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Opening the Door to Communication: Connecting School & Home

Have you ever been in a similar situation?

  • It is 6pm on a Sunday evening and you are ill. You will not be able to come into school tomorrow morning. You know that you have a 7am sports practice that you’ll need to cancel.
  • You are on your way home from a field trip and the school bus is now stuck in traffic. It is bumper to bumper, and you are really not going anywhere anytime soon. The bus’s arrival time will now be at least an hour late.  
  • You just sent out an email to your student’s parents/guardians and remembered that you forgot to tell them about the upcoming Open House.

All of these situations happen everyday, and in the past teachers have not had the tools available to quickly, safely and effectively send messages to students and parents without overcrowding their inboxes. Now, our students and parents/guardians are equipped with devices in their pockets from iPods to Smartphones that help us create open communication. Remind, Google Hangouts, and Google Groups allow for communication not only between the teacher and student, but between students themselves to foster questioning and problem solving. Best of all, the tools are all free!


Remind (formerly Remind 101) is a tool that allows teachers to send out one-way, group text messages. Teachers can now utilize the power of text messages to share up-to-date information. Remind uses an automated computer system which allows for teacher and student phone numbers to be concealed. Creating groups for classes, school teams, and parents/guardians will allow the teacher to quickly send out up-to-date information when they need to.  

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts are a great way for our older students to start connecting with their teachers and with each other. With integrated video and text chats, students can now communicate with one another in a safe and secure environment. Students can join group discussions virtually and connect with each other through their devices using their GAFE gmail accounts. This means students don’t need to share their phone numbers, but rather just use their school gmail accounts to connect with one another.  

Beyond connecting with your students, try Google Hangouts on Air. Host information sessions or create quick infomercials about upcoming events at your school or in the classroom. As all of your videos are directly uploaded to YouTube, teachers can manage the sharing permissions so that only the selected parent or school communities can view it. As Hangouts on Air can be created by anyone with a Gmail account, students can take the lead on sharing information with home by creating their own video segments unique to their class and personalities.

Hangouts on Air is also a great way to create Learning Bird videos! Easy to use and editable in YouTube, teachers can create instructional videos for all students. Once the video is uploaded to YouTube, just download it as a MP4 from your video manager and upload it to Learning Bird to have all of your videos in a great, organized place (sorted by topic and grade) to grow your own digital portfolio and continually use throughout your career.

Google Groups

Another way to help connect teachers, students and parents is through Google Groups. A Google Group is a forum that allows participants to post threads and replies. This limits the number of emails parents/guardians receive from their children’s teachers. As a teacher, you can post updates and important information from your class and school for all to see. Parents/Guardians can reply to the posts with questions or further information, allowing for a more dynamic conversation than through individual emails.  Now not only are your students connecting and learning from each other, but parents/guardians are too!

With Remind, Google Hangouts and Google Groups, teachers have the ability to easily, flexibly and effectively connect with parents/guardians throughout the school year. From text message updates for immediate information, to Hangout videos for unique updates, to Google Groups to store all of the shared information, this school year the doors of communication will be wide open!

About the author

Emily Fitzpatrick

Emily is a guest contributor to the Learning Bird blog. She is a passionate teacher with experience in mathematics, computer science and special education classrooms in Orangeville, Ontario. As a Google for Education Certified Trainer she is focused on maximizing student success and engagement. Emily integrates technology, blended learning, and developing 21st century skills into her classroom. Emily brings international experience to her classroom from Belgium, the UK and Canada. Connect with her on Twitter @ugdsb_missfitz

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