Communication between schools and families is a vital support to children's learning, and modern technology offers unprecedented opportunities for communication - but how are schools to know what to use, and how to use it for the best?
In a recent article, entitled Technology and School-Home Communication, I explored these issues.
First, I proposed a definition of communication, based on the literature, which suggested that communication happens when a signal (such as a note home about a topic covered in school) passes from one person to another; however, that's not all, because for the interchange to be understood as communication, the second person involved has to be capable of understanding and potentially responding to that signal. This second part of the definition is important because parents have often reported that schools send home too much information, in forms that parents don't understand and, importantly, can't use to support their children's learning.
We know from the literature in the field that engaging parents in children's learning is one of the best levers we have to raise achievement, but such engagement depends on accurate, two way, respectful communication between school staff and families, and the literature shows that such communication can lead to gains in children's learning.
Since over 70% of homes in the UK are considered to have access to broadband services, and over half the adult population has access to a smart phone, schools have begun to use digital communication with parents more and more. In fact, there is now a bewildering plethora of "apps" available to schools for this very purpose - but almost all of them incur a financial cost and they will all incur costs in time to set them up and use them.
In the article, I attempt to meld the literature around engaging parents in children's learning with that around communication, to lead to some principles for good choices that schools might make in this area; I also look at some of the issues and challenges ahead in this fast paced area.