Parent and Caregiver Engagement - Verizon Innovative Learning Schools

Parent and Caregiver Engagement

Parent and Caregiver Engagement

One of the biggest priorities of implementing a new 1:1 program where students take home their devices must be engaging parents/caregivers. Their buy-in has a ripple effect on the care of devices, digital responsibility, and student engagement. In fact, many Verizon Innovative Learning Schools report that rollout events yield large parent turnout and, for many parents, it is one of the first times they’re at the school for a positive reason. As such, make sure to inform parents/caregivers well ahead of time of the plan and key dates (like parent information sessions or in-person rollout dates).

How to build relationships through communication:

  • Provide concise and consistent communication. Parents and families need to know where to find resources quickly and easily without digging through long websites and emails. Some Verizon Innovative Learning School districts have created websites to serve as a one-stop shop for all program details. Houston ISD | Irving ISD | Milwaukee Public Schools
  • Select quality content and distribute it with intentionality. There are so many resources being pushed out to school families. Many families have scholars in multiple schools. Ensure information is aligned across the district and the most important information is coming through first and foremost.
  • Take a multi-modal, multi-language approach. Leverage your learning management system (LMS) or Remind.com to communicate quickly with students and families. You can even use your mobile device management (MDM) system to post important messages to the lock screen of a device. Also, leverage the school website or social media pages to consistently host relevant information.
  • Create a schedule to host tech tutorials and overview sessions for families every few weeks. Use these to both provide opportunities for learning and also to showcase how technology is being leveraged meaningfully. This will increase parent/caregiver buy-in. Look to your student tech team to help host these sessions, as they have a good sense of the pain points students and caregivers are experiencing.
  • Make sure communication is two-way and in the languages most spoken by families. In addition to sharing information with families, create forums to hear from them as well, about both the challenges and the successes. Incorporate their feedback into a FAQs (frequently asked questions) documents when possible.
  • Combine events. Merge rollout with other opportunities and events at the school that are important to parents and caregivers. Rollout events could be combined with health screenings, music concerts, or financial aid workshops. Using this strategy reduces the need for families to make multiple trips to the school.
  • Make sure your front office staff is knowledgeable about your 1:1 program. Some would say that the front office staff is the heart of the campus, so ensure they are informed of the program’s goals, procedures, and resources to support families and students.

Give parents/caregivers hands-on insight and experience:

  • Prioritize developing family technology proficiency and literacy. Student tech teams might produce tutorials for the tools and apps most frequently used and make the tutorials available on the school website. Completion of tutorials can even be tied into the school’s PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions Support) program.
  • Illustrate and model the ways you are using technology with students. This might mean hosting a virtual parent night in the same virtual platform students use, using Nearpod, or collecting feedback through common pulse-check tools like Mentimeter or Kahoot. Also, provide opportunities for students to share digital products, artifacts, and tools with families.
  • Invite families to participate in technology-infused activities to increase family investment around the importance of digital tools. If parents see the value of digital tools, they’ll be inclined to make sure the devices are being cared for at home and are being brought to school charged.
  • Use layperson’s language when describing school functions and terms. For example, parents likely don’t know the term “formative assessment,” but would understand “check for understanding.”

Ensure parents/caregivers have access to resources and workshop opportunities to learn about the device, including:

  • WHY students are using technology in their learning process
  • HOW their student will be using the 1:1 device for learning
  • WHAT “responsible use’ looks like for their student
  • IF families have any financial obligations for lost or intentionally damaged devices

Collect User Agreements from parents/caregivers and students to confirm they have been informed of the expectations, policies, and procedures associated with the program. Distributing this information and collecting signatures in advance of the rollout event will save time and prevent the formation of long lines at rollout.

Share digital citizenship materials with parents/caregivers prior to rollout to ensure they have opportunities to learn about the device and to take part in training of their own. Consider leveraging freely available resources from Common Sense Media or district-created resources for families. Parents/caregivers should understand the purpose of going 1:1, the responsibilities of and implications for their students, and the opportunities that the program will afford their students.

Leverage virtual meetings. Whether it is due to a pandemic or as a convenience to parents, hold virtual parent preparation meetings when you can. Houston Independent School District, for example, held 1:1 meetings virtually due to the pandemic. The campuses promoted the grade level virtual learning events through social media and made the events all-hands-on-deck for everybody who serves on the staff. Together, school personnel provided information on and implemented training to take place before the contactless rollout event. On rollout day, staff members differentiated for parents who completed the virtual training and those who did not. Parents who did not complete the instruction before the rollout got their own lesson at rollout.

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