Building Parent Engagement: Tell Your School’s Story

Guest post by Alison Anderson

Parent engagement has always been a very bright spot on my radar when thinking about keys to success for schools. Lately, it feels important to distinguish between parent engagement and parent involvement. Both are important and something every school should strive for in order to create the most healthy student environment. But involvement, to me, can mean volunteering and spending time in the school and classroom- building those schools that have an instant sense of positive energy you sense the minute you walk in the school.

Today’s world is complicated – especially as technology continues to disrupt the different fields we have grown so used to living in. We can’t ignore that social media has completely transformed the way in which we receive and understand current events.  As this disruption starts to happen in our schools, we need to fully engage parents so that they not only understand, but feel absolutely comfortable with all the school practices and policies.

How do you achieve that? With transparent communication and lots of it! Every school has a story, or a “brand” that captures the mission, the norms, the traditions and the values of the school population.

As a school leader, communicating that “brand” is one of the most important jobs. But building a school “brand” is not like building a product. It’s not always easy and the steps are not always clear. There are some helpful resources emerging for administrators and edleaders who want to do this and do it right.

The more stories shared about what is happening within your school, the better your “big picture” becomes for school and community families. Schools build their brand when they share the stories that answer, “why do you send your child to that school?” That’s how a good reputation gets built. Parents and community members trust in their school “brand” and want to support school decision makers.

About the AuthorAlison Anderson is a former teacher, tech integrator and now education blog editor. She is active an active member of the EdCampPDX planning team and continually focused on working to improve education for students in Portland and beyond.


Wikispaces Classroom – A Flexible Tool for Teaching & Learning

Wikispaces Classroom is a flexible tool that has many useful features for designing and implementing technology powered learning experiences to support all learners. This online learning platform and virtual classroom is free, efficient, and built to support teaching and learning. 
Wikispaces is well-suited for engaging students in creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking.

About Wikispaces Classroom

Launched last spring, Wikispaces classroom was designed to streamline classroom management and engage students in learning through the use of private social networking tools that are limited to members of a wiki classroom. There is a newsfeed, a projects calendar and a newly designed discussion area to encourage communication and collaboration about learning. Discussions can be monitored for student engagement in real time through the Assessment tab. This immediate feedback for teachers can be useful for providing students with on the spot interventions and challenges.


Designed for classroom use, the Projects feature provides designated workspace for project-based teamwork. With the push a button, teachers have the ability to set up a project, assign students to teams, and monitor engagement within each team space as a means of formative assessment. Projects can be differentiated for teams, since the teacher has the ability to manage and monitor the project workspace at all levels.


A simple widget lets wiki members embed Web 2.0 tools into any page to provide students with flexible means of engagement. Just pop the embed code from an online tool right into a wiki widget and bring the learning right to the student page. Students can create projects, explore projects created by their peers, and engage in discussions about the learning, 24/7.

Click to view larger


A wiki template is like a virtual copy machine that can be used to provide students with consistent formatting options, prompts, and directions for a project. Templates save time and they can be extremely useful for guiding the learning.

Student Accounts

Students do not need email accounts to join a classroom wiki. Teachers can upload a simple spreadsheet to add users instantly. Teachers can monitor student account activity and provide them with guidance to help them follow develop digital citizenship skills. 

Why I’m Wild About Wikispaces

I am wild about Wikispaces because it provides teachers with a flexible tool to help students become engaged in learning and it supports the development of collaborative skills necessary for them to succeed in school and beyond.

Take a video tour of the Wikispaces Campus

Digital Differentiation – QR Codes on the iPad

Managing a classrooms full of students with 1:1 iPads presents the challenge of getting them on the same page, literally. Trying to manage differentiated groups requires a good tool for organizing resources. QR codes are one quick and easy solution.

 Use a QR scanner on your iPad to quickly jump to any website

Here is an example I created with informational text at three different reading levels. To use this with students, simply project the graphic to a screen, point a QR scanner app at the appropriately colored QR code, and watch the device jump right to the designated page.

Just think about how many ways you could use this in a 1:1 iPad classroom.

QR Code created with