At the beginning of the year, we sent out a survey that asked educators to rank statements that described why they use Remind. Overwhelmingly, respondents pointed to this one:
Remind lets me reach students and parents where they are.
That made sense. “Reach students and parents where they are” is a phrase that we say often at Remind, from our website to our app descriptions to our social media channels. But we weren’t expecting the next statement to be right on its heels:
Remind is more effective than email.
In comparison, this isn’t something we say much at all—but it’s a sentiment we often hear from educators in our community. It’s why many users think of Remind as a text-messaging service, despite the fact that messages can be delivered by smartphone notifications, web accounts, and even email.
And it’s why we thought it would be interesting to explore a question that’s near and dear to our hearts: What does it really mean to reach students and parents where they are?
Hello? Is Anyone There?
Classroom communication is hard.
That’s what Brett and David learned from the teachers they talked to when they started Remind, and that’s what educators continue to tell us today. No two classes are the same—the communication challenges for an ELL teacher in an urban district are dramatically different from those for a special education teacher at a small rural school.
But a few major pain points come up again and again.
Papers get lost in transit.
Whether they’re newsletters, handouts, or even sticky notes, papers tend to disappear in the cavernous depths of a folder or backpack. Or, as one educator recently observed, it’s difficult to rely on children as “middlemen” for communication. You shouldn’t have to.
Contact information is out of date or just plain missing.
School records don’t always include current contact information, especially as students progress through grade levels. Often, parents won’t even know if their email addresses or phone numbers are wrong.
It’s impossible to tell if messages are getting through.
There’s no way to check whether a permission slip or email made it home, especially when there’s no response. (And that’s why we recently introduced delivery receipts—and look forward to read receipts in the very near future as well.)
Communication That Works For Everyone, Everywhere
So email isn’t the only culprit when it comes to communication challenges in education, but it isn’t how most teachers communicate in their personal lives. It’s not how students and parents communicate, either.
Here’s what communication actually looks like today.
- 92% of adults in the United States own cell phones. (Source)
- 88% of teenagers have access to mobile devices. (Source)
- 90% of teens with phones send and receive text messages. (Source)
- For a typical teenager, that comes out to a whopping 30 texts a day. (Source)
Even if students and parents aren’t reading handouts or emails, it’s a pretty safe bet that they’re at least on their phones. And these aren’t necessarily smartphones, either. One of our biggest priorities at Remind is making sure that teachers can reach all students and their families, no matter their resources or backgrounds.
While teachers can log in to Remind on web or download the mobile or desktop app, participants can receive and sent messages on any device. We support SMS messaging because it’s statistically more likely for students and parents to check their text messages, but also because it gives teachers a way to reach families that might not have access to smartphones or home computers.
But getting the message in front of a student or parent is only half the battle. How do you make sure that your messages are both read and understood?
We don’t have a single answer for that, but we’ve made a step in what we think is the right direction. An estimated 4.4 million students in American public schools are English language learners. Last year, we introduced the ability to instantly translate messages into over 70 languages before sending—and since then, more than 14.5 million translated messages have been delivered on Remind.
Reaching students and parents where they are means something different to every educator, but it always involves understanding how students and parents actually communicate. And we’re heartened by the number of teachers who reach out to our Support team to learn more about how Remind works for the participants who receive their messages.
In particular, teachers want to know how students and parents use Remind by text message. Is there any difference between announcements and individual messages? How do group conversations look? How do they send messages? Can they just reply to texts? As a matter of fact, how does anything look on text?
That’s why you might have noticed that class announcements now appear in your conversations. This is where all of your messages will appear, just like the way they do for participants who receive messages by SMS, and we’re excited to bring you an experience that’s closer to how students and parents use Remind.
This is just the beginning, and we’d love to hear what you think as we keep working to encourage thoughtful—and effective—communication between teachers, students, and parents.