We try to keep the lines of communication open with our parents as much as possible. We generate an email list early in the year, and use it once a week for project updates and information. We have a blog site where we post daily homework assignments and links to handouts. We, of course, use the phone to make calls, and email to connect.
This year, I am going to dip my toes into another way to communicate with families by using a site called Kikutext, which allows teachers to set up classes so that text messages can be sent to cell phones and mobile devices. The site — which has a free version (create up to four classes with 80 accounts) and a pro version (more options) — seems friendly enough. I was up and running within minutes and using a teacher colleague who is also a parent of an incoming student as my experiment, I had things working with very little hassle.
Kikutext does not provide your cell phone number to parents. Instead, it filters messages through its web-based interface, so that from my standpoint — it feels more like a web-based email client — but once parents opt in, I can sent forth class-wide messages or individual messages, and the hope is that by reaching them on a device that most people bring everywhere, our channels of communication about their children and my students will be positive.
And I intend it to be as positive as possible. I really need to set a goal of alerting families to the achievements and accomplishments of students, and not just have contact when problems arise. I don’t do enough of that, and if a site like Kikutext can help me, then I am game to give it a try. I am going to pilot Kikutext with just one of my four classes, and try to focus in on parents more than students (but I am not sure this is a good idea — why not have students in the system? The reason for now is that I feel constrained by the free version, and the 80 account limit, since I have 80 students in my four classes. I’ll see how that develops. I would love to have students as part of the system.)
Do you use text messaging with families? I’d love to know more about how it works for you. I follow my National Writing Project friend, Jeremy Hyler, in his work with cell phones in the classroom using Cel.ly for writing, polling and more. I guess I am not quite there yet. But I feel myself moving in that direction. How about you?
Peace (in the texts),