Connect with Maia

October 24, 2012

Contest! Win access to Dash4Teachers App! (Enter by November 9)

Not only do you have students to keep track of, colleagues to meet with, and administrators to manage, but there’s another HUGELY important  group of people who require your attention—the families of your students!

Some of you are fortunate enough to have a school-supported technology system to track parent contact, but many of us are still on our own to figure this out.  And in the midst of so much other stuff to do, this area of our teaching lives often gets neglected.

If you just can’t wait, scroll to the bottom of the blog for the contest!

Reaching out to families proactively is the #1 area our workshop attendees say they wish they had more time for. Jin-Soo, a high school teacher in New Orleans, contributed the great solutions below—and we spent time with Aliyah, developer of the app Dash4Teachers. Next week we will hear from Claire S, an early childhood educator in Washington, DC.

As with any technology solutions, we care that your method for tracking family contact is simple, sortable, accessible, portable, private, affordable, and synchronizeable across multiple platforms. Shelby and I have personally tested all of these, and you’ll see our ideas for usage below.

Please note that The Together Teacher doesn’t sponsor, nor receive payment for reviews of any items. We only list stuff we truly love. Also, stay tuned for some Google and paper-based ideas…they’re coming soon!

Dash4Teachers.This is a very nifty app created by teachers for teachers. It costs ~$5, but we think it is worth it. So worth it that Dash4Teachers creator, Aliya Bhatia, has agreed to give free access to our three contest winners. We tested it personally and here’s what we liked:

  • Ease – Dash makes a playlist of calls to take the busy-work out of calling home and help you just get started with the day’s calls. This makes it easier to build the habit of calling home each day.
  • Balance – You can track both positive and negative phone calls to ensure appropriate balance of both types of calls home to families.
  • Accountability – You can show kids that you entered their family member into your playlist for the day. They see for sure that you’re going to follow through.
  • Documentation – You have a record of every phone call home you have made along with its outcome.

Find Dash4Teachers in iTunes.

Watch the demo here.

Remind101.  Remind 101 is a texting services that lets teachers send text messages to different groups of people with whom they interact. Remind 101 is one-way communication – the group cannot communicate with each other and they cannot communicate back to you. In order to respond or ask questions, members need to send a separate message to you or call you. Remind 101 is free, but standard text messaging rates and data do apply. Some usage ideas we had as we were trying it out:

  • Lists — Set up lists for parents, your grade team, and your students. You can even set up a different list for every section you teach. After you set up each group (which is easy), the members of the group subscribe to the listserv by texting a special message to a Remind 101 phone number.
  • Reminders – After lists are up and running, the teacher or organizer can send texts to the group through Remind 101’s website. What a useful way to send reminders about quizzes, tests, field trips, and more!

CellyCelly is a unique text-messaging app best for communicating with large groups of people, like your entire class, all of your families, or all of the teachers in your school. The most interesting part of Celly is that phone numbers are kept private, so large groups can communicate together without worrying about privacy. In high school settings, if cell phones are allowed, you can use Celly in place of expensive iClickers to poll or quiz your students. Celly allows everyone to communicate back and forth in the large group, whereas Remind 101 is one-way communication. Like Remind 101, Celly is free, but standard text messaging rates and data do apply. Two times we think Celly could really come in handy:

  • If there was a mistake on the night’s homework and you quickly wanted to notify everyone of the correction.
  • If you’re on a fieldtrip and need to let everyone know that the location of the buses has changed.

Together Teacher Contest (Deadline November 9): How do you track and document family contact? Please limit your reply to 300 or fewer words and include your first name and last initial. Three randomly selected teachers will receive free access to Dash4Teachers through iTunes.


, , ,

  • Tish H

    Currently,an email-based and call log system is my go-to. Once I’ve placed a phone call and the number stores in my call log. I simply refer to that phone call because I recall the contents of the conversation and then email it to myself (i.e. compose a message in the drafts folder) or individuals of pertinence. Our school has a logging system and I use that system as well.

  • Xuan H.

    I currently write down all records of parent contact on an individual student log – one made for each student. I record the date, nature of the contact, and the parent response.

  • Wendell Cheung

    I use Google Voice as my primary ‘work’ number and it logs all of my calls and texts to parents. You can even use it to record voice messages and your conversations if needed for future reference. I use Google Docs to log how often we make contact to parents and for what reasons.

  • Cole

    For keeping a record of all parent calls and texts, like Wendell, I use a Google Voice number. For sharing this information and my own calls made, I share a google spreadsheet doc with my whole school that lists pretty much every detail of contact for every student in the grade(s). This includes names, dates, all numbers (working and notes on non-working numbers), classification of interaction that’s color coded (POS-green, NEU-blue, NEG-red), and a field for all call notes. We also color code each student according to if they’ve received any logged contact within the past 7 days; they appear as clear if they’ve been contacted or purple if we have not called recently. What’s great about this system is that we can access it anywhere and at any time, and we can also log on together and use the chat feature to log our thoughts/reminders/new developments on matters when we open the document.

  • Carol

    I currently have an emergency contact info. sheet for each child in my class. At the bottom, I note the date & a brief note every time I make a phone call, send a note,…

  • Patrick G

    I have a school-issued cell phone which I try to use for most school-related calls. I use Google Voice to provide a record of voicemails, text messages, etc. That also frees me up from carrying two phones at all times, as calls to my work phone will hunt to my personal cell. It’s incredibly helpful! I use the call log function of the phone to track calls from day-to-day and then quickly log them in a personal Google Doc once a week. Similarly, I scan-to-email any notes I send home on our copier before giving them to the student and link to them in the Google Doc to ensure I keep track of them.

  • Maia Heyck-Merlin

    Thanks, everyone, for sharing your great comments to help others. Hugely appreciated! Maia