10 Tech Tips for Early Childhood Educators to Engage Families

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1 10 Tech Tips for Early Childhood Educators to Engage Families

2 10 Technology Tips for Early Childhood Educators to Engage Families 2 1. Send Group Text Messages Text messaging plays an important role in everyone s lives today. Two thirds of all mobile phone users read their text messages in an average of 4 minutes after receiving the message, compared to 48 hours with . Text messaging enables you to deliver a message to parents phones right where they are. Send out a text message to your parents, teachers, or staff to remind them of upcoming activities or supplies they need that day. Deliver a message right to your parents pockets with a simple message to jog their memory during their most hectic moments; helping them remember something of importance while their minds are in 100 other places. Text messages are great for last minute cancellations and important reminders, but consider sending random encouraging messages too! There are several group text messaging services available today, so choose one and give it a try. 2. Share Files Online & Go Green Sending home paper newsletters and reminders has always been the way to get the word across to parents and staff in early childhood learning environments. Unfortunately some of that paper never makes it home and often it gets tossed in the trash. Have you asked the parents in your program if they d rather receive an electronic version of those files? You can easily and quickly provide an online repository to store documents. Parents can then save documents to their computer and read them out at their leisure. Having a secure online hub to share documents, newsletters, and flyers is also a huge money saver. An average size preschool of 150 parents could easily save $400 a year in paper and printing costs. Do you know how much money you are spending on paper?

3 10 Technology Tips for Early Childhood Educators to Engage Families 3 3. Move Signups Online You need your parents and staff to serve, right? The easier you make it for them to find information and signup to volunteer, the more likely it will be to get parents engaged. Event management tools like eventbrite.com are great for big service events, but in many cases you just need parents to signup for everyday things like snacks, phone conferences and field trips. In these cases an online wiki tool is perfect. At MemberHub we call them Whiteboards. When you use these online tools for simple signups a few things happen. You move the task of signing up from in person cumbersome sheets on the classroom door and you save inboxes from the irritating back- and- forth s of how each person is going to serve. You save paper too! 4. Provide a Safe Hub to Share Photos Sharing photos on Facebook and Twitter has its objectives, but obviously programs must limit what photos are shared on public facing tools. You should also use private online photo sharing tools to provide a safe place for teachers and parents to share photos that are more sensitive. Photos are one of the best ways to give parents insight into what their children are doing at your program. When a parent sees their child in school they feel engaged and informed. Photos are a natural way to accomplish that reaction and sharing them in a private and safe environment is an obvious must. Snapfish is a popular photo- sharing site but also consider that private community tools have features to accommodate photo sharing along with the benefits of group communication.

4 10 Technology Tips for Early Childhood Educators to Engage Families 4 5. Use a Private Parent Community Tool Early Childhood Learning programs are made up of groups of different classrooms. It s no doubt that many online software tools have a Groups feature. Here s the kicker, find a tool that lets you manage a lot of groups easily and empower your teachers with their own group to manage (yes we hope you ll consider MemberHub.com). Give your teachers the tools they need to get organized and let the natural organizational communication channels foster an environment where everyone knows how to get plugged in. That could be a program director or a lead teacher! 6. Build an Active Social Media Presence Anyone can create a Facebook Page and Twitter account. But what are you doing with it? Do you have a plan? What are your goals? You can focus your attention on a Facebook page but you won t engage families if you don t create an active and encouraging place to share. Upload the status on the page daily and post pictures from your program to the Facebook page and Twitter account (of course you ll need parents permission if you plan to include photos of children). Create albums, tag your staff and parents in pictures, respond to comments, use the Questions feature, and ask for feedback. Parents will see the activity in their feeds and connect. Doing this on public platform also sends the message to new parents that your program is current, open and technology savvy. If you focus your social media goals on parent engagement, the marketing advantages of social media will fall into place too! Just make sure you create a social media policy and plan first. Checkout these social media Resources for Early Childhood Educators at

5 10 Technology Tips for Early Childhood Educators to Engage Families 5 7. Ask Parents to check- in on Their Phones Generally mobile in nature, applications like Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places allow users to check- in to their current location. Usually a check- in is accompanied by a subsequent update to popular social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter where people will be alerted that, Tim just checked into the Early Start Academy (for example). A little online map will be generated to help folks get a context of where they are physically located. If you encourage your parents to check in every time they come to your center then those updates will not only give you the opportunity to go and speak with them in person, but all of their online friends will be reminded about your program too. This is definitley the most offbeat tip, but it just might a brilliant way for your parents to easily spread the word about your program for you. 8. Start Blogging Just like any other tool in your technology toolbox, you must use a blog with a specific goal in mind. Blogs are an excellent way to share insights from your program or classroom. When you re creating content that your parents really care about, they ll read the blog and start engaging. If you set your goals and learn the habits of effective blogging, you ll find that families will visit often, leave comments, and discussions will take place. This will certainly help you to get to know families better and it can provide a great place to get connected. It s so easy to set up a blog these days. The hardest part is getting a regular and consistent posting schedule and there are a slew of resources to help new bloggers get organized.

6 10 Technology Tips for Early Childhood Educators to Engage Families 6 9. Provide a Place for Online Discussion There are several types of tools that can facilitate online discussions: Facebook pages, online groups, blogs, private communication tools, collaboration tools, etc; the list is quite extensive. The point is, you should choose a tool and provide a place for parents and teachers to have discussions with each other. You might consider a private communication tool to make sure you can facilitate a community- like environment for the conversations, encourage collaboration, and receive feedback. Giving your teachers and parents a place to actively have discussions might seem unmanageable at first, but you will learn a lot and find more opportunities to serve them better. 10. Keep Your Website Current and Clean This may seem like an obvious tip but it s one that gets overlooked often. Your program s website is the single most important marketing and communication tool you have. It should be updated often and for multiple reasons. Your current families and especially prospective families will expect the content on your website to answer their questions. If it doesn t, you ll surely get more calls from existing parents and you ll stand a good chance of losing new families looking for an early childhood learning environment. Information should be easy to find and while lots of images and design is fun it can clutter up your message. So keep it clean. Plus, Google likes fresh content. What this means is that your website is likely to rank higher if Google sees that your website is updated often. Considering the importance of keeping your website updated make sure that you have the ability and knowledge to update your website quickly and easily. Thank you for reading our ECE tech tips! memberhub.com/schools

7 10 Technology Tips for Early Childhood Educators to Engage Families 7 About MemberHub MemberHub.com helps Early Childhood Learning programs to provide private online hubs where teachers and parents can safely connect and get organized. You can learn more about the software and what others think at Feel free to reach out to our CEO, Matt Harrell anytime at Sources next- 10- years- in- mobile/27622/ mobile- statistics- stats- facts- marketing- infographic/

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