“Amazing things happen in the classroom every day at MTS, and we want our families to know about these moments of joy and learning.” Head of School, Andrew Davis, opened with these words as he gathered a group of teachers and administrators to rethink classroom to home communication.

Reflecting on the last school year, Andrew was enthusiastic about the steps forward the school took with communication including MTS 1, MTS Too, a photo sharing website, and a handful of teachers actively using Class Dojo. He was also clear that the desire for even more communication was shared among the parent body, as well as the faculty. Knowing there was room for improvement, ten faculty members and administrators met over two days in mid-August tasked with redesigning classroom to home communication.

Andrew and that team approached the problem from a design thinking perspective. Design thinking, made popular by Ideo and the Stanford D-School, is a process for human-centered innovation.  Using the “Design Thinking for Educators” text, created by Ideo and Riverdale School in New York, along with hundreds of Post-It Notes, Andrew led the group from the question “How might we most effectively communicate between school and home?” to a solution that we are excited to launch next week.  

The design process included five steps:

The most obvious outcome of this “redesign” is our upcoming launch of ParentSquare. This platform and app will allow teachers and administrators to post regular updates to parents about life on campus.  In the lower school we plan to have more frequent, briefer posts with pictures similar to those that were on Class Dojo last year. Middle school families will see less frequent unit and mid-unit summaries from teachers.  Both of these are meant to be catalysts for further conversation and learning at home. The Head of Lower School and Head of Middle School will be using ParentSquare to share reflections on life in their respective divisions. As a parent, you will only see the posts relevant to your children, and you will be able to select whether you receive a digest email, text notifications, or app notifications. 

Our upcoming launch of ParentSquare is just one of the end products from this design process. Andrew’s earlier email clarifying who and how to contact faculty and staff evolved from an expressed desire by all of our parent users. Likewise, we emphasized the importance of the human connection in communication and community building at MTS. To this end we have opened up the black top for parents to drop their K-2 children off for school and have asked our homeroom teachers and advisors to be in touch with families every five to six weeks for a brief check in.

A core tenet of the Ideo design process is that we always evolve our designs. For this reason, we will ask for your feedback on the effectiveness of our school and classroom to home communication later this fall.  That feedback will allow us to open even more effective windows into the joyous daily life at Mount Tamalpais School.