Our mission at LivingTree is to build trust and partnership between schools, families, and communities. Why is this so important to us? Because we’re educators and parents ourselves and parent engagement is the number one driver of student success. The increased national conversation we’re seeing around parent engagement is exciting to say the least. With the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 calling for two-way conversation, we’re hopeful that we’ll see more strategic plans calling for real parent conversation and engagement.
Christina Torres’ recent blog post was a wonderful insight. In her words: “The definition of student success should not come from a small group of passionate people. Rather, real progress and effective change will only be realized through the collective voices and efforts of all of us.”
The question is, how are we including everyone such that we have a collective voice? How are we bringing every voice to the table regardless of previous experience with education, language spoken, socio-economic status, etc.?
We believe that technology can and should be used to bring every voice to the table. Laying a foundation with technology can build and enhance relationships such that every community member is more encouraged to engage in person and each face to face interaction is more meaningful. We worked in partnership with many schools to develop a platform and feature set to enable these interactions. After four years of working with our education partners in building digital engagement, we’ve seen consistent success in four key areas:
- Two-way conversation is critical – Give parents and students a voice. Let them ask questions. Show them trust by allowing them a place to share and converse with educators and each other.
- Pictures are worth MORE than 1000 words – Figure out a safe and private way to invite your community into the classroom virtually. Imagery breaks down so many barriers and brings the community together for common goals.
- Access, access, access: Mobile and translation are not optional – whether it’s a working parent or a family without a computer at home, mobile access is critical. Not all mobile access is created equal. Make sure there is two-way communication capability on mobile and make sure it translates for all languages. LivingTree provides native mobile apps and translation to 50+ languages (100+ coming this summer).
- Connect EVERYONE in ONE place – There are many options at the class level to share socially, distribute photos, etc. However, if each teacher is using a different method, parents and students are lost. Connect the entire school and district in one place to build a thriving community and conversation.
It’s an exciting time to move engagement forward. Technology should be a key piece of this strategy in both building base relationships and augmenting face to face interaction. Again, the words of Ms. Torres: “I encourage all teachers and states to take measures that allow students and families to share their voice.” We couldn’t agree more!!!