For wired communities, electronic communication opportunities abound and are worth exploring in terms of both emergency messaging and ongoing connectivity. Each is important, but it’s important to find the right technological match for your circumstances. For me, critical factors might include:
1. Is communication between teachers, schools, students, families and the community as a whole as strong as it should be, or is there room for improvement?
2. If there’s room to grow, what’s the best fit for our community? Communication options could include:
a. Home visits. I give this option top marks!
b. The traditional flyers sent home (crumpled in the bottom of a backpack),
c. Announcements via local TV and radio stations, newspaper postings, or
d. Higher tech options involving smart phones and internet technology. If this grabs you, don’t jump on the first electronic toy that comes along. Resist the wow factor long enough to compare new products to see what best meets your needs, and whether it’s a reasonable investment.
One such product that caught my eye is Ving, a relatively new cloud-based service that bolsters communication between families, students and teachers. Ving folds video, text and audio messaging options into one simple product, making it easy for teachers to actively post video messages, assignments, reminders, calendars and surveys for families to read. (Check out a sample message sent to students via this link.
These electronic postings can be sent to all families, keeping them in the loop regarding developments in school. Messages can be customized and sent to selected students and their families, and messages are tracked, so that teachers know who has received their messages. Students and family members can also easily chat with the teacher about whatever comes up. With an annual fee of $1,000 for a school with an enrollment under 800, this is a relatively affordable option that could strengthen family-school engagement – if the idea grabs teachers, and if the vast majority of families are on the web. At a glance, it’s greatest drawback would be the degree to which any families are not internet equipped and savvy. But it’s a good enough approach that it might make sense to provide internet services and equipment to such families, in order to be fully inclusive.
Here’s an interview with teachers who are using Ving that does a good job of conveying the flavor of the app.
You can also check Ving out further at http://www.vingapp.com/k12-education/