Social Media & Parent-Teacher Communication – An Ethnography

social-media-classroom

Date: May 17, 2015

To: Mr. Brian Lieberman, Principal, Sanford Elementary School

From: Laura Kate Genevish

Subject: Social Media and Parent-Teacher Communication

The purpose of this ethnographical report is to discover whether social media use could positively aid the teacher-parent communication relationship. I have seen first-hand how difficult it can be for teachers to connect with their students’ parents to keep them updated on class happenings and other pertinent pieces of information. Because our society is becoming more technology-focused everyday, I thought it would be worthwhile to study whether social media, specifically sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, would be a new way for teachers to showcase what is happening in the classroom and for parents to have an open forum of discussion. It can be assumed many parents are already utilizing many of these social mediums, in which case, they could easily transition into also using the sites for purposes related to their child’s educational experience. Teachers could form a Facebook group for their particular class or start an Instagram feed of photos and videos of what the class is doing each week; this way, parents could have an eye in the classroom without having to physically visit. They would also have direct contact with other parents and, most importantly, their child’s teacher, which would allow the teacher add one more type of communication to her or his relational tool belt.

Many classrooms already use technology in the form of laptops, tablets, and SmartBoards to communicate with children. Why not take the same idea and use it to include parents? I have talked with teachers who utilize social media as a connecting factor, and they have discovered it allows them to cast a wider net than simply using e-mail and telephone calls. I believe the more open routes of communication, the better. There will be parents who feel more comfortable with certain types of communication over others, but as many factors as possible should be represented so that the best result can be achieved.

Social media usage in the classroom should not be a mandatory activity, but our schools’ teachers need to be aware of the benefits the Internet offers besides e-mail. I would suggest making the opportunity for connecting with parents through Facebook or similar sites a more welcoming idea by offering it to teachers during the summer before the start of a school year. After they are aware of how they can utilize social media, they can choose to make it a part of their classroom and begin building a network of communication, encouraging their parents to do the same.

If you have any questions or would like to talk about my on-going research on this subject, please e-mail me at laura.genevish.12@cnu.edu or call me at (757) 541-3731. I would love to better explain how social media could further aid your school environment.

Social Media and Parent-Teacher Communication – An Ethnography

Abstract

Prepared by: Laura Kate Genevish

This study briefly assesses how useful social media would be in building a relationship of open communication between educators and parents. Keeping parents aware and interested in their child’s education can often be a challenging task for teachers; perhaps, educators can more widely incorporate social media platforms into their classrooms to embrace both the direction our society is heading technologically and to add one more tool to their teacher toolbox.

Several parents of children in public and private schools responded to a questionnaire I created through Survey Monkey, answering questions about how involved they already were at their child’s school and how often they conferenced with their child’s teacher. The final question posed asked whether parents would be likely to use social media to connect with the teacher if it was available. Seventy-five percent of parents interviewed said they would use the social media – a fact that is very telling about the future of classroom communication.

Keywords: social media, communication, education, teacher, parent

Introduction

To understand if social media would be a viable option for educators looking to connect with their students’ parents, I designed a Survey Monkey questionnaire to assess how involved a parent already was in his or her child’s school. The results displayed that parents are indeed willing to use social media to reach out to teachers.

I decided to study this problem specifically after talking with some first-year elementary school teachers who had made Facebook groups for the parents of their classes. Though the effort was not one hundred percent successful, they were able to garner more communication and reach out to parents in a new way through a website many of them are already familiar with and use daily. After this conversation, I thought about the effects of a system like this being more widespread. If every teacher was educated with the basics of social media and knew how to create a Facebook group or Instagram feed, how would the parent-teacher communication thus be altered? I believed it would be a welcome addition, a tool available to teachers to use if they felt a need.

Theory Approach – Ethnographical

The theory used in this research is mainly ethnographical; it studies the shared beliefs of a specific group of people – parents. In this case, the certain belief observed is whether using social media in the classroom is a desired option for parent-teacher communication. For this study, only the parents of children in public and private schools were surveyed. Ethnographical studies allow researchers to interpret patterns and delve into the day-to-day minutiae of people’s lives, and that is why this type was useful in the survey I conducted.

Per realist ethnographical parameters, I as the researcher attempted to abstain from personal bias. I could not judge what the data would reveal and what direction it would lean until all the responses were gathered. While the research was being collected, the answers varied widely and it was not until the survey was completed by a large enough sample of people that I was able to see certain trends arise. Once I looked at my results in total, I saw how my people group (parents) responded to a possible implementation of social media connectivity in their child’s classroom.

Research and Findings

My phenomenological study about parent-teacher communication and social media use was centered on a Survey Monkey questionnaire distributed through Facebook. I asked parents of children in either public or private schools to answer six questions; the first five dealt with the parent’s current involvement in the child’s school, and the last question asked about the likelihood of a parent using social media to stay connected with his or her child’s teacher.

When asked how often they met in person with their child’s teacher, 12.5% of parents responded ‘almost never’, 62.5% of parents responded ‘once or twice a year’, and 25% of parents responded ‘every few months’. No parents selected the options ‘monthly’ or ‘weekly’. When asked how involved they have been with a parent group(s) at their child’s school, 37.5% responded ‘not at all involved’, while 12.5% responded ‘a little involved’, and 25% each responded ‘quite involved’ or ‘extremely involved’. No parents selected ‘somewhat involved’ as their answer.

When asked how often they had discussed their child’s school with another parent from the school, 12.5% answered ‘once or twice’, 50% answered ‘every few months’, and 37.5% answered ‘monthly’. No parents selected ‘almost never’ or ‘weekly or more’ in this survey. In the question asking how often parents had helped out at their child’s school in the past year, the responses were equally split in four ways. ‘Almost never’, ‘once or twice’, ‘every few months, and ‘monthly’ each received 25% of the total response; ‘weekly or more’ did not receive any parent responses.

Responses to the question of how often a parent had visited his or her child’s school in the past year were a little more varied. When asked, 12.5% responded ‘once or twice’, 25% said ‘every few months’, 37.5% said ‘monthly’, and 25% said ‘weekly or more’. None of the parents interviewed responded ‘almost never’. As you can see in the following pie chart, over 50% of parents interviewed said they were at their child’s school every month or more.

pie chart LKG

The final question asked in the survey was the most important because it directed the parents to thinking about social media use as a way of connecting with their child’s teacher. When asked how likely they would be to utilize a tool like Facebook or Instagram for the classroom, 14.29% said ‘would not use’, 14.29% were ‘unsure’, 28.57% responded they ‘would use, but not often’, and 42.86% said they ‘would use regularly’. This data means that almost 75% of parents interviewed would use social media as a way of communicating with their child’s teacher! The bar graph below puts this into perspective.

bar graph LKG

 Paired with the last question was an opportunity for parents to write in their own comments about social media use. One parent responded that she ‘already used this’ in her child’s classroom, while another thought the social media technique would be a good way of staying ‘involved in a public elementary school’. Another parent responded ‘being a full-time working parent, social media would make me feel more connected to the class and less like a bad parent since I can’t be involved like I want to be’. That last response serves as an encouragement to continue researching the practicality of social media in the classroom and encouraging teachers to utilize new tools when reaching out to parents.

Work Cited

Genevish, Laura Kate. “Parent Engagement Survey”. Survey Monkey. 5 May 2015.

Appendix

Question 1: How often do you meet in person with teachers at your child’s school?

  1. Almost never (12.5%)
  2. Once or twice per year (62.5%)
  3. Every few months (25%)
  4. Monthly (0%)
  5. Weekly or more (0%)

Question 2: How involved have you been with a parent group(s) at your child’s school?

  1. Not at all involved (37.5%)
  2. A little involved (12.5%)
  3. Somewhat involved (0%)
  4. Quite involved (25%)
  5. Extremely involved (25%)

Question 3: In the past year, how often have you discussed your child’s school with other parents from the school?

  1. Almost never (0%)
  2. Once or twice (12.5%)
  3. Every few months (50%)
  4. Monthly (37.5%)
  5. Weekly or more (0%)

Question 4: In the past year, how often have you helped out at your child’s school?

  1. Almost never (25%)
  2. Once or twice (25%)
  3. Every few months (25%)
  4. Monthly (25%)
  5. Weekly or more (0%)

Question 5: In the past year, how often have you visited your child’s school?

  1. Almost never (0%)
  2. Once or twice (12.5%)
  3. Every few months (25%)
  4. Monthly (37.5%)
  5. Weekly or more (25%)

Question 6: How likely would you be to use social media to connect with your child’s teacher?

  1. I wouldn’t use it (14.29%)
  2. Not sure how I feel about it (14.29%)
  3. I would use the media, but not often (28.57%)
  4. I would use the media to regularly keep up with the class (42.86%)
  5. I love this idea and would be one of the most-involved parents (0%)
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