Regardless of family income or background, students with involved parents fare better than those without. They are more likely to earn higher grades and test scores, have better school attendance, and graduate and go on to postsecondary education. Additionally, parent involvement impacts students’ attitude, social skills and behavior, which are all important factors in student achievement.

In an earlier post, we shared 4 mobile apps to increase parent involvement in your afterschool program. The list includes Remind and Edmodo, both digital tools that enable seamless communication between educators, parents and students.

Fast forward a couple of years, almost 80% of Americans own a smartphone and we tap, type, swipe and click those devices 2,617 times a day on average. Not surprising, the list of communication tools to connect parents and educators where they are - on their mobile devices - has also expanded. 

First, let’s revisit the benefits of engaging parents in schools and afterschool programs. Ongoing research - like this report from the National Education Association (NEA) - found that, regardless of family income or background, students with involved parents fare better than those without. They are more likely to earn higher grades and test scores, have better school attendance, and graduate and go on to postsecondary education. Additionally, parent involvement impacts students’ attitude, social skills and behavior, which are all important factors in student achievement.

The Different Forms of Parent Involvement

There are many levels of parent involvement, which is important to note for parents with demanding schedules. Epstein’s Framework of Six Types of Involvement identifies six ways that educators can involve parents in their programs and organizations:

1. Parenting: Helping families create a home environment that facilitates learning and development.

2. Communicating: Designing communication strategies to share program updates and students’ progress.

3. Volunteering: Recruiting and organizing parent help and support.

4. Learning at Home: Providing information and ideas to parents about homework assistance and reinforcing skills at home.

5. Decision Making: Including parents in program decisions.

6. Collaborating with Community: Building community partnerships to strengthen programs, family practices and student learning and development.

Depending on the needs and scope of your program, parents can actively participate in their child’s education in a variety of meaningful ways.

7 Digital Tools to Boost Parent Involvement

Regardless of the involvement level, there are many digital tools to help educators easily communicate with parents and engage them in your program. Check out the following 7 tools to get started:

Remind: Although it’s included in our original list, this messaging tool deserves another mention. It allows educators to schedule announcements, have group discussions and send file attachments like photos, PDFs and voice clips. Parents can receive these messages via text, app, web or email.

Ringya: Designed with community organizations in mind, Ringya supports individual and group communication, including voice calls, text messaging, live chat and email. It works great for sending reminders and having discussions with parents.

Seesaw: This digital portfolio empowers students to document what they’re learning using photos, videos, drawings, text, PDFs and links. Teachers control who can view students’ content, including peers, parents or the world. It also gives parents an inside view into their child’s school day.

Slack: This communication tool facilitates communication and collaboration, and integrates Google Drive, Dropbox and more to share resources efficiently. Like Twitter, it uses @mentions and #hashtags to organize conversations in public and private channels. With its Slack for Education program, eligible teams - like nonprofit educational institutions - receive a large discount on their monthly and annual plans.

Google+: Google’s social network allows you to create a closed community to share program information, communicate with parents, curate student work and more. It’s free, but you’ll need a Google account to get started.

TeacherKit: Designed specifically for school teachers, this one-stop solution enables educators to record attendance, log behavior, track grades and create reports. The app provides an easy way for parents to stay informed of their child’s progress.

GroupMe: Originally used in educational settings, this text messaging app makes group communication easy. Within private threads, users can see inline images, videos and documents, plus they have the ability to “like” a message.

With a new school year approaching, consider using these tools to get parents involved in your program early on. You can also check out Building Relationships with Parents and Families in School-Age Programs for activities, tips and handouts on creating positive relationships with parents.