Alert Solutions Blog

Questions to Ask your School Notification System Provider

Posted by Nina Caliri on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 @ 12:04 PM

Communicating with your school community is critical to ensuring that everyone is on the same page, feels included and is kept informed of important details that might affect them.

For some K-12 schools, using a school notification system is one way to efficiently communicate with students, teachers, staff and parents. If you’re evaluating your options, make sure to ask these questions to your school notification system provider.

Can they provide a secure and reliable network? 

Ask for details on data center redundancy. What types and how many data centers do they have? How do they ensure reliable message delivery? What level of encryption do they use to keep data secured?

How do they provide rapid message delivery?shutterstock_200713358

How many simultaneous voice calls and text messages can they support per second? How do they leverage routing capabilities to maximize speed? Is their system flexible enough to adjust voice call speed to local phone networks or uses email throttling to adapt to different throughput requirements of various ISPs?

What other K-12 schools have they worked with?

How long have they been working as a school notification system provider? How many K-12 schools and students do they support? Are there any K-12 schools in your area that you can speak with?

What features do they have?

Do they offer a mobile app that allows users to send email, voice, social media and SMS text alerts directly from their smart phone? Can the mobile app connect with your student information system, like PowerSchool, to allow users to instantly access up-to-date contact information? Can you automatically email parents important documents such as report cards, progress reports, transcripts, evaluations and student schedules?

By asking these questions to your school notification system provider, you can make sure you’re doing your due diligence in selecting a solution that works best for you and your K-12 school.

Alert Solutions' School Notification Systems

Topics: school notifications, school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education

Using Accurate Data to Enhance Your Parent-Teacher Communication Strategy

Posted by Tara Gibson on Tue, Apr 09, 2019 @ 08:04 AM

Both parents and teachers are a child’s best role models as they grow up and develop into a young adult. For this reason, it’s very important your classroom encourages great positive parent-teacher communication. This communication should be ongoing throughout the school year, whether it’s a quick message home or a scheduled one-on-one meeting.

Keeping parents involved in their child’s education provides a community feeling which benefits both the student and the K-12 school. Positive parent-teacher communication promotes a level of trust between parents and teachers. As a parent you’re trusting your child is in good hands while they are at school, and as a teacher you’re trusting your students are going home to a positive environment. 

Multiple studies show us that engaged parents directly correlates with the following:

  • Students Perform Better in School
    Studies show students earn better grades and higher test scores. They also attend school more regularly and are more likely to pass their classes.
  • Students Have Improved Behavior & Positive Attitudes
    Students who have involved parents have reduced rates of substance abuse and delinquent acts compared to students whose parents are not involved.
  • Students Have Enhanced Social Skills
    Parent involvement often encourages students to interact with their peers. This leads to better social skills and academic outcomes.

Clean Data for Positive Parent-Teacher Communication

Clean Data for Parent-Teacher CommunicationTo help stay on top of your parent-teacher communication, you have a supportive ally: data. According to Education World, “student data helps keep both parents and the community in the loop about how schools are serving its students. Data helps people within the community compare how schools in the area perform compared against each other.” With clean data, you’re not only able to track how students are performing, but you will have up-to-date parent contact information to communicate that performance.

Using an effective school notification platform helps teachers keep parents engaged in their child’s education. Discover the 3 tools below that your school notification system needs to have:

  1. SIS Integration
    School administrators and teachers are always on the lookout for a school notification system that integrates with their current SIS, or student information system. Although the ease of having an integrated notification system sounds good enough to many, having an SIS integration also allows for greater school data accuracy. Having your school data linked with your school notification system ensures that any message an administrator or teacher sends goes to the correct and up-to-date contact information.

  2. Parent Portal
    A parent portal is an extremely useful tool in parent-teacher communication. When sending out important school alerts and notifications, it’s essential the message is being delivered to parents and staff using up-to-date contact information. Allowing parents to view and edit their contact information and review previously sent messages, documents, and files, is a great way to ensure positive parent-teacher communication. A parent portal also allows users to determine which phone number or email address should be contacted based on the type of message, and allows parents to set their preferred communication methods such as text, email, or phone calls.

  3. Multi-Language Translation Tool
    Working in a diverse school often means English is not everybody’s first language. According to the US Census Bureau, minorities will become the majority in 2023 of children under 18. It can be tricky to foster positive parent- teacher communication when navigating language barriers. Fortunately, with a multi-language translation tool teachers are able to reduce miscommunication by accommodating the language needs of parents, staff, and school community members. Knowing which parent or guardian speaks a different language is important data that will help foster a good relationship between teachers and parents.

The above tools help school administrators and teachers utilize their clean data to nurture positive parent-teacher communication.

Alert Solutions’ school notification platform, SwiftK12, has all three of these helpful tools. We understand communicating effectively with parents, staff, and students is essential in the daily and weekly operations within a K-12 school or classroom.  From unexpected school closures to automated attendance notifications, SwiftK12 enables teachers and administrators to reliably reach hundreds or even thousands of student families within minutes.

Improve parent-teacher communication with your school notification system!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent communication

Do You Have an Inclusive Classroom? Protect Your LGBTQ Students

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, Mar 28, 2019 @ 10:03 AM

Putting a focus on creating an inclusive learning environment for the young LGBTQ populations in K-12 schools is more important than ever. While there are more LGBTQ leaders represented in politics, media, and entertainment industries, schools can still be a very challenging place for LGBTQ kids. At a younger age children are questioning and discovering exactly who they are, which is why it’s essential to make sure you have an inclusive classroom and a safe place for kids to learn.

LGBTQ Inclusive Classroom - Rainbow Puzzle Pieces

Studies have shown LGBTQ students are much more likely to experience bullying and harassment in school, which leads to absenteeism and a higher risk of suicide. Mary Gilreath, a teacher in Colorado, goes out of her way to address gender identity in her classroom. Gilreath says “it’s a safety issue and a mental health issue for kids," pointing to the recent suicide of a 9-year-old Denver boy who was bullied after he came out to his classmates.

A 2013 study reports more than 74% of LGBTQ students were verbally harassed, and 36% were physically harassed due to their sexual orientation. Truly shocking statistics. Bullying in any way is terrible, but bullying directed at young children who are discovering their gender identity can be extremely detrimental to a child’s mental and physical health. At Alert Solutions, we do not tolerate bullying or cyberbullying in any way. Our Speak Up! Anti-Bullying platform was designed to help drastically reduce bullying incidents in K-12 schools, while maintaining student anonymity.

Before working on an inclusive classroom, teachers and school administrators need to understand gender identity terms. Without this knowledge teachers will struggle to fully grasp the range of identities within these communities, which automatically puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to supporting their students as allies. Accredited Online Schools put together a helpful list of the most common terms that relate to LGBTQ groups. They include:

  • Ally
    An ally is somebody who doesn’t identify as LGBTQ, but supports any and all individuals who do. They also advocate on their behalf.
  • Asexual
    Asexual individuals are not sexually attracted to either sex.
  • Bisexual
    Bisexual individuals are attracted to both sexes, either in physical or emotional ways, or both.
  • Cisgender
    A cisgender individual is somebody who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Closeted
    An individual who has not yet revealed their gender identity or sexual orientation publicly.
  • Coming Out/Disclosure
    When an LGBTQ individual discloses their sexual orientation or gender identity to their friends, family, and community.
  • Gay/Lesbian
    Individuals who are emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to someone of the same gender.
  • Gender-Expansive
    Gender-expansive individuals believe there is a wider spectrum of gender identities than just male and female.
  • Gender Expression
    How one expresses gender identity using outward appearances, behaviors or other means.
  • Gender Identity
    Gender identity is how somebody sees themselves, not by the sex assigned at birth.
  • Gender-Neutral
    Gender neutral “refers to a number of different concepts, all of which revolve around neutrality. It could be used to discuss gender-neutral pronouns, bathrooms or identities.”
  • Questioning
    Individuals who are questioning are people who are exploring their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Transgender
    Individuals who are transgender don’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. They choose to express a different gender identity.
  • Transition
    Transition is “when an LGBT individual takes steps legally, medically, or socially to affirm their gender identity. This may include changing one’s name or seeking gender reassignment surgeries.”

Having knowledge of the above terms as a teacher or school administrator is the starting point of creating an inclusive classroom. Without knowing the several terms that relate to the LGBTQ community teachers may struggle to advocate for their students as allies, which would create an unsupportive learning environment where children spend most of their time.

5 Ways to Create an Inclusive Classroom

A Queer Endeavor is an organization that helps teachers navigate how to intervene when they see anti-LGBTQ bullying and how to be there for students who are feeling vulnerable. They put together a list of helpful tips on how to make your classroom an inclusive classroom:

  1. Let Students Identify Themselves
    On the first day of class have students fill out index cards with their preferred name and pronoun. Teachers should update their class list, and make sure to address their students by their preferred name and pronoun.

  2. Avoid Gendered Language
    Teachers should avoid addressing the class with gendered language such as “Ladies and Gentlemen” or “Boys and Girls”.

  3. Avoid Grouping by Gender
    Instead of grouping students by gender for activities and projects, group them by preferences such as ice cream flavors or favorite animals. You could also group by birthdays or birth months.

  4. All-Gender Bathrooms
    If your K-12 school has all-gender bathrooms, make sure your students know exactly where they are. Teachers should also be clear they are for everybody.

  5. Solidify Your Ally Status
    Make sure your students know you are their ally. For example; you could hang a rainbow flag, share your own pronouns with students, and start up or support LGBTQ groups or clubs.

Having an inclusive classroom will benefit everybody in the class! LGBTQ students will feel safer knowing they have an ally in a teacher or school administrator, and will likely have their classmates as their allies as well.

At Alert Solutions we understand the importance of having an inclusive classroom. We work hard to help K-12 schools and districts battle and tackle bullying incidents with our Speak Up! Anti-Bullying platform.  Want to learn more? Download our brochure today!

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Topics: bullying, cyberbullying, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, school climate

Earth Hour Day: 5 Ways to Encourage Students to Participate

Posted by Nina Caliri on Mon, Mar 25, 2019 @ 15:03 PM

Earth Hour Day is almost here! On Saturday, March 30th, millions of people, businesses, landmarks, and schools will set aside an hour of the day to switch off their lights and electronics. This event aims to spread awareness  about climate change, unite people around the world, and prompt individuals to take responsibility towards creating a sustainable future by turning off electronic devices and lights. Many participate, proving large populations are committed to protecting our planet.

Earth Hour Day History

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According to Time and Date, Earth Hour Day began in Sydney, Australia back in 2007. People wanted to stand up for climate change that year, and about 2.2 million businesses and homes turned their lights off for one full hour. After this first Earth Hour event, the effort gained traction and became a large global sustainability movement. 50 million people joined the next year across 35 countries and large monuments and global landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the CN Tower, and the Golden Gate Bridge all stood in darkness for an hour.

Celebrating Earth Hour Day in K-12 Schools

Although Earth Hour Day is always on a weekend day, your K-12 school can celebrate and encourage teachers and students to participate on another day during the week, or throughout the entire week leading up to Earth Hour Day.  Ontario Eco Schools have great ideas to make celebrating Earth Hour Day fun and informative for an entire school. Consider trying these creative activities in your classroom:

  • Earth Hour Pledges
    During the hour of no electronics and lights, pass out slips to your students and have everybody write their own pledge to the environment. Afterwards, collect each pledge and display them for everybody to see in a common area of the school such as the cafeteria.

  • Earth Hour Awards
    Celebrate students who are actively engaged in positive environmental actions! Reward the students who (for example) turn off or unplug electronic devices at the end of the day. Try presenting awards at a classroom or school-wide level with an audience to promote why the student is receiving the award.

  • Flashlight Campfire
    As you cannot light a real flame within school walls, host a flashlight camp fire! Encourage students to sit around the flashlight campfire to share stories and sing campfire songs.

  • Earth Hour Art Show
    During the day inspire students to create meaningful and eco-friendly art projects. Once completed, display them within the classroom or out in the hallway for others to see. During Earth Hour, lead your students with flashlights to look at each piece of art from a different perspective.

  • Flashlight Yoga
    What better way to relax and reflect on the Earth Hour pledges mentioned above than flashlight yoga? Ontario Eco Schools suggests, “During, or leading up to, Earth Hour set up a yoga class and hand out flashlights to participants. Students can reflect on their Earth Hour pledges as they exercise, relax, and meditate.”

Promoting these fun activities will hopefully prompt your students to participate in Earth Hour Day at home with their family.

At Alert Solutions we’re very conscious of our environment, and the importance of spreading a green message to K-12 schools and districts across the country. We’ve blogged about several ways schools can ‘go green’ and lead in a movement toward a greener future. Our school notification platform, SwiftK12, is a great way to send texts, emails, and calls home to parents to spread awareness of the Earth Hour Day activities teachers and administrators are planning out.  

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Topics: school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, go green

Digital Tools to Improve Parental Involvement in K-12 Schools

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Mar 21, 2019 @ 13:03 PM

With the digital world continuing to expand year over year, educators are beginning to leverage several technologies to help increase parental involvement in K-12 schools. However, some are skeptical of these digital tools and the effectiveness they have in creating meaningful relationships between teachers and parents. With this being said, the typical in-person parent-teacher meetings are not as common since the evolution of digital technology.

Mom and Daughter on Phone - Parental Involvement

According to a 2016 report, “there’s been a steep drop in the number of parents who believe that more intimate forms of communication—face-to-face meetings with teachers, for example—are the most effective means to convey important information about students.” This study also tells us there is a growing acceptance of digital methods among both teachers and parents.

Parental involvement is a trending topic in the education field.  Studies show students with engaged parents are more likely to attend school, graduate on time, do better academically, and are less likely to drop out. Students are also less likely to get in trouble and have substance abuse problems.

Keeping parents in the loop of day-to-day activities is not always easy, but with the help of digital tools like social media, video calling, and automated notifications, teachers are saving time and keeping parents happy.

3 Digital Tools to Improve Parental Involvement

  1. Social Media
    Social media is a great way to stay connected with parents and promote parental involvement. Working parents may not be able to make it to parent engagement nights, but following classroom social media accounts such as Facebook pages or Twitter streams will keep them in the know. EdTech shares through using social media “they (parents) can stay more informed and offer more help and expertise during a time that’s more convenient for them.”

  2. Video Conferences & Calls
    If you can’t meet a parent in person, try video calling from the comfort of their home! Like mentioned previously, many parents are working and traveling which makes it difficult to meet with their child’s teachers. Video conferencing software such as Skype, Google Hangout, and FaceTime allow for great parental involvement digitally.

  3. Text Messaging & Automated Alerts
    Automated alerts and text message alerts are an easy way to boost parental involvement. This is becoming a preferred communication method for both teachers and parents alike. According to EdTech, “A lot of young parents become intimidated by formal conferences or can’t get time off work to attend. Many teachers have found that the ability to text parents has made communicating with them much easier.” A study was conducted in 2017 by Columbia University and parents were sent texts weekly about their children’s grades, absences, and missed assignments. This resulted in an “18 percent increase in student attendance and a 39 percent reduction in course failures.” The numbers speak for themselves!

Alert Solutions’ industry leading school notification platform, SwiftK12, allows teachers and administrators to send text messages home to parents with ease. SwiftK12’s automated attendance alerts also serve as a great tool to help save staff time and ultimately increase attendance rates.

Pearson Education explains that improving communication and parental involvement using digital tools won’t happen overnight. They recommend a few tips to help with nurturing parent engagement outlined below:

  • Involve Parents in Coursework
    Find ways to get parents involved in homework and other school projects. This can be done by sending helpful reminders home through their preferred communication methods.

  • Teach Parents About Digital Learning
    With the many skeptics out there, it’s important to talk with parents about your school’s approach to digital personalized learning. Pearson recommends sharing “how are students benefiting, how much time per day are they spending on screens, how does digital allow students to work at their own pace and meet competencies, what will homework look like and overall WHY digital.”

  • Remember: Not All Parents are Fluent English Speakers
    Break down those communication barriers! There are tools for parents and teachers make it easier to grow and sustain parental involvement and engagement across a language barrier. SwiftK12 is a helpful tool as it translates messages with ease.

  • Set Expectations
    Make sure parents know what to expect! Parents who have multiple children enrolled in one school may be overwhelmed if each teacher has a different way to communicate with them. Pearson provides the following example; “Imagine having 2 children each with 6 different teachers who have 6 different ways to access information. This can create deep frustration that is hard to overcome.”

At Alert Solutions, we understand the importance of parental involvement and keeping parents engaged - it has so many benefits for students. We’ve kept up with new technology trends with our school notification platform, SwiftK12. Reaching parents is easy to do with our quick alerts and automated lunch and attendance alerts. 

Ready to learn more? Download our brochure today!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent engagement, parent communication

National Nutrition Month: 5 Ways Your Class Can Celebrate

Posted by Tara Gibson on Tue, Mar 19, 2019 @ 09:03 AM

March is National Nutrition Month! The Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics created this yearly campaign to encourage people to focus their attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. With students spending the majority of their time in schools, what better place to teach and promote healthy eating and exercise? Educating children of the significance of a proper diet is very important, as a child’s nutrition and lifestyle habits have a direct effect on every function of their body.  

Students on Field Trip - National Nutrition Month

Teaching kids the skills they need to make these proper food choices will help them develop lifelong healthy eating patterns. NCBI tells us “Healthy eating habits among adolescents and children are essential for healthy growth, cognitive development and other aspects of health and wellbeing.” These good habits have also been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases.

The School Nutrition Association shares the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 “required the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update federal nutrition standards for school meals”. These updated rules went into effect in July 2012 and require K-12 schools to offer students larger portions of fruits and veggies with every lunch, grains offered with meals must be whole-grain rich, meals must meet age-appropriate calorie minimums and maximums, sodium levels must meet certain limits, and meals cannot contain added trans-fat. Full guidelines can be found here.

Although the guidelines may seem to be rather strict, this doesn’t mean schools aren’t feeding their students delicious meals. Popular menu items such as pizza and macaroni are still served, but have had slight makeovers. For example, school pizza is now required to be prepared with whole grain crust, low-fat cheese, and reduced sodium sauce.

5 Ways K-12 Schools Can Celebrate National Nutrition Month

There are fun ways to teach your students about nutrition in the classroom. Have a good time and celebrate National Nutrition Month with these 5 ideas from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  1. Take a Field Trip
    A field trip to a local farmers market or farm is a great way to get out of the classroom and celebrate National Nutrition Month. Introduce your students to healthy organic foods such as fruits and veggies grown locally! TeachHub also suggests a supermarket scavenger hunt as another field trip idea. “As you walk through the supermarket aisles, ask students to point out healthy foods that belong to each group on the food plate. Then, for a fun activity, divide students into groups and hand each group a list of healthy foods to search for.”

  2. Food Group Project
    For National Nutrition Month consider a group project in which you assign teams of students to different food groups. Have your students research their food groups in depth and present the nutrition facts to the class. This way they’re learning about their own food group, and also learning from their peers about the several other food groups.

  3. Taste Test
    What better way to get students to try new foods than a taste test! Cut up several different fruits and veggies into bite-size pieces and have your class try one of each. Be sure to check that there are no allergies in your class. After the taste test have the children participate in an open discussion amongst each other and then vote on their favorites with an explanation as to why!

  4. Food Product Boxes
    Another idea for National Nutrition Month is to have your classroom save empty boxes of food and bring them into class. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the class should “Spend some time reading labels and comparing information in the Nutrition Facts panels. Expand into a menu-planning opportunity, individually or in teams.”

  5. Tip of the Day
    Get parents involved! Consider sending home nutrition tips or trivia questions through your school notification platform and encourage parents to keep the nutrition discussion going outside of the classroom. You could even try sending home healthy recipes to try out. Getting parents and guardians involved will help solidify these healthy eating habits, which will only result in good outcomes as a child grows. For an extra incentive we suggest giving out prizes to the students and parents who participate!

At Alert Solutions we want all K-12 schools and districts to understand the importance of teaching children about nutrition and healthy eating habits, and why it is essential for healthy growth and cognitive development. Our school notification platform, SwiftK12, is a great way to communicate with parents outside of the classroom to keep the nutrition conversation going. 

Interested in learning more? Download our brochure today!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, parent engagement

St. Patrick’s Day Lessons: Your Students are Lucky!

Posted by Nina Caliri on Thu, Mar 14, 2019 @ 10:03 AM

Top of the mornin’ to you! As we’re sure you already know, St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. Every year St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th, the anniversary of the death of the Irish patron saint, St. Patrick. This holiday has been observed on this day by Irish families for over 1,000 years.

Who Was Saint Patrick?

According to History.com, Saint Patrick lived during the fifth century and is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. He was born in Roman Britain and at just 16 years old he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave. After escaping, he returned to Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to its people. History.com shares “In the centuries following Patrick’s death the mythology surrounding his life became ever more ingrained in the Irish culture: Perhaps the most well-known legend is that he explained the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock.”

Educators are consistently looking for ways to engage their students, but also provide important lessons and knowledge. Holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day are the perfect way to do so. This year the holiday falls on a Sunday, which makes celebrating in K-12 schools difficult. We suggest continuing the celebration on Monday, March 18th.

Boy With Four Leaf Clover St Patrick's Day

You’re in luck! We’ve compiled a list of 4 great ideas that several K-12 schools have incorporated into their classrooms for St. Patty’s. These include informative lessons on Irish culture, history, and traditions, as well as fun activities promoting teamwork and creativity. Bring the luck of the Irish into your school and share the excitement with your students, fellow faculty, and parents at home with a quick and easy school notification or digital newsletter.

4 St. Patrick’s Day Themed Lessons for Your Students

  1. History of Irish Writers
    There are several incredible Irish born authors including W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and George Bernard Shaw. Try sharing history on these authors, or encouraging your students to think about how these writers’ Irish heritage influenced their writing. For younger students consider looking at classic Irish folklore.

  2. Potato Science Project & Irish Potato Famine History
    Potatoes are a big part of Irish history, so incorporate them in your lesson! TeachHub suggests growing a potato in a jar of water so young students can see the root system. For older students they recommend “growing several potatoes in a variety of solutions – plain water, water with fertilizer, water with bleach, etc. – and see which grows best.” You can also teach your students the history of the Irish Potato Famine as a St. Patrick’s Day lesson as it is controversial and related to World History, American History, and Government.

  3. Celtic Knot History & Tutorial
    This is a fun St. Patrick’s Day themed art project teachers could cover in the classroom. There is a lot of history behind Celtic Europe outlined here. National Education Association also encourages teachers to use this great resource – a tutorial on the introduction to knot work construction. “This tutorial covers basic interlacing techniques, simple border and panel construction, analysis of existing patterns, interlaced corners, more advanced patterns (such as “doubled” knots), and provides links to other, advanced sources for your further research.”

  4. Patrick’s Day Scavenger Hunt
    Encourage your students to hunt for gold!
    We Are Teachers recommend getting your students up and moving with this free printable scavenger hunt. “You can time the hunt, create groups, or even conduct the activity outdoors. To extend the activity, you might have your students decorate old tissue boxes as treasure chests in which they can store their findings.”

At Alert Solutions we strive to bring interesting and different ideas to teachers to help engage students. We certainly hope these 4 St. Patrick’s Day lessons come in handy! Working with K-12 schools and districts across the country, and internationally, we believe being a resource to our customers is one of the components that makes us a wonderful company to work with.

Want to learn more? Contact us today.

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Topics: holiday, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, student engagement

Could Digital Learning Games Help K-12 Educators?

Posted by Philip Young on Mon, Mar 11, 2019 @ 12:03 PM

In a world where technology is taking over, K-12 educators are looking for new and exciting ways to make their classes fun and engaging. This is being done with the help of digital learning games.  

Digital Learning Games in the Classroom

To put it simply, a digital learning game is a self-guided game that promotes a variety of educational subject matters. These games could relate to subjects such as history, math, science, and more. Instead of teachers lecturing at the front of the classroom, students are encouraged to take an autonomous approach to learning. This student-centered method allows students to generate their own knowledge and receive information through the game itself.

How Do Teachers Feel About Digital Learning Games?

The response to digital learning games was not always as positive as it is today. Many educators were hesitant to stray from the traditional methods of teaching, as it was all they knew. A study conducted by Yun-Jo An and Li Cao found teachers did not seem to fully understand the educational value of digital learning games. Within the study they worked with 50 teachers to show them the usefulness of digital games, and develop their own digital games. “Teachers were generally skeptical about the pedagogical value of digital games, partially due to their lack of familiarity with games, and they remained skeptical about using games in teaching even after playing various games.”

After introducing several different types of digital games, the teachers in this study began to see their worth and were enjoying the games at the same time. An and Cao conducted several different studies and “examined the changes in teachers’ attitudes and perceptions after being exposed to or playing (digital learning) games.” The educators’ attitudes had gone from skeptical and unsure, to positive and excited about the prospect of digital learning in the classroom.

The Benefits of Digital Learning Games 

Researchers at Vanderbilt University and partners at Legends of Learning conducted their own study on digital learning games, and the effects they had on the students and their classroom environment. This research showed the comparison of students who were exposed to digital learning games and those who were not, and the results were very interesting. They showed students who utilized game-based learning out-performed those who did not, and “special education students involved in the study authored lengthier responses to open-ended questions, displayed greater confidence in the subject matter after playing the games, and achieved more than a whole standard deviation difference.”

According to ESchool News, there were 5 specific outcomes from this study revealed by the teachers:

  1. Deeper content games supported in-depth learning, developing investigative, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
  2. The subset of quiz-style games reinforced lessons and helped review material.
  3. Different types of game play simulated interest and engagement, particularly in students prone to being off-task.
  4. Games prompted student-led discussions, collaboration, and the sharing of knowledge.
  5. Simple and complex games increased confidence and content mastery.

This study also found there was a rapid increase of engagement within the classroom, teachers were a lot more enthusiastic after seeing the positive results of digital games, and there was a clear increase of student attention spans.

“The results highlight the potential of digital games for enhancing instruction, particularly in light of the teachers strongly positive experiences and interest in continuing to use games like these in the future,” said researcher and co-author Douglas Clark, professor, Vanderbilt University.

Bringing Digital Learning Games Home

Digital learning games shouldn’t only be used in classrooms. Teachers should encourage parents to promote these fun educational games at home as well. The benefits of game-based learning are clear from the multiple studies conducted. We recommend sharing the results and the positive outcomes from digital learning games with parents and guardians. This is easy to do in a simple email home, or a digital newsletter from a reliable school notification platform, like SwiftK12.

Alert Solutions has always emphasized the importance of parent engagement and involvement in their child’s education. This is one way to do so! The benefits of parental involvement include increased student success, social skills, graduation rates, and more. 

Want to learn more? Contact us today.

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Topics: school announcement, mobile learning, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs

Education's New Partner in Battling Chronic Truancy: Pediatricians

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, Mar 07, 2019 @ 14:03 PM

It’s no secret; chronic truancy is detrimental to student achievement. Students who do not attend school regularly are more likely to not do well academically, or even drop out of school all together. A shocking statistic unveils more than 6.5 million US children, about 13% of all students, miss 15 days or more each year. This doesn’t just apply to middle school and high school. The American Academy of Pediatrics states “at least 10 percent of kindergarten and first-grade students miss a month or more of the school year, while about 19 percent of all high school students are chronically absent.”

Stethoscope

There are many factors that contribute to high chronic absenteeism. Children who are exposed to major trauma such as domestic violence, have recently experienced a natural disaster, or have a history of maltreatment are more likely to experience absenteeism. AAP explains “these children are also more likely to experience other risk factors for chronic absenteeism, including poor mental and behavioral health, poor health outcomes, poverty, homelessness, and frequent school changes.”

Poor health seems to be a large factor in chronic absenteeism. A study in central Texas by the Austin-based E3 Alliance “found that 52 percent of absences were due to chronic or acute illness. By contrast, skipping school accounted for 5 percent.” Luckily, educators has a new partner to help with the growing truancy problem; pediatricians. There is strong evidence showing physical and mental health interventions are helping to improve student attendance.

How Pediatricians Can Help Reduce Truancy

The American Academy of Pediatrics released an extensive report covering proven measures to help reduce truancy, including the following recommendations for pediatricians and their colleagues:

  • Emphasize the value of developing good school attendance habits from an early age.
  • When children and their parents come in, pediatricians are also encouraged ask about the number of school days missed within the month during every visit.
  • Document children's medical needs for an Individualized Education Program or 504 Plan when needed for access to services that optimize learning opportunities.
  • Encourage parents and families to share any and all health concerns with the school nurse on staff.
  • Give guidance on when students should stay home from school and when they should not. For example: Lice is not a reason to stay home from school.
  • When the absence is not appropriate, do not write absence excuses.
  • Always have children return to school when their appointment shows they are well enough.
  • Work with K-12 schools to promote and advocate policies that promote school attendance.

Four Health Strategies from AAP

AAP also put together several strategies that K-12 schools can implement to promote school attendance and tackle chronic absenteeism through healthcare.

  1. Infection Prevention
    Absenteeism isn’t always a malicious way to get out of school work as many students fall sick during the school year forcing them to miss school. Schools are known to be a source of many wide-spread illnesses such as common colds and influenza. Hand hygiene interventions are one way schools are working to battle truancy. Promoting the use of hand sanitizers and hand-washing helped with reducing sicknesses. According to AAP, “in addition to studies of hand hygiene interventions, school-located influenza vaccination programs have been shown to reduce school absenteeism during influenza season.”

  2. School Nurses
    Having a full-time school nurse on staff plays a significant role when it comes to student attendance. “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Association of School Nurses recommend a minimum of 1 full-time professional school nurse in every school, recognizing that the ideal nurse-to-student ratio varies depending on the needs of the student population”.

  3. School-Based Health Centers
    According to AAP, a school-based health center provides health services to students who may have been sent home or missed school because of illnesses and injuries or attending medical appointments for management of chronic health problems. These health centers include care for dental services, preventative services, mental services, and behavioral health services.

  4. Mental Health Care
    In a recent blog post we covered the importance of educators looking out for mental health concerns among their students. As K-12 schools are the place young people spend the majority of their days, educators are the first line of defense. Schools play an important role in identifying early warning signs, addressing mental health concerns, and providing help and care.

Not everything is black and white. Chronic truancy and absenteeism have many influencers and healthcare is only one of them. Whether a student is experiencing extreme anxiety about being in school, or has fallen ill and caught a bad stomach bug, missing school has extreme effects on student success and graduation rates.

Alert Solutions works with K-12 schools and districts across the country to help reduce chronic truancy. Schools using SwiftK12, our school notification system, send out automated attendance alerts notifying parents and guardians on whether their child is in school. These alerts not only help increase parent communication, but they also  save hours of time for school staff each day, and most importantly, have been known to help increase student attendance rates.

Download our Reducing Chronic Truancy Guide for helpful tips, tricks, and strategies to battle absenteeism.

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Topics: student health, attendance, school announcement, Medical, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, truancy

Parent Engagement Nights: Ideas to Boost Parental Involvement

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Mar 05, 2019 @ 10:03 AM

Parental involvement in education is a highly discussed topic that’s gaining traction among K-12 educators. Encouraging parents to be engaged with their child’s school work is not only seen as an important rule of thumb, but it has many benefits for students.

Parental Involvement in Classroom

Studies tell us good parental involvement leads students to attend school more regularly, earn better grades, and have higher test scores. Children also have been shown to have lower rates of substance abuse and delinquent acts. The positive results speak for themselves; the tricky part is convincing parents to get involved.

Planning Your Parental Involvement 

It takes more than just parents and teachers to get parent engagement activities in the works. Kelly Bielefeld plans out her parent engagement nights to be informative sessions for parents to learn things that will ultimately help them support their child. This is what she does when planning:

  • Recruit a Team:
    Gathering a group of people to help with putting together a fun and inclusive parent engagement activity is essential. You want to make sure you’re hosting an event that parents want to attend, which is easier to do with a group of helpers on your side.

  • Pick Your Focus:
    There are a lot of fun ideas and informative areas your team can focus a parental involvement activity on, but choosing one can be difficult as there are many places to start. Should the focus be about curriculum, social issues, technology, student work, or the school’s mission? Reach out to parents and see what resonates with them and go from there. Bielefeld suggests rotating the areas of focus so that all parents are engaged.

  • Base Your Focus on Data
    Once you have decided on your broad idea you should try to narrow it down to a specific focus. This should be decided after you’ve looked at the data. Bielefeld explains the following, “The first piece of data to consider would be achievement data. If the plan is to have a “math night,” there should be data to support the need for a focus in this area. The other data that is important is parent feedback, often in the form of a survey.”

  • How to Engage
    Your topic has been chosen. Now you need to decide how exactly you’ll engage parents and get them involved. Consider open discussions, encourage movement and reflection on topics, and have people speak and share ideas on the chosen topic. A lecture simply will not cut it! Make the activity fun and engaging for a successful parental involvement night!

  • Plan, Plan, & Plan Some More!
    Parents are busy, so planning out your parental involvement activity in advance is key. Make sure you share your plans with parents early so they are more likely to attend!

4 Fun Ideas to Boost Parental Involvement

K-12 schools have devised a variety of different parent engagement and family themed nights to get parents through school doors. Below are 4 fun examples from creative schools:

  1. Family Yoga Night
    A school in Virginia has yoga as a part of their curriculum and often encourages students to bring their parents to join them. Attendees bring their own mats or towels to class and enjoy teacher-led stretching and poses. “It’s a great way for kids of all ages and their parents to spend time together in a positive way,” says PTA president Susan Estes.

  2. Wildlife Night
    A Florida elementary school partnered with a nearby local wildlife sanctuary. They brought animals such as snakes, skunks, and even an alligator into school for a live presentation. The students were learning about different habitats, so it fit in well with the curriculum. Plus, is there anything more fun for young kids than seeing animals up close? Parents were invited to join this fun-filled evening.

  3. Rockin’ Through the Decades
    This fun dance party took place at Vine Hill Elementary School in California. Parents and students showed up for an exciting evening and danced away in costumes from their favorite decades to music starting from the 1950s through to the present day. PTO Today suggests asking students and parents to submit song requests in advance to make sure all the favorites are covered!

  4. Annual Cook-Off Event
    A little competition never hurt anybody! A New Hampshire PTA holds an annual Chili Cook-Off competition where students’ parents prepare their favorite chili recipes. The winner takes home a special trophy and keeps it until the following year and then the trophy is passed to the next winner. PTO Today recommends tying this event in with a football game or pep rally theme.

When it comes to planning a fun night and promoting parental involvement, the possibilities are endless! PTO Today has more great ideas if you’re feeling stuck – click here!

At Alert Solutions we understand the importance of parent engagement and keeping parents involved. Communicating with parents throughout the week is a great way to keep them informed of what’s happening at your school. Hosting entertaining parent engagement nights will improve your school’s rapport with parents… and it’s fun!

Check out our Parent Engagement Best Practice Guide for additional tips, tricks, and strategies to kick-start your parental involvement.

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Topics: school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, parent engagement, parent communication, student engagement

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