Do your students' parents have expectations about how to get ahold of you? Do they have your home email address, your phone number, etc.? A school email? Do they use a web site (Moodle, etc.)?

We've got a whole range of teachers at our K-8 school, from a classroom team that uses Moodle to post assignments, to a teacher who has no email at home and no interest in having it.

I'd like to assign teachers a school email, but then parent expectations may be that teachers will be "always on" -- unless we make expectations as to when teachers check their emails very clear (i.e.--once a school day for that teacher with no email?).

I am toying with setting up a private ning for parents to communicate with each other and the teachers--and where teachers could post assignments. The Ning seems more accessible than a Moodle, but it would be less easy to post "study guides," because I don't see that you can upload files. So, maybe a Moodle site would be better.

Any guidance? Thanks in Advance!

Tags: communication, email, moodle, ning, teacher

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Hi Sue, I think you are so right about setting limits to parents expectations as to teacher availability, and do think that checking email once a school day is a fair requirement from a teachers' point of view. At the schools I work in, we let the parents know when and how we can be contacted in the first parent teacher meeting of the year.

As for a tool for communicating with parents, I definitely think that haikulms could be the one! http://www.haikuls.com/php/upcoming.features.php . Features, assignments, parent and student accounts, message boards, private messaging system and more....
Also I've just discovered a fairly new tool called myquire.com . It is a hybrid between a project management tool and a social network, it looks interesting and very easy to use. Features: project management, todo, upload files photo gallery, chat, email, messages, comment wall
Thanks, Susan. I've looked at Haikuls and been impressed, I will try and take it for a spin this summer!
Each teacher should have a district assigned e-mail. If not, your district needs to get on board set them up. Parents can only access me via my school e-mail. We use schoolnotes.com (free) as well, but its a very limited application. This year I plan on using filehosting sites to share lessons, worksheets etc with students and parents.
I'm looking for the filehosting capability, too--and Moodle and Hikuls (see above) seem to be favorites. I like the look and accountability of Ning, as in everyone's posts are attributed and aggregated on their page, too--Haikuls, if it does that, would have an edge!

As for my district getting on board, it's a small private non-profit K-8 I work at, and I and a "tech committee" are "it"--we are literally in the middle of corn and cow fields and get our internet access through a satellite dish, since there's only that or a phone line out our way. Our satellite company provides 10 email accounts, and we have a school website...
Both Gmail and Hotmail provide ways so that the outgoing address of a group's e-mail can be personalized. That way you could all be someone@myschool.com. As it's webmail, you can access it when you want, and the service is free aside from the price of the domain. It makes it look like your school has it's own cool in house e-mail without the price.
Each teacher in our school has a school email account. They are required to check it every day, at least once. The administration in the building make it impossible to do it any other way because it is through email that they communicate with us and how they expect us to communicate with them about simple day-to-day stuff. The parents expect to be able to email teachers and to my knowledge, never "abuse" the privilege. Teachers who use email on a regular basis really prefer it to phone tag, since we don't have outgoing lines in the classrooms. Those who use email really convinced those who don't that it is very effective. In addition to email, only a few teachers have class web pages, and they "put pressure" on those who don't because parents really like the class web pages and consider the teachers who do them "better teachers", which isn't really fair, but it's the perception of the parents that non-techy teachers are weak in their professionalism. Our parents are not at all very techy and email is pretty much all they can handle. Since they use email for their own personal and professional life, parents think email is pretty basic. We know this because we surveyed the parents in order to have a clear sense of their expectations and technology skill. It was because of their request that email and the school webpage became the primary sources of communication for our community.

In addition, I really love the technology of a wiki, and since wikispaces.com allow teachers to collaborate on web content, including posting information about policies and procedures, calendars, and uploading doc files of study guides extra copies of rubrics, assignments, and forms, we are creating a wikispaces account for every grade level. It is so easy to use, the principal can be a "member" of each page and contribute to the content or fix typos, and the content is easily organized for parents to find what they are looking for. There is also a discussion and messaging feature as well. Although I would not encourage the use of those features for parents. I heard a horror story about disgruntled parents posting inappropriate messages on a bulletin board about certain teachers. I don't think that we should give parents a forum for web based communication because of the risk that they would use such a tool to make comments that are better given in private to the teacher or principal.

Man....this is a long post. I guess the moral of the story is to make sure you use a tool that everyone is likely to be able to learn how to use and be consistent with. Be careful when you go too "fancy" particularly since you said some of your teachers don't even use email. Get the support from your parent community, since they are your constituents and your administration since they are your leadership model.
Nadine, Thank you! Your post was very helpful, and I will be quoting how you went about surveying your parents to our administration. Would you share a sample wiki page address?
This is the address of the wiki I use for my job: http://sfxlg.wikispaces.com/. On the home page, you'll find the link for "wikizouska" which is a nickname one of the 8th graders came up with for the middle school social studies wiki (combining the teacher's name). The pages for the grade levels are still being developed and they are password protected until the principal verifies the information. Also, at the end of the year, we published some poetry on sfx-writes.

Get to know wikispaces. It has some awesome features!
Let us prioritize the accessible modes
1) Cell Phone 2) Email 3) Wikis / Social network
It is a very good idea that teachers to be in regular touch with parents
through some mode such as email.
Cell Phone seems waay to accessible to me! Which mode do you use?
There would be no way that I would ever let a parent gain access to my mobile phone number. If a parent wants to contact me then I have a school email address or they can phone me at school.

Providing parents with your own private contact details is fraught with all sorts of dangers.

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