your wiki, blog or website.
“Ongoing Face to Face Two-Way Planning” is always at the root of our efforts. Responding to and fine-tuning efforts along the way is our goal. Sometimes this feedback comes during use of a tool, and other times it occurs later. At our school, we began with the email distribution list and have “branched out” over time.
Challenges to our efforts are part of the process to “getting it right.” Access, Going Green, District Policies and lack of support are areas to keep in mind as you plan and organize your efforts. Our plan has worked well for us, but the plan was designed with “our” families in mind. How can you use technology tools as a “hook” to engage more families and raise the level of parent involvement in your school?
I’d be interested in your feedback and how your own efforts are progressing in your school.