A handful of teachers in Hawaii are using a new service that allows them to blast a text message to parents, who can then text back.
Mark McDonald, 23, debuted the program in his Aiea High classroom at the start of this school year, sending parents reminders about everything from upcoming assignments to grades. Almost immediately, McDonald said, parents were making the communication two-way, texting him back with questions on how their child could do better or if missed work could be made up.
When McDonald began teaching English at Aiea in 2010, he struggled with how to involve parents. Parent engagement was next to nonexistent, despite his best attempts, so he had no way of knowing whether parents were getting his letters home, seeing their children’s grades or reviewing progress reports.
To address the problem, McDonald teamed up with a fellow teacher, Max Sack, and employed the help of a friend who is a computer programmer to start an online service that allows teachers to send text-message blasts to parents — and receive responses from them through a proxy telephone number.
Cellphones, McDonald and Sack reasoned, are more ubiquitous than computers and internet connections — which not all parents have access to — and more practical than printed notes sent home.
quietly went live late last year, about 20 teachers (most in Hawaii), along with a handful of churches and other organizations, have signed up for the service, which education technology experts are calling a novel way to improve communication between parents and teachers and get students more connected to what’s going on in the classroom.