EXAMINING PARENT-TEACHER COMMUNICATION IN SCHOOL SYSTEMS THROUGH THE USE OF EMERGENT TECHNOLOGIES
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Technology has become a part of the fabric of the lives of people, whether it be communicating with a loved one on the other side of the world or paying a utility bill via the Internet. Most people have experienced some level of technology integration into their life. An inescapable rite of passage for most people in developed countries is the requirement to attend some type of formal education. People carry memories of elementary, middle, and high school with them for the rest of their lives, whether good or bad. At a certain point, people choose to become parents and send their children to school. This research focuses on an aspect that has proven problematic between schools and parents – effective communication. The goal of this exploratory study was to determine the progress of social networking system use in schools using themes derived from the Concerns Based Adoption Model developmental stages to determine the levels of interest and comfort with the use of this system. Specifically, Facebook and Twitter are being examined as tools to facilitate parent-teacher communication in an effort to increase parental engagement in the education process. The qualitative research was conducted over a one year period and included group and individual interviews which were used to gauge perceptions, beliefs, and expectations of the participants. The sample population consisted of educators, administrators, and parents from school districts in the Central Texas region. It was comprised of couples and individuals and attempted to span socio-economics and race. Once the primary data were gathered, an analysis was conducted to identify challenges that educators and parents faced. The survey instrument was available to participants for a six month period and individual and group interviews were conducted over a 4 month period. The final analysis concluded that certain issues did confound the use of social networking technologies, but that those issues should not hinder the use of these technologies to improve parent-teacher communication. Parents and teachers acknowledged the need to communicate more effectively and believed that the use of technology might provide a solution if used properly. Educational institutions and districts would be well served to examine the impact of social networking technologies for educational communication while seeking ways to navigate the complex social-political aspects of the debate. Further study is required and while there are no clear answers, this research indicates that further exploration of the topic must be conducted in greater depth to fully understand the implications of using social networking systems in schools.