Friday, August 15, 2008

Increasing Teacher-Parent Communication. Part I: Blogging

Before too long teachers across the country will be holding parent/teacher conferences. But before that first meeting there are some great ways to have positive communication with parents via the Internet. There are three categories of free web tools that teachers can use to increase communication with parents. Those three categories are blogs, free website builders, and file sharing/ hosting services. Before jumping into a discussion blogging platforms it should be noted that setting up an email list and sending out a weekly update to your students' parents is still a great way to keep parents informed about your classroom. Email lists are great, but blogs, websites, and file hosts can help you offer more information and resources to your students' parents.

Maintaining a blog for your class is great way to share information with parents and students. The four blogging platforms that are reviewed below are easy to establish and maintain. Blogs automatically list your updates in chronological order with the most recent update appearing first. This makes it easy for parents to quickly find the latest information about your class. As a teacher having a chronological list is useful for looking back over the course of the year/ semester to remember what you've covered and dedicated time to.

A blog can be as simple as just posting quick notes or updates about what is happening in your classroom. A blog can also offer a lot more than text to your parents and students. You can add links to helpful web resources, link to files containing homework assignments (for those students who "forgot" to bring "that paper" home), or add widgets to make your blog more engaging and keep parents and students coming back regularly.

Blogging Platforms for Increasing Teacher-Parent Communication
Tumblr is probably the simplest and easiest blog platform for teachers new to blogging to use. Tumblr blogs can be created in minutes and Tumblr walks new users through the process step-by-step. Tumblr's user interface makes adding new entries and different types of media an obvious process to new users. To see just how quick and easy it is to set up a Tumblr blog, click here to watch a short how-to video that I made.

Blogger is the platform that this blog is created and hosted on. Blogger is a Google product which anyone with a Google account can use. Blogger allows users a lot of flexibility in terms of layout and design as well as content creation. Blogger offers more options than Tumblr which is why it may take new users a little longer to get started compared to Tumblr. The one downside to using the Blogger platform is that some school and workplace filters block access to blogs written on Blogger.

Wordpress is an extremely popular free blogging platform because of the amazing flexibility it offers to users. A Wordpress blog can be set up in minutes and tinkered with for hours. There are more stock design templates and layouts available from Wordpress than are available from Blogger or Tumblr.

Finally, Edublogs is a popular blogging platform among educators. Edublogs offers a number of free design templates and multimedia options. Edublogs is popular in part because of the options available for monitoring and moderating access to blogs created with their service. Edublogs offers a number of great video tutorials and suggestions for using blogs in education that are well worth watching. Click here to watch a video introduction to Edublogs.