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September 3, 2013 5 Apps to Creatively Connect With Parents! By Erin Klein
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    Having a positive relationship with the parents of your students can help your year get off to a great start. I've found that parents often just want to feel connected and involved. Many potential issues can be resolved when they feel like they understand what is going on inside the classroom.

    As a parent, I know that my husband and I often feel the most uneasy when we don't know when an event is happening or how to help with an assignment. Therefore, as a teacher, I've searched for and tried out numerous tools to help be more proactive in the classroom to solve any issues before they evolve into problems. The feedback I've received from families has been overwhelmingly positive.  

     

    WDWDT: What Did We Do Today?

    Imagine if 100 percent of your messages made it to their destination. WDWDT helps to make this a reality. This productivity app allows teachers to customize their communication with parents and students.  

    Don't worry if your parents and students do not have smart phones, they can also subscribe to receive email notifications. Additionally, the app goes beyond sending alert announcements and notifications. You can also set up "action messages" within the platform. Action messages allow the teacher to create categories for donations, surveys, meeting scheduling, and volunteer opportunities. Best of all, this is a free app!  You can see more on the website and in iTunes to get started today.  

     

    Educreations: an Interactive Whiteboard App

    Educreations is a free app that allows you to use your iPad as a creative whiteboad.  You can add color, type text, add your voice, have multiple slides, and import photos. My favorite part about this app is that is is easy to use. There are several whiteboard apps; however, after trying many, I find that this one is my favorite.  

    I have made clips where I reinforce concepts we are learning in class. After I throw a few slides together, I can take the finished product and add it to my class site, email the link to parents, or allow students to view it on the device. This app is great for flipping your classroom. Flipping your classroom is where students view a video lesson at home and come to class ready to discuss the content or engage in a project. Since I teach second grade, I have internally flipped my classroom. Instead of having children watch the videos at home, they rotate through centers/stations in our classroom to view the content on the iPad. Then, I am free to work with small groups or individual students. Parents appreciate seeing how the content is being taught in class or simply seeing what their child is learning about in school. Learn more about Educreations on their site or go directly to iTunes.  

     

    Aurasma: Augmented Reality

    Another free app, Aurasma allows teachers and students to create augmented reality. Augmented reality is when you add an artificial layer over an object. Think of it as bringing something to life. Quite frankly, it's pretty magical. You can read more about Aurasma and augmented reality in my full post by clicking here. I also include a free 19-page e-Book sharing how to get started creating your fist aura, or artificial layer.

    We use Aurasma in class in a variety of ways. One way we use it to connect with parents is to easily share tutorials for homework assignments or letters going home that may need a bit of explanation. I make a video and save it to my camera roll on my iPhone. Then, I add that video tutorial as a layer to the homework page or parent letter. Because my students' parents are subscribed to my class Aurasma channel, as soon as they open the Aurasma app on their phone and hold their device over the paper, the video automatically begins playing. Instantly, they receive additional information about the assignment or upcoming event. I encourage you to read more about Aurasma and see the class examples on my site. You can also connect to the Aurasma website where you will need to set up a Studio account in order to start your class channel. If you're ready to download the free app and get started, click here to connect to iTunes. Aurasma is also available in Google Play.  

     
     

    Animoto: Create Beautiful Videos

    I've been using Animoto for years to turn my photos into video slideshows that are entertaining to watch and that look wonderful. I'm not the editing master that some of my friends are, so, when it comes to putting together a video that parents will enjoy, I always turn to Animoto. Be sure to request an educator's account when you get set up. This way, your videos can extend beyond 30 seconds.  

    When we are on field trips, I take several photos. On the return trip back to school, I quickly upload those photos to the Animoto app. Just like that I have a wonderful video. Animoto allows you to select a theme for the background and transitions. You can also select music from an archive they have available. Additionally, you can add text to help explain your photos. When I'm in a hurry, I usually just add text to the title slide and the last slide. You can see an example of an Animoto video I made a few years ago for a seventh grade language arts project. When the video is published, you can get a link to share it with parents. I typically take that link and open it up in Remind101, a free texting app. I am able to text the link directly to all of my parents as we are on our way to dismissal. Parents love being able to feel like they're a part of the trip (even when they are unable to physically attend). To find out more about Animoto, click here. To download Animoto, click here.

     

    Remind101: Safely Text Parents and Students

    This will be my third year using Remind101 to communicate with my students' parents. Each year, I've received positive feedback from my them. They love having information and quick reminders delivered directly to their device. It saves them a step from having to log in to a separate platform. Using Remind101, they get text notifications that pop up as soon as I send or schedule them. I also subscribe to my class so that I receive all of the notifications my parents do.

    Because I teach second grade, I do not have my students subscribe. Instead, I encourage my student's parents to sign up. They have the option to sign up via text notifications or email notifications. Some even sign up for both.  

    I send reminders for packed lunches for field trips, weekly spelling words, assessment reminders, early dismissal notifications, and much more. I even send links to videos we've made, links to apps we've used in class, or reminders to remember special events. It's been very helpful to be able to schedule these reminders out. On Friday, before I leave school, I quickly glance at the upcoming week and see what needs to be scheduled. I try not to send more than 2-4 reminders a week.  

    You can even embed the Remind101 widget on your class blog or website! Read more about Remind101 and set up your free account to connect to the website. Once you've set up your account, you can send reminders from your desktop or your smart phone. So be sure to download the free app in iTunes or Google Play, too.

    Parents love to have easy ways to connect with their children. And these apps make it easy for the teacher!  I'd love to hear if you've had experience using any of the apps. How are they working out in your classroom? If you haven't tried one yet, which one are you most excited about starting?

     

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Susan Cheyney

GRADES: 1-2