Back-to-school is right around the corner. Get ready with Actionaly!

With fall almost here, here’s our Family Engagement Checklist to help you prepare to partner with families from the starting line. 

👟 Getting Started

  • Do you need an intro or a refresher on what Actionaly can do for you? Check out our new website and welcome video!
  • Do you need advice or a deep dive into how Actionaly works? Check out our ever-growing library of articles in our Help Center.
  • Have you installed the app onto your phone or tablet? Put our superpowers in your pocket by downloading Actionaly on the App Store or Google Play?  
  • Are you ready to onboard new families? We have a new “Welcome Message” feature to do just that!

📣 Check Out New Features!

  • How could you use our new one-to-one Chat feature with parents or students? 
  • Did you know you can now call family members with Actionaly? We partner with Dolby.io for high-quality voice or video calls.
  • Will you send regular family newsletters this year? Actionaly has a new way to send beautiful electronic newsletters with multiple images and formatting options. 
  • Did you know you can now invite students and guardians to sign up for meetings with you on Actionaly? This spring we added an Appointment Creator feature to support teachers who were hosting virtual office hours. Individual meetings are a great way to get to know individual students and their families at the start of the school year! 

We’re doing everything we can to help our community of educators establish positive and productive relationships with families. If you have any questions or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you at support@actionaly.com

Wishing you a smooth start to the school year! 

Announcing Voice and Video Calling!

Educators know nothing replaces the warmth and personal touch of a call home. Email threads can only go so far, especially for complex or sensitive discussions. That’s why Actionaly is thrilled to announce our newest 1-1 engagement feature, voice and video calling!  

Without the option of in-person meetings, phone calls are the only way to communicate with families in real time about their student’s academic or social-emotional progress. Family outreach is ideally an invitation to share and collaborate, with both sides offering insights. Tone and the opportunity to address concerns right away make calls essential, and yet educators have so few options that keep their personal phone numbers private. With Actionaly, only school staff can initiate calls. Although parents will not be able to call staff, parents can send chat messages to request and schedule calls.  

Actionaly uses Dolby.io to provide the highest quality audio and video. In the class (pod) address book, educators can access a call button next to each parent or guardian name. When staff initiate a call, the easy-to-use calling interface opens automatically from the mobile app or web app.  Actionaly will ring the mobile device, showing the name of the caller.  If parents haven’t installed Actionaly, they receive a text message and email with a link to the call. The default mode is voice only. Video can be turned on, as needed. 

Need to call multiple guardians at once? How about inviting another teacher, counselor, translator or administrator to the call? It couldn’t be easier. Users can add multiple callers once they initiate a call. 

We suggest using our chat message feature to invite parents to confirm a time for a call.  

From check-ins to virtual parent teacher conferences to virtual home visits, we’re excited for all the possibilities for meaningful partnership and engagement this new feature opens up! 

Video and voice calling is an Actionaly Premium feature that must be enabled at the school or district level. Please reach out if you like to hear more! 

Moving from Parent Involvement to Family Engagement in COVID-19 “New Normal”

Parent engagement has long been known as a key pillar of student success. Research shows that students make greater academic progress when educators meaningfully engage with parents. With the impact of COVID-19 on schooling, fostering robust partnerships could not be more critical. 

Our “new normal” takes parent engagement to a new level and asks us to reconsider traditional roles and forms of communication.  

Pre-pandemic, schools typically expected a degree of parental involvement, including signing progress reports, attending a parent teacher conference or giving consent for field trips. Almost all schools offered additional ways for family members to engage, from fundraising to volunteering to school-wide events. 

In mid-March, many parents went from supporting homework to supporting the entire curriculum, requiring frequent, if not daily, check-ins with educators. Parents reported they felt like teachers themselves, often struggling to balance their own jobs on top of some version of home schooling. With these new responsibilities, families needed a steadier stream of information from schools and teachers. 

For educators, the change was just as overwhelming, if not more so. Their jobs changed overnight, delivering instruction remotely, with new tools and norms to learn. Without physical classrooms, many teachers lost the ability to connect 1-on-1 with their students and found themselves relying on the support of parents or caregivers more than ever before. We saw educators tag teaming with parents to engage students, redefining family engagement as truly involving the whole family! 

Of course, these shifts had huge implications for the Actionaly team, and we have fast tracked new ways to support family engagement. 

To start with, educators are now able to reach out to students directly via Actionaly, while also making these exchanges visible to parents. Teachers can clearly see if their students (or parents) opened that classroom announcement or signed-up for teacher office hours. 

We also added 1-1 engagement capabilities. We finalized Actionaly’s new chat feature so that teachers can reach out to families, parents and students alike. Coming this summer is voice-calling to further personalize engagement. 

And while there may not be many field trips in the fall, we’ve added new workflows to support activities such as device loan authorizations, teacher-office hours, video call event coordination; a whole new set of Actionable Messages to drive and measure family engagement. 

As with any large-scale change, this “new normal” will continue to evolve over months. New paradigms will emerge, and behaviors will adjust as the steep learning curve levels off and best practices become more established. It will be the same for Actionaly. We are committed to listening to our community of educators and families and finding the most meaningful ways to support what matters most, relationships. 

Actionaly Evolves to Provide Personal Engagement with the Launch of 1-1 Chat

Our team has always taken its cues from the educators and administrators we serve. Even as our company grows, we pride ourselves on staying highly responsive to the needs of our schools. As we collected feedback and suggestions from our community, the most-requested feature was 1-1 chat.

Classroom teachers, like Stephanie Guerra at Manchester GATE Elementary, wanted to send messages to individual parents using the same simple interface used to send class wide announcements and requests. We also learned more about how personalized outreach and two-way communication helps strengthen relationships between family members and committed educators like Stephanie. Research shows that strong home-school connections lead to improved outcomes for students. What could be more important? 

The Actionaly team is pleased to announce our 1-1 chat launch for the 2020-2021 school year. When chat is enabled at the district level, teachers have access to chat features and can initiate a chat message by clicking the users icon on the top right corner of their class pod.  

We thought about district-level needs as well, so all conversations can be viewed by district administrators from within the administrator dashboard.  

Here’s a visual preview of how a teacher initiates a chat message:

From the Pods menu, click the Users icon.
Clicking the Chat icon opens up a chat screen for that recipient. 
Type in your message and hit the paper airplane “send” button.
To view your recent conversations, open up the Actionaly main menu from your Pods tab in the upper left corner. Click “Messages” to view your entire conversation history with any family member. 

It’s that simple!

As we adapted our product for remote learning, many of our communication features can now be used with students directly. Not only will educators be able to send chat messages to individual parents, they will also be able to send messages to students, perfect for communicating with students learning at home.  

Here at Actionaly, we’re thrilled to offer even more ways to help educators connect with their students’ families. We hope that you give the chat feature a try soon. Please let us know what you think!  

A Powerful Partnership for Family Engagement

Alameda, CA, June 15, 2020 – The Global Grid for Learning (GG4L) and Actionaly jointly announced their strategic partnership to integrate the GG4L Single Sign-On (SSO) platform with Actionaly’s native mobile app, bringing together Actionaly’s family engagement platform and GG4L’s School Passport™ platform for K-12 schools. 

Actionaly has always made its mission to empower educators to engage all families, enabling digital parent teacher conference signups, volunteering, field trip digital signatures, online payments, donations, registrations and much more.  

In a COVID-impacted world, family engagement is even more critical to student success. Parents are being asked to play a more active role to support their children during remote learning. 

“Thanks to our partnership with GG4L, Actionaly has tackled one barrier to parent engagement: access,” said Gauthier Philippart, Founder and CEO of Actionaly. “Integrating GG4L School Passport with Actionaly ensures that parents can log in through a single sign-on platform and have access to all the products that the school district subscribes to via mobile access.” 

“We were able to work with the Actionaly team, and leverage their technology, to make sure that all parents, students and teachers were able to access all their services within the GG4L catalog via a mobile app,” said Robert Iskander, CEO and founder of GG4L. “Additionally, districts now benefit from Actionaly’s essential family engagement services.” 

Actionaly now offers additional support for blended learning environments. If schools shift to a model where students learn in the classroom only a few days a week, teachers can still reach out to their students from afar. Teachers can send messages to students, and parents, directly from their phone or computer, covering needs such as inviting students to online office hours, scheduling online events or reaching parents via chat and sending announcements. 

As districts evolve their practices to align with their ‘new normal,’ technology will have to support that evolution. That is where Actionaly’s strength lies. Regardless of the need, Actionaly facilitates engagement through ‘Actionable Messaging’ combined with an ability to reach all family members. 

Evolving… from BluPods to Actionaly

BluPods started with two parents looking for a better way to keep up with their children’s school life. Urgent information was lost in the shuffle of crumpled flyers, outdated web portals, countless email threads and rarely used apps. Not only was this needlessly chaotic, but valuable opportunities to contribute to our children’s educational experience slipped through the cracks.

Since launching in 2016, our goal has been to give back precious time to busy educators and parents. We focused on simplifying all “need-to-do” communication by building a platform for seamless messaging between schools and groups of families (“pods”). We started to build digital forms for every possible task required of families: from permission slips to registration to parent-teacher conference sign ups.

That grew into what we call “actionable messaging”, an innovative communication format where educators can engage parents and get responses in just a few clicks.

Along that journey, we partnered with experts from large urban districts to small suburban schools and evolved to meet their diverse needs. We integrated our product with existing systems, included payments, translation, reports and analytics; and tailored these new features for different school communities since not all schools are the same – and neither are families. By adapting to household structure, we boosted response rates for even the hardest-to-reach families.

We now apply the same level of advanced technology that companies use to stay close to their customers and leverage it to put families at the center of school outreach efforts. We’ve grown from a great group messaging app to the first-ever Family Engagement platform, the equivalent of a CRM for schools in a business context.

With this new framework in mind, we interviewed core users to help shape and refine our long-term vision. From these conversations and from the latest education research, we know that when parents are invited to partner in their child’s education, students benefit academically and socially. Our vision for family engagement aims to create a hive of information and interaction that streamlines outreach to all the essential, incredibly busy people in our children’s lives.

Actionable messaging is our superpower. It drives participation, captures information and insights that can then be leveraged to strengthen ongoing family engagement.

We are evolving from BluPods to Actionaly, an entire platform designed for taking action, freeing educators and parents to spend time on what matters most, relationships.