Why is two-way communication considered the top way to engage families? It builds trust faster and it’s more authentic.1 Just like this blog article started with a question to you, if schools ask a question and allow a space for families to answer, they are starting a dialogue and automatically involving families in the conversation bridging school to home. For most schools this is not new information. When you are searching for a two-way communication tool, or comparing what’s on the market to your current tool, here are five things to make sure they are offering your school before you sign your next long-term contract.
1. Parent teacher communication must translate
Translations are important in any communication with parents. However, it’s how it translates as well. A lot of messaging systems will allow the school to choose the language when sending out a message. This is helpful but still not ensuring all families can understand what is being said. If your two-way platform allows the parents to select their desired language first then they are in charge of what language everything translates to.
|Example: If an English-speaking teacher needs to message a Spanish-speaking parent, they send the message in English, and the parent can respond back in Spanish because that’s the language they’ve set their app to. Then the teacher will receive the message translated back into English. Everyone understands—let the engagement begin.
2. Always have administrative transparency
Paper trails never go out of style. Just like you are taught to never delete a work email, just file and organize, your school-to-parent communication should always be stored, and past messages should be accessible by app administrators. This would include access to any attachments that were sent as well as photos. Bonus if the company you are working with can flag “suspicious” words and alert your admin team so you don’t have to read through every message.
3. More than a two-way communication app for school
The complaint many parents have is that they are downloading multiple apps from their children’s schools. They download the SIS app to hear about grades, an information app to hear about general school updates, a communication app to talk to teachers, a tip line app, etc. Ask your app company what other modules it offers and if there’s a way to consolidate those features. You will save money and administrative time, and parents will be happy not to have to create a school app folder for all the school-related apps on their phone.
4. One app for multiple schools
If your families have more than one child in the district, are your elementary schools, for example, all using different platforms for parent-teacher communication? Consolidate with a company where parents can toggle between multiple schools and conversations with teachers instead of having to download multiple apps. From an admin perspective, you should have full district oversight as well!
5. School technology safety is a real issue
For photos, messages, class information from teachers, payments, and other activity happening on your parent communication app, what security measures has this company put in place to protect the data? Ask for IKeepSafe, COPPA, FERPA, and PCI compliance documentation. Anyone is at risk of being hacked, but it’s what measures companies are putting in place to remediate that risk that’s important. Another thing to consider is, as social media companies continue to exploit our privacy, families are losing trust in using social media for their news outlets. Reassure your families they no longer have to check social media to know what’s happening at school—they can download the app and know their information, location, and conversations are not being exploited.
Not mentioned, but assumed under this criteria would always be to ask about training and support. Training should always be included. Also support should always be unlimited and extend to all users of the product. No bottlenecks waiting for the person who signed the contract to submit tickets! Additionally, the company should provide you with a marketing plan after you launch your parent teacher communication app. This plan should share how to download, what families need to search in the app store to download, and login instructions across all your platforms so no one misses it.