Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Connecting with Parents Through Videos

Anyone that's been following my latest round of blogs knows that I'm super into Seesaw right now.  It's a great way for parents to see real-time work of the students and what we're doing in the classroom.  You can set the posts to "approve first" before they post or simply let them post what they will, so that's something to take into consideration when setting Seesaw up for your classroom.

Another thing I've always done is send weekly newsletters with pictures.  This has been something I've done from the very beginning of my 10 year teaching career. I love technology and love to write, so it seemed natural.  I have colleagues that do bi-weekly or monthly newsletters, and to each his own, but I prefer weekly updates.

Now that I'm a mom of two kiddos in preschool, I have come to appreciate newsletters and photos on a whole new level.  My oldest comes home from school saying that he had fun and played, which is great, but I have a hard time getting more out of him without prompting.  He's lucky enough to have a teacher that sends parents weekly newsletters about specific topics and activities that are happening.  I use this information to engage my son on a deeper level when discussing school.  His teacher also sends occasional photos.  This to me is HUGE since I work the same times my kids are at school, and it's the only "window into the room" I have without taking time away from my students.  My daughter's teacher is amazing and sends a monthly newsletter.  It's harder to be "prepared" for a conversation about school this way but luckily my daughter loves to talk about her day, so it's less of an issue.

All this being said, my weekly efforts feel confirmed by parental love of what I get and see from my own kiddos' teachers.  I want the parents of my students to feel involved, welcomed, and up to speed on what's happening in their children's lives.  I'm very lucky to have a good group of parent volunteers that are in often, but as a working mom, I understand the need and desire to work outside of the home which limits the freedom to be as involved as some parents would like.  Enter weekly videos!

A few year ago I was introduced to Animoto by a colleague.  This is a great website that makes creating and editing videos easy.....and it's FREE TO EDUCATORS!!  I'm always taking pictures and videos of my class (for many reasons from portfolios, anecdotal notes, etc.) that it's easy to have enough to create a decent 1-2 minute video for parents each week.  I can usually highlight a bit from each subject, but sometimes it focuses on one special project or activity we've done.  With Animoto you can add both pictures and video.  The best thing is you just choose a  theme (complete with preselected music that you can change if desires), drag and drop your content, arrange and add text as needed, preview & publish!  You can share out the videos in many ways, but I typically just copy the link and put it in my email that contains the newsletter each Friday.  I have the app on  my phone, so I typically start the video through the app which eliminates the need to email or get photos off of my phone and onto the computer, then finish editing through the web.  Check out a sample video here.

A new app I've been playing with is called Replay.  Meg over at The Teacher Studio suggested it in one of her posts, so I thought I'd try it out.  I liked that it was easy to use as well.  There are only a few free themes each week to choose from, but if this doesn't bother you, it's a good option.  With Replay you can add pictures, video, and text; however the videos have no audio as they do in Animoto and depending on the theme selected, the text can cover the entire picture before it's viewed.  I'm still playing with this but like a different option for picture-heavy weeks!  Check out my first attempt here.

No matter what route you choose to go, it's super important to connect to parents and let them know what's going on in your classroom.  I've had so many people thank my for the time and effort that it takes to keep them up to date and feeling involved.  I do enjoy all of the things that I do, so it doesn't feel like it's an added item to my many to-dos as a teacher, but using super simple and user-friendly programs help.  They look so put-together that no one knows it barely takes any time.  Sending pictures and videos can help parents feel important and that you care about their involvement in their child's education.  A picture really is worth a thousand words!

What do you do to keep parents up-to-date on what's happening in the classroom?  Could you see yourself letting the students create something fun like this?  Something cool about Animoto is that you can get student accounts and let them create videos as well.  I haven't tried this yet but think my class would really enjoy this.  I see them either working together to create their own "video of the week" or as a type of assessment that reflects on their  learning throughout the week or perhaps a unit.  Leave your thoughts in the comments--I'd love to hear them.

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