Communication between home and school for learning and collaboration
Although family involvement in schools often seems logical to many educators, it is often not a given. Family involvement in schools takes time, planning and effort. But it’s worth it. Increased levels of family engagement benefit students, educators, families, schools, districts, and communities (Mapp et al., 2022). A basic factor in supporting family involvement is communication between home and school. Historically, schools would send papers home in children’s backpacks, hoping parents would see them. Utilizing the technology available today allows educators to work more effectively and efficiently with families to increase communication and collaboration.
How technology is opening the door to homeschool communication
Today, technology is connected to every sector of society. From how we conduct business, communicate with government, communicate in person or even in our classrooms, technology is now the preferred communication tool. According to Statista , more than 90% of adults worldwide regularly use smartphones. However, despite these trends, many schools continue to resort to old-fashioned ways of communicating with parents and families. Parents are online: on their computers, phones and tablets. Many parents even spend as much, if not more, time on their devices than their children. They use email, text messages, news, social media and online searches to get and share information every day. It is therefore common sense to assume that the use of technology will increase communication between home and school. Still, it’s not common.
To be clear, technology is not an ideal substitute for face-to-face communication between families and teachers. However, it is a valuable tool that can increase the frequency of communication, bilateral information sharing and relationship building that are essential for quality collaboration.
The role of the school in increasing communication between home and school
The first step in using technology to increase communication between home and school is planning. School administrators must create websites that are easy to use, informative, and provide a resource that parents will continue to visit for information, not just a place to go to register a child for school or find a teacher’s email. At the beginning of each year, teachers should survey the families of students in their classrooms to find out what technology they have access to and their preferred method of communication. This information should also be shared with administrators. Then, school and teacher information can be shared with families in a way they are more likely to use and respond to.
Using technology on a daily basis
Teachers can use technology to support ongoing communication with families. For example, consider virtual family engagement. This can take the form of parent-teacher meetings hosted on Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams or another similar service. Virtual meetings allow parents to attend conferences when they have scheduling conflicts or other obstacles that would otherwise prevent them from attending. These same families can also benefit from virtual classroom visits where they can observe, serve as guest speakers, or support student learning (eg, read to the student, talk to the student, etc.).
Examples of communication between home and school
Parents are usually informed of their children’s progress at report card via mid-term progress reports. While important, more frequent communication about children’s progress in school supports student learning, increases grades and attendance, and reduces challenging behavior (Angrist, et al., 2020). Technology gives teachers the tools they need to share information more often without using up their time.
For example, teachers can have a written statement prepared to send home to absent students (eg, “We missed Peter in class today. I hope to see you tomorrow.”). Teachers can also share information with families about their children’s progress (eg, “I thought you might want to know that Mark made a B on his math test today.”). Finally, sharing good news with families about their children builds relationships, encourages parents to talk with children about school, and reinforces student learning (eg, “Chris was so helpful in class today. We had a new student and she offered to help teach with after school.”).
Conclusion: Normal communication
With nearly all parents and families using technology to communicate on a daily basis, schools need to step up and modernize. It’s time to apply what we know about the benefits of using technology in the classroom to our work as educators working with families. Just like us, families and schools will be better equipped to support student learning and family engagement, while taking some of the burden off teachers trying to find time for what we know to be common sense.
- Angrist, N., Bergman, P., Brewster, C., & Matsheng, M. 2020. “Stemming Learning Loss during the Pandemic: A Rapid Randomized Trial of a Low-Tech Intervention in Botswana.” SSRN Electronic Journal. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3663098.
- Henderson, AT and KL Mapp. 2002. A new wave of evidence: The impact of school, family, and community relationships on student achievement. Annual synthesis. National Center for Family and Community Relations with Schools, Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.
- Mapp, KL, Henderson, AT, Cuevas, S., Franco, MC, & Ewert, S. 2022. Everyone Wins!: Evidence for Family-School Partnerships and Implications for Practice. New York: Scholastic Professional Books.
 Share of worldwide users accessing the Internet in Q3 2022 by device