Trends in Community Engagement

Text, Twitter, email, call—new expectations
for school-to-home communications

Parents have high expectations for communications and engagement with their child’s district, school, and teachers. Their increased use of digital tools in their personal lives means they are increasingly interested in using similar tools to support their child’s education at home, and to be fully informed about school and classroom happenings. However, many leaders have different perspectives when it comes to thinking about using technology to support engagement and communications. They value parental engagement but may not have caught up with the parent’s preferred methodologies that support meaningful communications. The result is often a mix of unmet parental expectations and frustrated administrators who cannot understand why their well-meaning attempts yield less than satisfactory results.

Each year since 2003, Project Tomorrow, a global education nonprofit organization, facilitates the annual Speak Up Research Project on Digital Learning. A key aspect of the research project is to track the growth in student, educator, and parent interest in digital communications. We also track how our nation’s schools and districts are addressing that interest with innovative engagement experiences that support learning in and out of the classroom. Since 2007, Project Tomorrow has collaborated with Blackboard to create a series of annual reports that focus on the year-to-year trends in the use of digital tools to support learning through an indepth analysis of the latest Speak Up data findings.

In this report, we will examine the trends from our analysis of the Speak Up data collected in fall 2016. More than 514,000 K-12 students, parents, educators, and community members participated in Speak Up 2016. While the perspectives of several stakeholder groups are included in this year’s trends report, this report is not meant to be the consummate word on how to build greater community engagement with digital communications tools. Rather, we recommend that the findings in this report and the questions we pose in the ending be used as discussion starters to stimulate new ideas on how to best leverage a school or district’s assets to ensure that both the school and the home are working together to improve student success.

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