The unfortunate truth is that not all parents can find the time or have the ability to make it in to the one or two formal nights a year that your school holds a Parent Teacher Conference night. And typically, those that do show up aren’t the parents that you ‘need’ to see (as their kids are usually doing fine in your class). How can teachers still have those important conversations with parents to fill them in on what is going on in class? Below you will find three ways that teachers can hold digital conferences using all free services. These tools will enable teachers to gain more involvement from those that are unable to attend and also provide the teacher with methods that will allow for an increased amount of conference opportunities throughout the year.
This tool is great for a couple different styles of conferences. You can arrange a group conference where you can solicit input and share information with multiple parents at once. Additionally, you can simply use a Hangout to conference with one parent that may not easily be able to make it into the school. We know that those face to face conversations are so important, who says they have to be in person?
Considerations: Be sure to give parents ample lead time to make sure they have the capabilities of running a Hangout successfully. There is nothing more frustrating than knowing you should be on a chat but struggling with tech difficulties.
While not ideal for individual conversations with parents about their child specifically, a Twitter hashtag chat for your classroom is a great way to easily share information about what is happening in the classroom with both parents and students. The teacher can share current topics of study, reminders for the class, and how parents can become more involved. Parents can ask questions of the teacher and develop contacts with other parents in the class.
Considerations: Be careful not to share specifics about individual students as it is a public chat. You will need to share a guide with parents on how to participate effectively in a Twitter chat and establish and share a hashtag for your conference far in advance.
While this option is less conversational, it is a great way for you as the teacher to share out a short (less than 10 minute) informational recording about your classroom. Perhaps you release one a month and you have a student or parent co-host the episode with you to increase conversation and involve your classroom community? The options for this are vast and no matter what the end result is the increased sharing of information with your parents.
Considerations: There are free ways to podcast, be sure to check them out. Remember that you will not want to talk about specific students in the podcast (except to praise – but be careful with this, too) as it is a public release.