Top Tips for Involving Parents and Community Members
Clear Creek ISD, in Texas, has an ambitious one-to-one program and lots of community support, thanks to involved and knowledgeable family members. Here are eight tips for involving parents and the community in your technology initiatives.
Be Open to New Directions
In addition to working hard to keep the community informed, remember that communication needs to flow in both directions. Community members should have the ability to offer feedback and help make decisions about things that need changing. For example, the CCISD parent advisory council helped us to see that we needed our Internet filtering to remain active when students brought their tablets home.
Keep the Communication Going After the 1:1 Starts
It’s important to keep talking long after the initial rollout. We continue to hold orientations as we deploy more devices. We collect comment cards after each orientation to see if we met our families’ needs and have answered everything. In the first round of orientations, we received about 1,000 cards back and responded to every question that was asked. We continue to collect and respond to questions. We’ve also handed out training and marketing materials to campus staff and front office staff. If a school employee can’t answer a question, they know they can come ask for help.
Be Mindful of Family Finances
One of parents’ biggest concerns was about financial responsibility. CCISD families helped fund our 1:1 through increased property taxes, so we didn’t want to heap additional fees on them. But the parents felt they needed a cushion in case a device was broken at home. We started an optional insurance program that costs $25 per year.
Have Answers Ready
Be prepared for more questions from parents than you could ever imagine – questions like: What’s my responsibility? How can I monitor Internet use? All my kid does is play games; how will this be different? In Clear Creek we collected their questions and concerns and brought together a parent advisory council that met during the summer and worked through some of their issues.
Don’t Let Funding Fears Stop You From Going For it
In Clear Creek, we went for an enormous bond to get the money for our 1:1. The district’s ongoing commitment to community involvement – giving families and other community members what they wanted, not what the district told them they needed – was key to getting the bond approved.
Offer Information in Different Formats
In addition to orientation meetings, posting information online helps us reach out to even the busiest families. In our district, we live-streamed the parent orientation sessions and posted a packet of information online about them for those who couldn’t attend in person. An orientation guide – with a copy of the district’s acceptable use policy, Internet safety rules, directions on how to store files, charge their device, and more – is made available to all parents, along with a form for them to sign.
You Can Never Give Out Enough Information
When launching 1:1, CCISD hosted 10 orientations over the course of three weeks, including one on a Saturday morning, to explain about the 1:1 initiative and answer questions. Parents could attend whichever session they wanted, even if it wasn’t at their child’s school. Our goal was for every parent to make it to one meeting, and we stayed long after the meeting was supposed to end to answer questions. Overall, we had great turnouts.
Involve the Community From the Start
It's important to ask parents, the community, and area businesses for their input to help you get started on planning a new initiative. Our 1:1 program is the culmination of years of conversations with parents, teachers, and community members about where we need to be as a district. It isn’t about us telling the community what they need. Giving your community a voice in what they want for their children is key.