Sunday, March 12, 2017

9 Ways to Increase Parent Engagement Using Media - #SXSWEdu Takeaways

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Ongoing parent engagement is an essential piece of building a positive culture of digital citizenship in schools. But what does effective parent engagement look like? How can schools address the unique needs of caregivers in their communities? What are co-engagement ideas where media brings parents and kids together?

I had the opportunity to join a panel at South by Southwest hosted by Common Sense Education called Helping Parents Guide Kids Media Use. (See panel discussion here and presentation materials here.) During the panel we addressed these questions providing perspectives at the city, district, and school level.  

You can checkout the key takeaways from participant and innovative educator Carl Hooker (@MrHooker) below and then read 9 ideas you can bring back to your work.

9 Ways to Increase Parent Engagement & Effective Student Media Use

  1. Create policies “with” not just for stakeholders
    Too often schools and districts create policies and guidelines for students, staff, and families. The New York City Department of Education took a different approach. They created social media and internet guidelines and responsibilities “with” students, staff, and families using a participatory design approach. Teachers and parents worked together to create materials and then brought it to the students to make sure they approved. Teachers and parents created guides on how to use these materials and ideas to support students.

  1. Ask your audience how they prefer receiving information
    Don’t just create materials the way it’s always been done. Speak to your audience and find out how they prefer receiving information. When the New York City Department of Education surveyed students they learned that for teens wanted information via infographics. Pre-teens wanted an activity book. As a result, rather than a static document on a page or brochure, they provided students with materials in the ways they said they wanted it.

  1. Speak their language
    If parents don’t understand the language in which materials are made available, they won’t be effective. Schools and districts should do their best to translate materials so families who do not speak english are able to read them. Did you know YouTube has an “add translation” feature? If you are making videos for a parent audience, consider using it.

  1. Don’t just show. Tell too.
    Just creating and publishing materials doesn’t go far enough. Bring parents together to explain the materials, review the content, and show how it works in action. Use real examples from others in your district.

  1. Meet parents where they are
    The best way to share information with families is by addressing them in the medium(s) they prefer. The best way to discover that is to survey them. The most popular tools schools are currently using are Remind to send out text messages to parents. Class Dojo to share stories of schools and classrooms. Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram to celebrate students and staff. One perk of Instagram is that images work across languages.  

  1. Meet parents when they are available
    Most of our students have working parents. That means we have to be creative in when and how we reach out to parents. Don’t schedule events only during the school day. Also consider events before school, after school, and on weekends. Even that might not work for many parents. Harness the power of livestreaming via tools like Google Hangouts and Facebook Live. Know how privacy settings work so you can determine if your opportunity is public or available to a select group.

  1. Invite students and parents will come
    Invite students to be a part of the events and activities that are being hosted for parents. Let the students be the ones to lead conversations and help parents learn. Common Sense Education has some excellent resources to make that happen. Their “Connecting Families Toolkit” helps a school host parent kickoff events like teen panels, video discussion nights, or surveying students and families about their digital lives.

  1. Take advantage of teachable moments
    Schools have busy schedules so sometimes when an issue comes up, it seems hard to take a breath, roll up our sleeves and address it in a real and meaningful way. Schools are in a unique position to address these issues and support students and families as issues arise. Try to work to create a culture where doing so is okay. Determine a team and strategy at schools and districts to not only get the word out, but to invite families to face-to-face on digital conversations about time-sensitive issues.

  1. Know and utilize quality resources
    You don’t have to start from scratch. There are many quality resources available for schools to share with families. Here are some you can visit to get started:

What do you think? Are these ideas that would be effective where you work? Why or why not? Have you tried any of these ideas? Any ideas missing?  

All panel members are on Twitter. Check out the info below if you want to follow them and see what they’re Tweeting about.
Presentation materials are at

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