Monday, August 28, 2017

5 Tech Tools to Connect with Parents Before School Starts

Before the first day of school, I like to send an email out to every parent introducing myself and what items of technology are available to help parents stay connected to my class. Here are my 5 favorites:

1.  Smore 

Smore is a site that hosts simple newsletters and flyers.  You can use it for free or they have special pricing for educators for more features.  Smore allows you to add links and videos to your pages.  I use this for my class syllabus, newsletters, technology tips, and more.  Smore creates a link and I add the link to my email for parents and on my About page of Google Classroom.  My favorite tip:  No copying!  If I find a mistake, I make the change and update the page!  

2. Remind

Remind is a free text messaging app to help teachers communicate with parents and/or students.  You can send images, links to sites or videos and messages of 140 characters or less.  This is a big hit with my parents as they only have to sign up once and messages are delivered to them.  It is especially popular with my students when we have a snow day.

3.  Google Guardian Summaries

If you use Google Classroom, you will love this feature.  In August 2016, Google added Guardian Email Summaries to Google Classroom.  Guardians can receive an email summary weekly or daily of missing work, upcoming work, and activities within Google Classroom from any teacher that turns this feature on.  Parents need to supply an email address.  Once parents receive an invitation, they may choose how often they would like to see an email summary.  Last year, I received positive feedback from parents/guardians about this feature. For more detailed information about this feature, check out this blog post

4. Google Forms

I teach 12 class on an A/B schedule with 330-380 students.  I had to figure out a way to collect emails from parents to set parents up with Guardian Summaries in Google Classroom.  Google Forms was the answer!  I set up a form asking for: Student last name, student first name, current grade, class title, class hour, and parent/guardian email address.  I include a link to this form in my email to parents so they can sign up ahead of time.  See my previous blog post for more info!

5.  Google Forms Add-on: Form Notification

Add-ons help with the functionality with Google Forms, Docs, and Sheets.  Even though you can set up a notification through Google Forms, I still like to use the Form Notification add-on for this project.  I can have an email sent to me after every 20 responses are collected or change it to every response.  I can also set up the notification to send an email back to the email address they entered confirming receipt.  My message says, "Thank you for responding.  Be on the lookout for an email invitation after school starts! You have 120 days to accept the invitation.  "  When I have time I go to my response collect Google Sheet and copy and paste parent emails into Google Classroom.

Putting it All Together

I crafted an email to put all this information together and copy and paste the message in our mass email feature through our grade book program.  See example below:
Select the image above to view the sample letter.