You’ve undoubtedly noticed it: parents’ participation in children’s daily school routines is an issue close to my heart! While searching for easy ways to improve dialog—and cooperation—between parents and teachers, I recently got to know Heather Noreen and her app “LetsShare” (thanks, social networks!). How has this globetrotting businesswoman decided to use technology in the classroom to better parent-teacher communication?
Heather has made the same observation in at least 5 countries (France, Spain, Belgium, U.S. and Canada): parents would love to be transformed into a little mouse so as to see what their children do in class everyday. And yet, as I’ve said in one of my articles, barriers to communication can be found on both sides.
Heather decided to take on one part of the problem: the practical side of communication. Her belief can be summed up in a few words: make communicating easier, and it’ll lessen general hesitation to reach out; mentalities will change, and children will be the ones to gain the most. So, in 2014, she threw herself into the creation of an app for tablets and smartphones that would meet the needs of teachers and parents.
Parents and teachers share the same needs when it comes to communication
As I write this, 3 preschools and elementary schools are already using the app LetsShare for a pilot program. The app offers a multitude of functions for schools to use depending on their needs:
- Gather practical, and some times legally required, information regarding kids’ well-being and health (e.g. naptime, quantity or number of bottles…)
- Send a daily report of activities, with, of course, photos
- Keep together all information and photos pertaining to a project in a specific folder
- Allow parents and teachers to exchange information.
I had the pleasure of meeting Amy, the mother of a 5-year-old child. Amy has been using the app for around 5 months.
Isabelle: Hi, Amy. Can you please tell us how the app LetsShare has improved communication between you and your child’s teacher?
Amy: In terms of logistics, we could only communicate by email before. The teacher couldn’t always read e-mails in the morning, so sometimes she’d get the information too late. Now, I know for sure that the teacher will find out in time if my child slept well or if he has a stomachache that day.
In terms of information concerning the kids’ activities, we were really lucky even before using the app that the teacher sent an email every night with a summary of the day. But it took her a lot of time, and, in the end, only a handful of parents read these emails. Now, I think about 50% of the class’s parents use the app, and the teacher saves a ton of time.
Isabelle: Does the teacher have less time with the kids because of spending time documenting daily activities?
Amy: No, each child learns to take photos. So the teacher doesn’t always have her eyes glued on her tablet. Usually, the kids decide what they want to photograph. They feel more actively involved in their activities, and they have to learn to share the tablet!
Isabelle: Has using this app changed the way you communicate with your child?
Amy: Yes! Just having the photos and a bit of explanatory text along with it allows me to better understand and put into context what my child tells me. I can then ask more questions. He’s always proud to show me his photos, and he’s often the one who will want to show me something on the app. It allows us to have precious, intimate moments.
If I wanted to share this app with you today, it’s not because of technical details or specific features. I just really loved Heather’s practical approach and her goal to change mindsets by introducing new methods and habits. Often, we complain that technology dehumanizes communication. So, of course, if we’re happy to look at photos of a field trip to the zoo while our child sleeps and then never talk about it again, or if teachers think that, since all the details are online, there’s no longer a need to meet parents, then Heather’s app is just beating a dead horse.
But if, as I imagine it will do, communication will be strengthened, it’s because the app gives children an active role, as Amy states it so well. It’s the kids who will remind their parents that there is a beautiful photo of their cardboard medieval castle on the site; it’s the kids who will show teachers that while at home, they managed to come up with 10 words that rhyme with “happiness,” along with a photo of the list as proof. Numerous teachers have already taken up a similar effort by creating blogs with their classes or Twitter counts, and the feedback has largely been positive because of the enthusiasm that grows out of children’s pride in their creations.
Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation from LetsShare for writing this article.