Paper Trails To Emails: Communication Made Simple
In my twenty years of teaching, I have seen many movements come and go in education. The biggest movement has been technology in our school and classrooms. When I first started teaching, there were no computers in my classroom. We just had one computer lab that the entire school had to share. Considering all the different ways technology is used in education, the biggest transformation is parent-teacher-student communication.
In my early years, to communicate with parents, I would write a note in students' agendas and hope that they would show them to their parents. Then I would have to remember to ask to see the agenda the next day to see if the parent corresponded back. Phone calls were an option, but cell phones were few and far between in those days. You actually had to catch parents at home to get phone contact. If parents wanted to find out how their child was performing in class, a note would have to be written or a conference set up. Teachers gave written comments on papers and paper trails were long and cumbersome. After-school project collaboration and asking the teacher questions about homework were limited. To say there were definitely huge road blocks with communication back then would be an understatement.
Now, in the present year, communication is just a click away. It’s amazing how quickly I can respond to a parent’s question or send out reminders to my students. Parents are now able to see grades in real time. Within a 24 hour period, a test can be given, assessed, and entered into the grade book, and parents can check on their child’s progress daily in every class. When problems arise, parents can text, email, or message the teacher for questions and answers. My school system sends out messages to parents via email, phone call, and text on a daily basis about upcoming dates and programs. As a teacher, I maintain a web page, Edmodo site, and a team Facebook page. If parents or students need help with getting to my materials or trying to find due dates, all they have to do is check one of those sites. Sending out reminders via email, text, and call to every parents and student on my rosters only takes five minutes. Just tonight I have responded to two parent emails, three student emails, and phone conferenced with two parents!
In addition to the advancements in communication between teachers, parents, and students, there has also been an increase in communication with peers. Through Google Hangouts and Facetime, project collaboration continues with classmates as well as homework help sessions among friends. This change in technology is definitely a huge success in equipping students to be more successful in school. Questions about homework are quickly answered so learning continues. Parents understand what is going on in my classroom and can help their child meet due dates and stay organized within my classroom. When problems arise and the learning process is stopped, they can be dealt with in a timely manner--not two to three days due to lack of communication. Communication between parents, teachers, and students is the key to success!
The other way education has changed in the last twenty years is in the way of differentiation for students. Three years ago I went to a paperless classroom. As the reading teacher on my team, it is my job to meet students on their instructional levels. With the assistance of Chromebooks and Edmodo, I am able to differentiate lessons, tests, quizzes, and discussions with all of my students. Because I have students reading below level, on grade level, above grade level, and I also serve gifted students all in the same class, I run a classroom that reads four different novels. Without the help of technology, I could not stay as organized as I do.
Technology is the present and future! It offers new opportunities for students to understand the world around them and helps them become productive citizens in today’s society.