Is your group reaching out to parents and conducting PTO business online? If not, it’s time.
A few things we’ve observed lately:
- As this school year is starting up, we’re hearing more and more about groups launching Facebook pages and we’re seeing more Tweets going out under hash tags like #ptomeeting.
- A report released late last month by the National School Public Relations Association shows just how important online communication is to parents. When this group polled parents on how they wanted to receive school information, the top five answers were: email, online parent portal, e-newsletters, school and district website, and the telephone.
- And then I happened to attend the PTO meeting this week at my children’s school at which the principal gave a presentation on the different technologies the school is implementing to share information about events, kid’s grades, and classroom content. There have already been some “firsts’’ this school year. For instance, the school did not send home paper copies of the kids’ schedules.
There’s no one bombshell here. But, when you put it all together, it points to a significant shift that we’ve been observing for some time. Parents will soon be able to get pretty much all the school information they need online, not just about their own child, but about the school community overall.
Essentially, parents will soon be “living’’ online when it comes to all things related to school if they aren’t doing so already. So, they are going to want to find you there, too.
It might mean more active outreach through email or providing parents with online forums to exchange information. It really depends on your community. As an example, Joe Mazza, principal at Knapp Elementary School in Lansdale, Penn., recently related a story about collaborating with the Home and School Association to put together a back-to-school newsletter. It took about two weeks and all communication between Mazza and the board was conducted via Twitter, Mazza says.
Also, the parent group at Knapp has hosted meetings in which participants can log in from home and type their questions and comments, which are then projected onto a large screen at the meeting.
“Once you get people using it—all these teachers and parents—think about the possibility for a connected culture and what it can do for engagement,’’ Mazza says. “It puts everything together at your fingertips.”
So, are you ready? Some resources to consider:
- Looking for ways to help bring parents and teachers together online? Take a look at TeacherLists.com, our sister site that provides an easy way for teachers to share their classroom supply and wish lists to parents. Launched in mid 2012, TeacherLists already has 100,000 classrooms participating.
- Wondering how to use these different communications channels appropriately? Looking for best practices? Check out our E-Communications Handbook for Parent Groups, which you can download from our File Exchange.
- Aren’t really into Twitter yet? No shame. Here’s a basic primer on Twitter that we published a while back that covers all the territory you need to know.
- Need information on email? Take a look at our Parent Express Email tool. It’s free! And it’s a great way to manage your parent email network.