I am the opposite of the helicopter parent. I am an Artillery Parent. I get my kids up in the morning, and pack them lunch. I load them in the cannon, shoot them at school, wave at them as they go swooooshing by, and hope they land softly. I assume they’ll find their way home by dark. During their school day, they’re left on their own. As a parent, I’m among the most difficult kind to engage – I don’t want to be at arm’s distance, I want to be at maximum distance.
That’s where video comes in.
Google Hangouts are my best friend. If the principal or my kids’ teachers are having an event and they’ve scheduled it as a live event on Google+ (https://plus.google.com/events), I will very likely make time to sit in and listen. Better still, I’ll likely chime in and ask questions, because it really does feel like I’m sitting at the table at the Council of Elrond. These Google+ Hangouts are a snap to schedule (Google+, to Events, to Plan a Hangout, and then select Event Option, Advance, Event is online-only). Once underway, they allow parents to ask questions in person, or to type in questions. They work on phones, tablets, or anything with a web browser. Google will even record the session to post to YouTube afterwards. Hangouts are great for those planned, forecasted events for which everyone has time to prepare, and it’s great for round-table discussions for which you might need a few slides from a Google Presentation.
Periscope is a great tool for truly simple broadcasting. You give Periscope a description of your session, press start, and it’s broadcasting live. From there, you only need to get the URL to parents. Periscope (iOS https://goo.gl/tEupwR and Android https://goo.gl/h9i47h) is built on Twitter, and allows viewers to ask questions via text. You can save your broadcasts yourself, but the quality of video isn’t as nice as it is with Google. It is incredibly fast to set up and needs no scheduling or coordination. Periscope is great for all of those little things that happen in the classroom that you want to be able to share with parents. Since Periscope hosts the video for 24 hours you can broadcast activities, but send the URL knowing parents (or aunts and uncles and grandparents) may not see it until they finish their work day.
Blab for when you use translators. Blab (blab.im) allows for up to four people on a video session at a time, but for those four can be publicly viewed by anyone. Blab also features live audience participation through text comments, and the video can be recorded, making this a great gap-filler between Google Hangouts and Periscope. It’s also an easy way to bring translators front and center in order to meet the needs of the whole community. If you regularly partner with translators for engaging with parents, Blab might be your new best friend. **Ed Note- Blab is no more. Moment of silence for all the electrons we’ve lost.
Educreations for those topics that need a little bit more. Maybe it’s a field trip, or a new block, or the long-term sub – some things need fully interactive presentations and discussions, just like we use in the classroom. Educreations excels at this, in allowing you to build presentations, and deliver them through a range of means (YouTube, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc). While it will allow you to deliver the full, rich content and information to parents that you need, it doesn’t allow for real-time feedback.
Zaption and Edpuzzle for changing video. If you’re making video to share with your students, both Zaption and Edpuzzle are excellent ways to use or repurpose your existing videos (or other videos) by overlaying your own voice, questions, or information, in order to make deliverable content for parents. Both are great parent feedback mechanisms, but also are great tools for easily sharing information. And both are dead-simple to use for you, and also for the parents.
It would be nice to have every parent come in and engage teachers, but the world is filled with artillery parents. Video is a great way to bridge that gap in realtime and in their own time.
Art La Flamme is a former Army officer who spent 25 years working in intelligence. He currently teaches intelligence and security studies at Angelo State University, emphasizing tech not just for spying but for research and collaboration. Follow him on twitter at @artlaflamme or artlaflamme.com