What if your school district had the resources to send a teacher or counselor to personally meet with the family of each student to discuss their academic progress? They'd sit down to review the data, focusing on key takeaways and helping families find additional, targeted resources — all in the family's home language, no less. While that's the dream, it's no secret educators are stretched like never before, which can put this aspirational level of high-touch service outside the realm of possibility.
Unless technology steps in to help. As educators work tirelessly to quantify and fill learning gaps caused by the pandemic, personalized video can play a key role in promoting equity in communication and advancing learning goals.
"Increasingly, people are turning to their mobile phones for information, and if we want to reach families who have been traditionally neglected by conventional information sources, we've got to do a better job of using mobile-friendly video," said Michael Fee, co-founder of Pearson’s Spotlight Education. Spotlight is a video tool that fosters communication and engagement between school educators and caregivers, without adding an extra layer of work to teachers’ already brimming plates.
Here's what schools need to know about using video to personalize communication to support learning goals.
The power of personalized video in family communication
While communicating with families and caregivers is a vital part of student success, the most recent Parent and Family Involvement in Education survey found that only 66% of respondents said they had received an email or note specifically about their K-12 student, and only 40% had received aphone call. What's striking is that video, an increasingly common form of communication, wasn't involved in the survey at all.
Video consumption is on the rise, with 68% of consumers in a recent survey saying the pandemic affected how much video content they watched online, and 96% saying it had increased. For schools, personalized video can be a compelling way to contextualize and personalize data, interpreting it so parents can better understand their child’s progress.
One of the most notable aspects of the Spotlight platform is that it translates videos into the student's home language to better involve caregivers. The need is great; according to the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 10% — or 5 million students nationwide — were English-language learners in the fall of 2018, and states including California and Texas had significantly higher percentages at 19.4% and 18.7%, respectively.
"While caregiver engagement is a fundamental piece of ensuring students' academic progress, we know that parents from different backgrounds access and understand traditional forms of information differently, which might hamper their ability to understand a score report," Fee said.
"Spotlight is flipping the script on this by providing information in their home language by a native-speaking voice actor so it's very approachable and friendly. We've realized it's incredibly powerful since many families are not used to connecting with someone in their home language."
The role of personalized video in enhancing the learning experience
Unlike a static report, a video summary provides contextualizing details to help identify learning gaps and offer tools and support. It delivers what Fee describes as the "what," "the so what" and the "now what."
A typical video after a state test might give a brief background on the goals of the test; explain the child's score in relation to other students in the state, district and/or school; show a sample problem; and offer a summary of how the student has progressed from the previous year (if that data is available). It concludes by summarizing the concepts where the student was particularly strong and offers suggestions for support that would help them achieve even greater success. The student's name is populated throughout the video.
While video reporting can boost understanding, it provides another key element that helps build bridges between schools and families: "Video lets us deliver information with a tone and sentiment you can't capture with the written word," Fee said. "So even if the parent receives information that might seem discouraging, we can help them understand why they should still feel confident and arm them with information and resources so they can address issues."
"That's because the focus is on the insights, he said. "It's not just, 'here's the information,' but instead, it's, 'here's what you should care about,' and then we give the families agency by showing them what they can do with that information to support the student."
Best practices for effective videos that underscore equity
Using Spotlight's platform allows schools to take a medium that's comfortable to most families and make it easier for teachers to disseminate. The service can mass-produce hundreds of thousands of unique videos in a day, each specifically targeted to an individual student based on their background and needs.
"Yes, teachers could sit down and record separate videos and send them to parents, but the time burden would be heavy to be familiar with all the data, and it wouldn't necessarily reach them in their home language," Fee said. "This technology supports teachers by doing the heavy lifting so they can focus on what they're really good at, which is putting that data to work in the classroom."
As Spotlight was developed, Fee sought parent input to ensure the videos delivered the necessary information in the right way. To make the videos most effective, he recommends districts avoid jargon that challenges those outside the educational community. For example, while "growth" is widely used in education, the term is largely meaningless to many parents.
He also suggests districts share only the most critical background information and then move on to individualized reporting so parents immediately see the relevance to them. That doesn't mean videos have to be short, however. But they should include personalization elements throughout, to retain caregivers' attention. "It turns out, when you're watching something about your kid, you'll watch all day long," Fee said, adding that 90% of parents who have received videos approved of the duration, which is typically five to seven minutes.
The videos are most engaging when multiple measures are used to convey the information, such as rich animation, charts and graphs, the native-spoken voice-over, and closed captioning.Providing videos to family members comes with a lot of responsibility, Fee cautioned. "We have to choose our language very carefully to ensure parents come away from these videos feeling encouraged, supported and confident, rather than fearful. We can do that uniquely with this technology."
To Fee, the use of video just makes sense. "We shouldn't expect parents to jump through hoops to find out how their kids are doing in school or how they did on a test. We should give them the data they need in a format that's engaging and understandable to them."