Parent-Teacher Communication Just Got Easier: The Top Apps You Can Start Using Today
For any childcare center, parent communication is one of the most important aspects of day-to-day operations. Families, in the current times, are more aware of how important early years are for their children and therefore are more inclined to know what their children do at daycare centers and preschools and why. Apps for teacher-parent communication are a great way for childcare centers to establish a communication channel with families that allow real-time two-way communication and help build transparency and trust.
In this article, we are going to share what are the important features of communication apps for preschools and also list some of the top apps for your consideration.
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Why the hype? Importance of effective teacher-parent communication in Early childhood care and education (ECCE)
Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory underscores the idea that a child’s development is a complex interplay of various systems, including genes, family, education, and others. He posits that the interactions between these different “ecological systems” – home and school – significantly impact a child’s growth and development, a concept he referred to as the “Mesosystem.”
In today’s world, parents are increasingly eager to be more involved in their child’s education. They ask questions, seek clarification, and engage in open discussions with teachers to share the challenges they encounter at home and seek support. When teachers and parents are aligned in their approaches to learning, the impact on a child’s education can be significant.
Effective communication between teachers and parents is crucial in avoiding miscommunications, lost messages, and delays. The use of quick, real-time communication channels can help streamline this process and ensure that everyone is on the same page in supporting the child’s growth and development.
Also Read: Parent handbook for a great first impression
How childcare centers benefit from improving parent-teacher communication
The utility of a parent-teacher communication app is not limited to putting up updates. It is instrumental in enhancing learning outcomes, reducing operational overhead, and ultimately enhancing brand recognition.
Extending learning beyond classrooms: Engaging and alignment with parents reduces friction and extends learning beyond the classroom.
Organic endorsement: When families feel connected and have trust in the childcare center, they become vocal advocates, elevating the center’s brand recognition.
Easy access to information: The centralized hub of information provided by the app facilitates communication and eliminates the need for manual and time-consuming methods, leading to a more efficient and error-free experience.
Task optimizing: The app’s reminders and notifications also help to keep payments, program registrations, and other important information up-to-date, reducing the turnaround time for critical tasks.
Manage exigencies: In addition to day-to-day operations, the app’s ability to facilitate prompt and effective communication in times of urgency, such as health concerns, closures, or incidents, makes it an essential tool for ensuring the safety and well-being of the children and families in the center’s care.
Key features to look for in a parent-teacher messaging and communication software
With numerous software options available on the market, choosing the right one for your childcare business can be a daunting task. However, it’s important to consider your current needs and future scalability when making a decision. To simplify your search, let’s explore some of the top-rated apps and see how they stack up against some crucial criteria:
- Ease of use
- Messaging options
- Language support
- Media options – photos, video, documents
Top parent communication apps for preschools and daycare centers
Illumine is a leading childcare management software that facilitates comprehensive school management offering efficient parent communication, automated billing, attendance tracking, streamlined lead management, admissions process automation, lesson planning, and much more. Designed with a user-friendly platform that empowers administrators, teachers, and parents alike, Illumine optimizes school operations and ensures the quality of care and education provided to young children. Moreover, Its parent communication module is rich with features that make communication fun and engaging.
- The home screen of the parent app gives parents a quick view of what their children do on a day-to-day basis as they scroll down. These activities are grouped into different categories like Diary, Food, Photos, Assignments, and so on giving it a neat look.
- Being a true two-way communication channel, parents can comment on an activity posted by teachers, mark a picture as a favorite, and download it.
- Through the Illumine parent communication module, parents have the ability to proactively connect with teachers, principals, and center heads, initiating a range of communications, such as raising queries, sharing concerns, providing medication or pick up/drop instructions, specifying food preferences, and more.
- Parents can also apply for leaves and share precious moments and milestones achieved by their child, creating a collaborative and supportive learning environment for their child’s growth and development.
Illumine’s parent communication module is included as part of its comprehensive offering which is economically priced as follows. Parent communication feature is available in each of the packages.
Standard – $1.00 per student per month
Business – $2.00 per student per month
Enterprise – $3.00 per student per month
Most beneficial features
- Real-time updates: The app provides real-time updates about all activities of a child including check-in/check-out, meal, nap, incident, diary, diaper change times, and more.
- Ticketing system: The ticketing system allows parents to share concerns, requests, and leave requests, which require timed approvals or resolutions. Parents can see these communications at the top of the screen till the time it reaches a resolution.
- Newsletters: The app provides an easy drag-and-drop newsletters creation feature to share with parents insightful tips and updates about important topics like parenting, education, and child development
- Calendar and event schedule: Share school calendar, holidays, and important events with families. Parents can see these updates right on top of their home screen so they never miss important events.
- One-click access: Teachers, admins, and center heads have one-click access to all communication exchanges for a child on any day.
- Time-sensitive information: The app allows users to send time-sensitive information in a jiffy using announcements, emergency alerts, and reminders.
- Access control: Illumine app has an Access Control feature that enables staff members to engage with parents based on their roles by assigning different access levels.
- Group messaging: Teachers can form a closed group of parents and teachers for conversations limited to this group through the Group Messaging feature. They can send messages to either of the parents or both.
- Multi-language support: The app’s Multi-language support caters to a wider audience and lets parents and teachers communicate in their preferred language. It supports English, Arabic, and ten other European languages.
- Lesson plans and assignments: The app allows sharing lesson plans and assignments with families directly on the app. Parents can download recorded lessons and share assignment submissions as photos, videos, or documents.
- Media sharing: Illumine app allows for sharing an unlimited number of photos, videos, and documents with parents, enabling them to stay informed about their child’s progress and experiences.
Brightwheel is a childcare app that helps parents, teachers, and administrators stay connected and engaged in the daily activities of children. The app allows parents to receive real-time updates on their child’s activities. Teachers can use the app to communicate with parents, manage attendance, plan lessons, and share photos and videos of the children’s day. Administrators can track attendance, manage billing, and generate reports to keep parents informed and engaged.
65$ per month up to 25 students
What it has to offer
- Real-time updates with photos and notes: The app provides real-time updates about a child’s activities with photos and notes, which are visible via the real-time newsfeed.
- Reminders and alerts: The app sends reminders and alerts through both the app and SMS, ensuring that parents never miss important updates or deadlines.
- Messaging access: The app provides limited messaging access to other members of the family apart from parents. This feature allows extended family members, such as grandparents or aunts and uncles, to stay in touch with the child’s progress and experiences.
- Newsletters and announcements: The app provides newsletters and announcements, which can help parents stay informed about important events and updates related to their child’s daycare or preschool.
What it does not offer
- Limited parent-teacher messaging: The parent-to-teacher messaging feature is limited to only two categories – General and Pickup/Dropoff, which may not provide enough specificity for some conversations, and parents cannot message individual teachers directly.
- Messaging Ease of use: Parents need to select a message type for every message, even if it is a response or a follow-up message.
- Video sharing not available: Brightwheel does not allow parents to share videos, which may be a limitation for parents who want to share videos of their child’s milestones or activities with family and friends.
- Limited activity customization: Brightwheel does not allow for the customization of activities based on individual schools’ curriculums, which may be a disadvantage for centers with specific educational programs.
- Limited photo sharing options: The app allows parents to post just one picture at a time, and parents cannot use photos already in their library, which may be inconvenient for parents who want to share multiple photos.
- English-only communication: The app only supports English as the medium of communication, which may be a disadvantage for centers with a diverse population who may prefer to communicate in other languages.
HiMama offers a complete suite of tools for managing a childcare center. It reduces the amount of paperwork by offering easy-to-use software to record and share children’s activities, contactless attendance, and powerful reporting and staff management features for directors. HiMama’s messaging and communication system intends to offer a centralized communication channel, capture and share child’s moments throughout the day and help parents feel connected.
HiMama childcare management software including parent communication costs 30$ per classroom
What it has to offer
- Create message templates and schedule messages
- Allows staff to choose the medium of communication – in-app, sms, email
- Send customized daily reports at the end of each day
- Building a community: Lets parents create a “Crew” and assign different accesses to the parent app
- Headlines section collates all photos and videos of the month for quick access by parents
What it does not offer
- Navigation can be time-consuming: The app’s navigation can require several steps before reaching the intended feature, which may lead to frustration for users.
- Activity feed sent only once a day: The daily activity feed provides a summary of a child’s daily activities but is only sent once a day, which may not be frequent enough for some parents who want more real-time updates.
- Limited sharing options: Himama does not allow for the sharing of lesson plans, milestones, and assignments with parents, which may be a disadvantage for centers looking to provide more comprehensive information to parents.
- Lack of activity customization: Unlike Illumine, Himama does not allow for the customization of activities based on individual schools’ curriculums, which may not be ideal for centers with specific educational programs.
- No group messaging feature: The absence of a group messaging feature means that parents cannot communicate with each other, which may be a disadvantage for centers that prioritize building a sense of community among parents.
- Restrictions on downloading media: The ability to download photos and videos is limited, especially on iOS devices, which may not be ideal for parents who want to save and share media with family and friends.
- Inability to comment on notes: Parents cannot comment on notes entries, which may limit their ability to provide feedback and engage in a dialogue with staff.
- Permission control: HiMama has predefined roles and access rights assigned to these roles. You may not be able to configure it according to your center’s policy.
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ClassDojo is a school communication platform designed to connect teachers, students, and families in a close net community and share learning moments and lessons through photos, videos, and messages. The app provides a variety of features and tools to facilitate virtual classrooms, communication, classroom management, and student engagement. Here is a Classdojo alternative which has been on a roll these days.
What it has to offer
- Rich Media Sharing: ClassDojo allows teachers to share photos, stickers, videos, and voice notes to keep parents and students engaged and informed.
- Post Views: Teachers can see which parents have viewed their posts to ensure that communication is effective and everyone is up-to-date.
- Scheduled Messaging: With ClassDojo, teachers can schedule messages and reminders to be sent at a later time, making it easy to plan and manage communication.
- Language Translation: ClassDojo offers language translation on the parent side of the app, making it easy for parents who speak different languages to understand important updates.
- Quiet Hours: Teachers can set quiet hours for their ClassDojo account, so they can focus on other tasks without being interrupted.
- ClassStory: ClassDojo’s ClassStory feature allows teachers to share lessons and resources in the form of PDFs and videos, and students can actively engage by commenting on the posts.
- School Story: ClassDojo’s School Story feature allows school administrators to send out school-wide announcements, events, newsletters, and more.
- Zoom Invitations: Teachers can invite families to join events using Zoom links, making it easy for everyone to participate in school activities and events.
What it does not offer
- No Group Messaging: ClassDojo does not allow group messaging between multiple families and/or teachers, so teachers can only communicate with parents and students one-on-one or send out a broadcast message for the entire class/school.
- Archived Messages: Older messages on ClassDojo get archived, and parents have to request the teacher for the full message history.
- No Parent-Initiated Messaging: Parents cannot initiate a message on ClassDojo, and they can only respond to messages from the teacher.
- No Parent Media Sharing: Parents cannot share photos, videos, or voice notes with teachers on ClassDojo.
Bloomz is a communication and coordination app designed for teachers and parents. With Bloomz, teachers can send messages, share photos and videos, create and assign tasks, and schedule events and reminders. Parents can stay up-to-date with their child’s progress and activities and can communicate with teachers and other parents through the app. Bloomz also provides features like volunteer sign-ups, class wishlists, and behavior tracking to make it easier for teachers and parents to work together towards their common goals.
Their free plan does not cover some of the most necessary communication features. For the premium plan contact Bloomz.
What it has to offer
- Precreated templates for regular or emergency communication
- Create auto-notices for recurring events such as attendance, grades, balances with ‘read receipt’.
- Student Timeline as the activity feed
- Share forms in preferred language and get digital signatures
- Allows creating groups and sub-groups between parents and teachers with different roles/permissions
What it does not offer
Bloomz lacks the essential features in the free plan which are included in their premium plan. But the cost of upgrading is expensive.
- Messaging feature is not available in the free plan
- Alerts and notifications are not available in the free plan
- Limited features for parents to initiate conversations like raising a concern, and sending notes/reminders to teachers or admins.
Transparent Classroom is designed to help educators document and share their classroom observations, assessments, and communication with parents. The app allows teachers to collect data and share insights about their students’ learning progress with parents and other stakeholders in a transparent and collaborative manner.
$0.75 USD per child/month. Price can be adjusted for closure periods or for fewer enrollments during a particular time period.
What it has to offer
- Parents can participate actively. They can upload photos and teachers can react and comment on them. Teachers can also tag lessons and progress on the media shared by parents.
- Share real-time updates about the child’s various activities like naps, meals, and diapering. Option to send a consolidated activity update at the end of the day.
- analytical tools that can help teachers analyze and identify trends in student learning progress.
- Connects with external resources like Google Calendar to display events and keep parents informed.
- Centralized school info pages for parents to refer to.
- Share lesson plans with parents with suggested activities to engage in child’s learning at home
What it does not offer
- Limited features in iOS and Android apps: Parents can view activities and photos posted by the teacher on the app. For details, parents need to log in to the web version of the app.
- Does not offer a comprehensive messaging feature for parents to raise concerns, or send notes and reminders to teachers.
- Supports only photos and not videos. Parents can upload only one photo at a time.
The verdict - which Parent Communication platform should you choose for your childcare center?
Engaging parents is important to ensure better learning outcomes for children and boost your center’s brand image. Apart from an intuitive and exhaustive parent communication platform, Illumine offers you an all-in-one technology-driven solution for managing your entire school, maintaining student and staff portfolios, billing, attendance, lead/enquiry management, lesson planning and so much more.
However, we understand that a school’s needs at any given point in time may vary. Having said that, we recommend that you set your expectations clearly with respect to available resources, expected results for the school, and parents’ expectations. With this in mind, here are your options:
(A) Is parent communication just a part of the bigger problem you are facing in managing your center?
If you are struggling with tons of paperwork, responding and following up on fee payments, and managing student and staff data, software like Illumine, Brightwheel, HiMama would be your best bet. These tools empower parents to be collaborators and save an enormous amount of time for both parents and staff.
Out of these Illumine has a definite edge for the following reasons:
- Offers higher value for money
- Highly customizable according to center’s requirements
- User-friendly for parents and teachers alike
- Caters to global customers with its multi-language, multicurrency, and highly responsive tech support
(B) Are you exploring technology solutions and looking for economical options to engage moderately with parents?
If you have just started out exploring technology to showcase your center’s activities, run virtual classes, and share learning experiences with parents, and are willing to settle with limited features at low cost, go for apps like ClassDojo, Transparent Classroom, and Bloomz.
Bloomz has an extensive feature list that only comes with its premium plan, which is expensive. ClassDojo and Transparent Classroom are more about keeping parents in the loop regarding the learning progress of their children rather than enabling two-way communication about anything and everything.
Now stop reading and let’s get busy making parents go – Whoa!