3 Innovative Ways to Connect with Parents by Talking on a Cell Phone

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I enjoyed this piece so much, that I wanted it to have a permanent home on our blog rather than just sharing it via Twitter or Facebook. This blog post has been adapted from  SmartBlog on Education .

We all know we can use a cell phone to make calls, but few realize all the innovative ways simple phone calling technology can help us build the home-school connection.

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Photo Credit: Innovative Educator

If you know how to pick up a phone and dial, then it’s time to take it up a notch and learn about some free and easy to use resources that will help you coordinate and connect with parents in powerful and exciting ways.

1) iPadio

Wouldn’t it be great to have a weekly podcast for parents? While the idea sounds good, when we think of podcasting it often seems confusing and hard to put together. Not so with a phonecasting service like iPadio. All you need to know how to do is dial a phone number and speak. Then boom! Your phonecast is instantly published and can be shared via your website, blog, email, or text.

6th grade language arts and social studies teacher Josh Stumpenhorst creates phonecasts for his class in Naperville, IL. He uses phonecasts as a way to communicate to parents and students about what he is doing in his classroom. This window into his classroom provides students, their families, and other interested school community members with up to date information about what is being done in class.

Teachers can use iPadio to bridge the home-school connection. By simply wearing a basic headset that comes with every cell phone and recording mini lessons with iPadio, teachers can make phonecasts for their students who were absent from class and/or need a lesson review.  These phonecasts can also be for parents who are wondering, “What did my child learn in school today?” Teachers could even record several mini lessons in advance of a unit and let students work at their own pace.

Students could be brought in to help create phonecasts that share school news, upcoming events, students of the month, or celebrated student work and/or teacher successes.

2) Voki
Vokis provide a great way to stay connected with parents. With Voki you can share a message using an animated avatar that talks just like you because it’s created  using your own voice recorded right from your phone. You can design your avatar’s appearance, add voice, and  get an embed code to pop it into any web2.0 compatible site (Wikis, Blogs, Facebook, Websites) or even an old school PowerPoint.  The avatar moves and speaks based on what you say.

Since Vokis are easily embedded,  school staff often use Voki to record introduction messages for their school websites. For example, special education teacher Kim Gill embedded a Voki to welcome students and parents to their home page.

Students can also use Vokis.  Primary school enrichment teacher Jennifer Matthews has students create Vokis to show what they know. She places their Vokis onto the class page of her website and shares them with parents to provide insight into what their children are learning in class.

Tutors can also use Vokis on their websites to talk about their services and the help they provide students.  A Voki gives another dimension to a website and adds some personality to your text and pictures.

Not only does Voki provide a fun way to share information with parents but you can also capture anyone’s message with a cell phone. This means that once you set Voki up on any computer, you can pass a cell phone to a student, teacher, principal or yourself to capture powerful words and ideas to share.  It’s that simple!

3) Google Voice

Contact is key. Our constituencies want us to be accessible, however, 24/7 access isn’t always possible, nor should it be. Chris Casal, the technology teacher & tech coordinator at PS 10 Brooklyn uses his Google Voice number on a daily basis to keep the parent-teacher line of communication open & accessible as well as serve as a point of contact available to all members of the school community.

Google Voice is a free service through Google. If you are a Google Apps school or just have a GMail account, you can get a GVoice phone number by visiting Google Voice set up.  If you don’t have a GMail account you can create one for free here.

This can be useful for connecting and coordinating with parents by acting as your personal secretary. Google Voice transcribes your messages, allowing you to skip messages from callers you don’t want to hear from, and inviting you to eavesdrop as a message is being left for you. You can also record yourself! Just leave yourself a Google voicemail to capture a recording with important information for parents. That message can be emailed or texted to parents. With Google Voice you can easily share messages with your school administrator. Rather than explaining to your principal details about a message a concerned parent left, Google Voice lets you forward the audio message and transcript via email. Nothing is lost in translation.

If you’re looking for a way to stay connected and provide parents with a sense of unfettered access without your phone ringing off the hook, Google Voice may be just what you’re looking for. It is a free, simple way to offer a single point of contact you can access in various ways, often replying more quickly since you are not reliant on a single voicemail box or physical handset.

So, what do you think? Could some of these resources be helpful in building the home-school connection where you work? If you are a tutor, do you think these resources could be useful for you?  Which ideas do you think will be, or have you experienced as being, successful? Are there challenges or concerns that are getting in the way of you implementing some of these ideas? If so, what are they?

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