While rolling with the punches is in an educator’s blood, the quick transition to distance learning required more than our usual flexibility and “can-do” attitude. As we now shift from crisis management to thoughtful planning, we know that we need to consider the possibility of more online learning this fall. When strong communication systems are in place, our schools run more successfully regardless of whether students are learning inside or outside the classroom. To help us prepare for whatever the new school year holds, educators share their most important lessons learned about communication during distance learning.
Lesson 1: Poll your school community.
Ask teachers, staff, parents, and students for feedback about communication during distance learning.
What worked well? What was challenging? Find out the resources families have at their disposal. Many schools had only days to set up distance learning, and many families didn’t have equal access to technology. Learn your school community’s preferred communication channels. For example, many parents prefer text messages over email. But some prefer automated voice calls, and others enjoy the convenience of mobile apps. Ask families about their schedules. Learn their preferences for attending online classes. Find out more about the student experience of sending and receiving assignments.
The data you gather will help you choose a single, centralized system for communication that works for everyone.
Lesson 2: Make informed decisions.
Use the resulting information to make changes and put new systems in place.
Cascadia Montessori in Washington unified their communications by adopting the communication app Bloomz to connect not only with parents but also directly with students.
Referring to Cascadia Montessori’s use of Bloomz during distance learning, Teri Keeton, the Head of School explained, “It made homework submission and student collaboration extremely simple with Student Portfolios—all in one platform.”
Amy Mockert, a third-grade teacher at Waters Elementary, found that different parents preferred different modes of communication. Bloomz has a private message feature that allowed her to communicate with parents the way they preferred.
“It works just like a private text,” Mockert shared, “but doesn’t use my personal phone number. I can easily communicate with parents in a way that seems to meet their preference—on their phones.”
For distance learning to work, we need easy access to communication channels that work for our school communities. The feedback and data should inform the tool, not the other way around.
Lesson 3: Consolidate communications.
Last spring, parents were stressed and ready to quit distance learning because of frustration with communication practices. A common pain point was that information, assignments, and collaboration took place on different platforms.
The staff at West Side Elementary in Minnesota had only two days to roll out distance learning. Luckily, their transition was relatively smooth because West Side Elementary had established a central communication system several years prior. Parents were already accustomed to regularly communicating with teachers via Bloomz.
During the pandemic, West Side Elementary regularly communicated with parents to share district news and provide weekly updates on student workload and progress. Teachers also used Bloomz’s Student Portfolios feature to give assignments, and students submitted their work directly to the app.
Speaking about distance learning, Karen Londgren, digital learning coach at West Side Elementary, said, “I think it has really strengthened the relationship between the parents and the school. It’s been a very cooperative effort and has been a very positive one for our district.”
Lesson 4: Prioritize connections.
During distance learning, many parents and students felt that the school community was lost.
Virtual all-school meetings and spirit weeks helped, but many students had little to no interaction with their teachers and peers. We are all worried about students feeling isolated , but school communities can thrive online if the right tools are in place.
The schools that addressed this challenge with success used a centralized communication platform.
Marie Moon, Director of Technology at Lakes and Bridges Charter School, shares that Bloomz’s features were a lifeline.
“Our principal posts a daily greeting and a community challenge, and parents use it to send pictures of student work back to teachers,” says Moon. “We use our class feeds to share weekly overviews, newsletters, and even group Zoom invites in a secure location that is easy for teachers to post to and parents to check.”
Streamline communication at your school.
Whether your school provides in-person, distance, or blended learning, a strong communication platform is a key to success. Bloomz is an app that helps schools streamline communication. The comprehensive platform offers email, text messaging, robocalling, student assignments, scheduling, behavior management, and more.