Showing posts with label Parent Involvement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Parent Involvement. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Remind Launches Support for Spanish in Their Mobile Apps

Remind, the popular text messaging service for teachers, has just announced that they are now supporting Spanish in their free mobile apps. To use Remind in Spanish download the app then make sure that your iPhone or Android phone settings are set to Spanish.

I emailed Remind's CEO Brett Kopf to ask if teachers would have to install the app twice or send messages twice in order to reach students and parents in Spanish. Here's what he had to say,

"No, bilingual teachers don't have to use a separate Spanish app to send messages to students/parents in Spanish. They can type in Spanish, just as I am now: "Me lla mo Brett" (My name is Brett). The new version has a user interface that is 100% in Spanish -- no translation needed. This helps bilingual teachers bridge a challenging language gap and communicate more effectively with students/parents who are not as fluent."

Applications for Education
Anytime that you can engage with more students and more parents, it's a good thing. This update to Remind's mobile apps will help teachers keep more parents informed about the good things happening in their classrooms.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Two Simple Things You Can Do To Increase Communication With Students and Parents

1. Blog consistently. Every year I help teachers create new blogs and every year by the time winter holidays roll around some of those blogs have withered and died on the vine. That happens because teachers get discouraged when their blogs aren't an instant hit with students and parents. Even if they already read other blogs, checking your blog for updates is a new habit for your students and their parents. Give them time to get in the habit. You also have to give them a reason to keep coming back. Post important content consistently and with time you'll have students and their parents checking your blog consistently.

2. Text message. Give students and parents the option to reach you via text messaging. If your students are anything like the under 30 crowd mentioned in this USA Today article, they prefer text messages to email. Give them the opportunity to communicate with you via text through a service like Google Voice (read about what I'm doing this year with Google Voice) or Class Parrot. Both of those services allow you to text from your computer without revealing your personal cell phone number.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Register Your Class for Scholastic's Summer Reading Challenge

For the fifth year in a row Scholastic is holding a summer reading challenge for students. By joining the summer reading challenge students are entered into sweepstakes for book prizes. Students can also participate in weekly reading challenges.

To encourage participation in the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge teachers can register their students in bulk. Scholastic provides teachers with tools to track students' progress over the summer and communicate the goals of the summer reading challenge to parents. Scholastic also provides teachers with summer reading lists to send out to parents. Teachers registering their classes will be entered into a drawing for a classroom library and a $250 gift certificate to the Scholastic Teacher Store.

Thursday, March 3, 2011 - Build Your Own Discussion Forum

There are plenty of services on the web that you can use to create your own private or public discussion forum (click here or here for some I've previously reviewed). But takes the prize for easiest name and url to remember. Not only is the name easy to remember, it's easy to create your forum with

Once you've registered on creating your forum is a straight-forward, two minute process. To create a forum just sign-in and click "start a forum." From there you can start a conversation, which calls "Gabs." You can also post events, pages, and files. In your forum management tab you can choose to make your forum private or public. Also in the management tab is the option to grab an embed code to place your forum's gab stream in your website or blog.

Applications for Education could be useful for creating online book clubs for your school, providing a public place for parents to interact with administration, or for a student council to interact with its constituents.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Toonti - Create Your Own Social Network

Toonti is a new free service for creating your own small social network. Using Toonti you can create a private or public social network. If you choose to make your network private, only the people you invite and approve can join and interact with the members of your network. A public group is open to anyone who stumbles upon it. In your Toonti network users can create profiles, interact with each other through message boards, share media, or create an online study group.

Creating your own social network with Toonti takes only a few minutes. Watch the video below to learn more about Toonti.

Toonti is still in beta so there are some quirks. Toonti works best in Firefox or Internet Explorer.

Applications for Education
Toonti and similar services can be used by teachers to create a small network in which their students can have online study/ homework help groups. Similarly, build your own social network tools can be used by school administrators to create networks in which they can interact with parents and parents can interact with each other around school-related issues. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

WeTxt - Free Group Text Messaging

WeTxt is a new service offering free group text messaging. WeTxt works with ten major cellular service providers to offer you the ability to send text messages to large groups at once. In addition to creating and sending initial messages, WeTxt offers an option for sending "reply all" messages. Messages can be sent from your mobile device or from your email account. A mobile calendar helps you keep track of items that you need to send out as text messages.

You should note that while WeTxt is free to use, you do still incur text messaging charges at the rate charged by your cellular service provider. Read the FAQ section of WeTxt for more information regarding their terms of service.

Thanks to Sam Gliksman for the link.

Applications for Education
WeTxt could be an option for sending group messages about school delays and cancellations, changes in field trip itineraries or other time-sensitive announcements.

Monday, November 8, 2010

SignUp Genius - Create Online Sign-up Lists

SignUp Genius is a free and easy way to create and organize online sign-up forms for all kinds of group activities. SignUp Genius creates a simple webpage on which people can sign-up for activities that you've specified.

You can make your sign-up sheet public or private. Once you've created your sign-up list visitors to your list can sign-up for the activities you've specified. You can monitor the sign-up list as it is filled and visitors can quickly see which slots are already taken. SignUp Genius provides a myriad of themes and styles for your sign-up sheets. The image below is a screen capture of the sample field trip sign-up sheet that I created on SignUp Genius.

Applications for Education
If you've ever held a classroom party and ended up with twelve trays of cookies but only two bottles of juice, you know the value of having a well-organized sign-up sheet. With SignUp Genius you can avoid that. Need chaperones for a field trip? Post a list on SignUp Genius. You can share your SignUp Genius lists by giving out the url or emailing private invites to parents (SignUp Genius supports mailing lists).

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
YouCanBookMe - Appointment Scheduling in Google Calendar
Volunteer Spot - Schedule Volunteers
Wiggio - Group Planning & Scheduling

Friday, September 10, 2010

Using Facebook to Connect With Students & Parents

Earlier this week I wrote a post about using Facebook fan pages and Facebook groups to connect with students and their parents. In the video below I give a further explanation of my rationale for using Facebook fan pages to connect with students and parents.

Click here for directions on how to create a Facebook group and a Facebook fan page.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cell Phones In My Civics Class = Parent Involvement

Image Credit: Flickr user thegloaming

This afternoon in my civics class we were discussing some of the citizens' initiative questions on this fall's ballot in Maine. At one point in the conversation I saw one of my students playing with her cell phone. In an attempt to make sure she was paying attention I asked this student what she was doing. She said that she just received a text from her mom telling her that she could stay after school. So I said, kind only half-seriously, ask your mom what she knows about Question 4. Another student said, "can I ask my mom too?" And in a matter of minutes more than half of my class had sent a text message to their parents asking them what they knew about Question 4.

The responses from parents were interesting in that many of the responses echoed the various messages that have been running on local television stations. After we had received all of the responses we talked about why some parents knew more than others about Question 4 and the role of television and radio advertising in influencing voters' positions. Those discussions took place on top of the original pro v. con conversation that had started prior to breaking-out the cell phones.

Cell phone use during the day is against the rules in my school so what I did today came as a bit of a surprise to my students and probably to their parents. Hopefully, the surprise factor will prompt some conversations between parents and students about today's class and lead to my students having conversations with their parents about this fall's ballot. My guess is there will also be conversations about the use of cell phones in school. I won't meet with my Civics class again until Thursday, I'll find out then if my hunch about conversations between students and parents is correct. Even if I'm wrong, at least for today's class I was able to bring in opinions from real voters in real time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Smart Bean - Resources for Parents

Smart Bean is an online resource designed for parent use. Smart Bean is essentially an online magazine for parents interested in learning more about online resources for learning as well as general parenting information. There seems to be particular attention given to home-schooling parents. Some of the articles you're likely to find on Smart Bean are things like Internet safety, articles on childhood diet and fitness, and a slew of articles about the role of new technologies in education.

Applications for Education
Smart Bean could be a good resource for teachers to link to on their classroom or school website. Most of what Smart Bean offers is geared toward parents of elementary and middle school aged students, but there is some good information for the parents of high school students too.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
Whyzz - Helps Parents Answer "Why" Questions
Figure This! Family Math Challenges

Monday, March 9, 2009

Figure This! Family Math Challenges

Figure This is a series of mathematics challenges designed to be done by students with their parents. Figure This is produced by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Figure This has a total of 80 mathematics challenges that can be tried online or printed in PDF format for offline use.

Applications for Education
Figure This is designed with families in mind although the challenges could also be used in the classroom. Students could work on the challenges in pairs or larger groups.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Parent Engagement in the 21st Century Guest Blogger Lorna Costantini

I want to thank Richard for his invitation to share some ideas about parent engagement and how to use technology to connect parents to the classroom and support student learning. I am the facilitator for Parent Reaching Out project for the Niagara Catholic District School Board in Welland, Ontario, Canada.

I am also the moderator for the Parents as Partners web cast at and recently joined the “Live” conversations at Classroom 2.0 as a co-host so I am totally immersed in using Web 2.0 tools. I have shared some of my thoughts and experiences in these two blogs at and

Over the past three years, I have been working with parents and schools in a project focused on increasing parent engagement. In the first phase of the project, a video was produced to capture what we saw as a reality. All too often the relationships between teachers and parents are broken. Take a look at the seven minute video. It might be a familiar picture. We are in the third year of the pilot program and at this stage I will be working with teachers to help them build technology into a program developed by the National Network of Partnership Schools called Teachers Involving Parents in School Work.

There has been tremendous discussion about how parents’ negative reactions interfere with the use of tools such as classroom blogs, podcasts and the like. The lack of accurate information fueled by negative media coverage has made all to many administrators hesitant to embrace the read and write era for fear of the repercussions from parents. While many, many good teachers are working to prepare their students for the 21st century, I believe that there is an opportunity that should not be ignored.

The TIPS program offers a vehicle to create experiences that directly involve parents in schoolwork. Parents become active participants in schoolwork that reinforces learning without expecting parents to be teachers. Parents do care about their child’s learning but most just do not know how or what is expected. The task – challenge, if you will - is to use podcasts, classroom blogs etc. to enhance this program. I know that this blog has a great following of excellent educators and I am hoping that you might just take up the torch.

As part of this challenge, Parents as Partners will be hosting an Elluminate session Monday February 23, 2009 at 8:00 PM EST (GMT-5). “Connecting with parents using Facebook – what it means to be a digital parent.” You can find all the details to participate in this post.

Please join us and share your experiences supporting students and parents in the 21st century.
image by Karl Herman on Flickr

Friday, February 13, 2009

Facebook for Parents

When my school district discussed banning the use of all social networks it, like many other districts, was reacting to fear of "what could happen" if students use social networking sites. Rather than preventing access, the better solution is to educate parents, teachers, and administrators about the potentially good uses of social networking sites. The other part of the solution to the "what could happen" dilemma is to educate students about responsible online behavior.

Facebook for Parents is an online education program for parents to learn about Facebook including tips on making sure their children are practicing responsible online citizenship. The homepage of Facebook for Parents offers five tips for parents just beginning to learn about Facebook. Facebook for Parents has a free email newsletter for parents to keep up to date on the latest research and best practices for keeping kids safe online.

Applications for Education
Facebook for Parents is going to be added to the list of resources that I give to parents concerned about their child's Internet use. Every year I have parents express concern that their child knows more about the Internet than they do. Facebook for Parents might not make parents more knowledgeable about the Internet than their children, but it will help to close the knowledge gap.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

SqoolTube - Free K-8 Videos

SqoolTube is video resource designed for K-8 teachers and students. I originally looked at SqoolTube a few months back and at the time it did not have nearly as many video choices as it does now. SqoolTube offers ten categories of videos and dozens of sub-categories of videos. Visitors to SqoolTube can find videos for everything from learning to count to Algebra lessons and from basic spelling lessons to Spanish lessons. The only problem that teachers might encounter in trying to use SqoolTube is built upon videos hosted on YouTube so if your school blocks YouTube you will have to download the videos away from school to use them. You can read more about what to do when YouTube is blocked by clicking here.

Applications for Education
SqoolTube could be used in the classroom by students working independently or as part of a group lesson. A more effective way to use the videos might be to post them on your class blog so that parents can also watch them and discuss them with their children. Posting the videos on your class blog where parents can view them with their children is one way to keep parents involved and informed with what their children are learning in your classroom.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

National Student/ Parent Mock Election

The National Student/Parent Mock election is being held on October 30, 2008. You can register your school to participate on the School Perceptions website. Even if you're school doesn't participate in the national mock election, you should still explore the curriculum materials that found on the National Mock Election website. In the curriculum section of the National Mock Election website teachers will find pdf's of lesson plan resources as well as a short animated movie and quizzes for students.

Applications for Education
The National Student/ Parent Mock Election provides a number of ways to get involved. If you're a classroom teacher I encourage you to visit the "how to get involved" for educators page for ideas about carrying out the election in your school. One way to get parents involved and modeling good citizenship would be to have mock election ballots available when they drop their students off at school.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Increasing Teacher-Parent Communication. Part III: Widgets and More

In the first two parts of this three part series about increasing teacher-parent communication we looked at creating blogs and websites as a means of sharing information with parents. In this segment we will look at how to make those blogs and websites better through file hosting services and content creation widgets.

Using a file hosting service and linking to it or integrating it into your blog or website is a great way to make large files available online. These files could be large documents like school or classroom policies or a video or an audio recording. Speaking of audio files one file hosting service, Dropio, makes it very easy to create audio files using your telephone.

Adding a content widget from a third party is an easy way to add interesting information to your class blog or website. Many popular websites like CNN, Reuters, and Digg provide free content widgets. Some widgets like Digg's allow you customize the type of content delivered and displayed on your website. If you scroll to the bottom of the front page of Free Technology For Teachers you can see an example of a Digg widget in action. Putting a content widget on your website or blog can be one way to keep parents and students staying on your website longer and coming back more often than they otherwise might. Digg's content widget will even allow users to specify that only stories related to education are displayed on your blog.

File Hosting and Sharing Services for Education
Scribd is a free service that makes it possible for users to host or embed any type of large document. Using Scribd you can take any document, a copy of your course curriculum for example, and embed it into your blog. Alternatively you could post a link to the url of your document as it is hosted on Scribd. The other outstanding feature of Scribd is the option of having visitors comment on the documents you create. Scroll down to the bottom of this blog post to view a short video introduction to Scribd.

File Dropper
is a very simple free service for hosting and sharing large files. In two steps you can have your files uploaded and shared on your blog or website. Simply upload your file to File Dropper, File Dropper gives your file a specific url, then you can share the link on your website or via email. is my favorite free service for sharing files on the Internet. allows users to create a custom url for sharing files. Once you've created your custom url you can add as many files as you like up to 100mb. provides each custom url with an upload widget that can be placed on your blog or website. Place that upload widget on your class blog and students can upload their homework assignments to the url you've created. Using that upload widget is a great way to collect homework assignments electronically without clogging up your email inbox. Beyond hosting your files can help you create content. Each custom url is assigned a phone number which you can call to record a voice message to be played on the Internet. Scroll down for a video introduction to created by Allen Stern of Center Networks.

Here is a video introduction to

This is a video introduction to Scribd.

There are other file hosting and sharing services available for free. The ones I've mentioned above are those that I've used with my classes. If you have a free file hosting service that you've used with your classes, please leave a comment and let us know about it.

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.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Free Technology For Teachers: Social Networks for Kids, Teachers, and Parents

Students love social networking websites. Imbee has designed a platform through which teachers can capitalize on students' attraction to social networks and turn social networking into an educational tool. Imbee, to borrow the old Kix cereal phrase, is "kid tested and mother approved." Imbee provides a safe social networking platform for tweens (not quite teenagers). Imbee provides a platform for students to create profiles, share notes, post images and videos, and generally do all of the things the popular social networking sites do.

Imbee ensures the safety and security of young users by requiring parental or teacher approval to join a network and requires a parent or teacher to authenticate the identity of each Imbee user in a network.

Applications for Educators
Imbee allows teachers to set up networks for their own students. Teachers can then post assignments, notes, and images or videos relevant to class. Imbee provides teachers with ready-made permission slips explaining the website for parents to sign. Parents can be added to the network for your class so that they can see what their kids are doing and learning. Imbee provides a great introductory tour for teachers and lesson plans regarding the use of Imbee in the classroom.