Share information with families in your school or district and provide training for families to support their students during digital learning.
Parents, guardians, and families are strategic partners in a successful digital learning program. Parents and guardians want to be informed, and want to be able to get answers. Effective communication with students and families about digital learning will promote trust and awareness of the roles that families play in digital learning. They are allies in ensuring devices get charged and are cared for, and in supporting their child at home.
With new initiatives, it is essential that school personnel provide regular communications to ensure the needs of students and families are met. Best practices for engaging parents, guardians, and families include:
- Develop a communication plan that outlines norms for staff member communication with students and families, including how and when to contact families and primary tools and methods for communication
- Identify a point of contact who will manage all major family communications
- Establish a centralized, mobile-friendly website that provides current information and resources
- Create and publish materials and videos in multiple languages that educate students and parents/guardians about the digital learning program
- Utilize multiple platforms and modes of communication (e.g., recorded videos, phone calls, live video conference, social media, texting)
- Provide parent/guardian training, through both in-person and online tutorials as appropriate
- Develop support tools for maintaining communication between the school, teachers, students, and parents/guardians
- Inform parents/guardians how to be “digital parents,” including sharing best practices on proper care and maintenance of the device, screen time practices, online safety, and digital citizenship
- Conduct parent/guardian meetings and workshops for synchronous support
- Provide resources about social-emotional well-being and mental health resources for students
- Provide access to free translation and interpretation services for students and families
- Communicate with families and students about how students will be assessed and graded, how to track students’ progress online, and how to support students who are not currently meeting grade-level standards and expectations
- Provide time each day for teachers, staff, and paraprofessionals to call families to check in and receive feedback about digital learning
When engaging with families, take into account the capacity they have for supporting their student’s digital learning. Not all families will have the same capacity to monitor, support, and guide their student’s digital learning due to time, work, and other constraints. But outside of typical work hours or by tapping into networks or extended family members, families might be able to provide additional learning opportunities and extracurricular activities digitally. Considering the limits of how much to ask of families is important to help ensure that digital learning does not deepen inequalities between students.
- What is your communication plan? Who is communicating with families and what platforms are they using?
- What are the home languages for students within your school or district? Have you identified how to communicate with parents and guardians in multiple languages and formats?
- Have you communicated the importance of digital learning to students and families?
- Have you identified training for parents and guardians?
- Do your communication methods provide opportunities for families to ask for help and give feedback about supporting their child’s digital learning?
- Are there families the school or district has not reached? If so, what is impeding communication and how can the barrier(s) be overcome?
Tools and Resources
- Culturally Responsive Education Hub: Guide for Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Family Engagement and Tools for Educators to Listen to and Learn from Families
- Education Week: Tips for Connecting with Non-English-Speaking Parents
- Verizon Innovative Learning Schools: Supporting Parents and Students in a Digital World
- Common Sense Media: Apps and Websites for Improving Parent-Teacher Communication
- Digital Promise: Communicating with Learners and Families to Support Digital Learning Micro-credential
- Minnesota Rural Education Association: Distance Learning: Communicating with Families
- National Center for Learning Disabilities: A Parent’s Guide to Virtual Learning
- Digital Promise Learner Variability Project: Creating Powerful Home-Based Learning
- Tool: Class Dojo
- Tool: Remind
- Tool: Talking Points
- Tool: Seesaw
Oklahoma State Department of Education
Engaging Families to Support Distance Learning During COVID-19
Springfield Public Schools
Quick Tips for Parent Canvas Access and Technology Assistance During Remote Learning