Yesterday, Digistorm hosted a virtual forum with our integration partners, Schoolbox and our friends The Eventful Learning Co. The purpose of this collaboration was to discuss all things communication with your parent community. We were joined by an expert industry panel, with representatives from the parent community as well as school marketing and enrolment departments.
We also hosted two interactive activities using Miro — a visual collaboration software that allowed attendees to work together to brainstorm ideas about communicating with current and future school communities. If you missed it, you can watch the whole session here:
Read on for our three big takeaways from the session!
1. Getting parental engagement 'right' is the key to student outcomes
This one is probably a no-brainer, however two of our guest panelists, Gail McHardy (Executive Officer, Parents Victoria) and Dr Rob Loe (Group CEO, Relationships Foundation) discussed the need for a mutually beneficial relationship between the school and the parents that will result in better student engagement.
Rob used the term 'parental empowerment' to sum up the need for schools to allow parents and carers to take agency in their child's education. He mentioned the express need for there to be a single, continuous point of contact with the school and for that person to keep communicating through multiple channels (especially face-to-face!) with a single point of contact in the child's home. Where the relationship becomes dysfunctional, or the school's point of contact changes, the parent's view of the entire school often becomes negative and their school experience becomes poor. Effective schools create space for the necessary conversations to happen between these two points of contact.
2. COVID-19 challenges have offered a silver lining
While schools around the world have struggled with the various challenges brought on by COVID-19, Gail was quick to mention that COVID-19 has offered a silver lining: it has made families become engaged in their child's learning. Rob added to this, mentioning that parents were literally 'in the classroom' — potentially for the first time, and there was no going back now that parents had become more involved.
3. Using your tools to engage parents when they want, in the way they want
In the second half of the session, Courtney Coe (Head of Boarding, Calrossy Anglican School) and Amber Chase (Director of ICT, Calrossy Anglican School) spoke about the importance of utilising your different technologies to engage parents in the best way possible.
Calrossy uses a mix of technology, including Schoolbox's Community software and Digistorm's integrated app. By implementing a strategy that included communication across their multiple tools, Calrossy is able to communicate to parents in a way that is personalised. They gave examples of parents who work rurally, needing to wake up early and check Schoolbox before they go to work at dawn, or night owls who like to check their app at 10pm at night. By ensuring the information is always available to parents in their preferred medium, at the time that they need it, Calrossy is able to further engage their audience — including their mix of boarding and day school families.
To ensure parents knew how to use the technology, Calrossy went above and beyond the usual PDF 'how-to' guides when they implemented their new systems. They held informative training sessions, first for staff and then for parents and students, to guide them through the programs. They also taped the sessions and uploaded them for parents who couldn't make it, or needed a refresher.
Wrapping it up
Each presenter in the forum agreed: parent communication is vital, and schools need to be proactive in nurturing that relationship — both with current and prospective parents. If you're wanting to explore this topic further, here are some resources that can help: