How to Engage All Families (Using Their Phones!)

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Sometimes it’s the most basic of technologies that is the most effective. So it is with the services of the Family Engagement Lab, whose mission statement is, “to catalyze equitable family engagement and student learning by bridging classroom curriculum and at-home learning. As a national nonprofit, our work builds partnerships between teachers and historically underserved families by facilitating ongoing communication and collaboration about learning.”

Their signature tool, FASTalk, shares at-home learning activities via text messages in each family’s home language. Current partnerships include districts such as Oakland Unified School District and collaborations with the Louisiana Department of Education. In this conversation, Vidya covers the gamut—discussing the evolution in education, especially in the context of social-emotional learning, parent-teacher communication, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. She emphasizes the importance of family engagement in learning and how technology, specifically text messaging, can be a powerful tool for improving communication between teachers and parents.

Vidya introduces their program called “Fast Talk,” which utilizes prescriptive text messages to positively engage parents in supporting their children’s learning. The conversation delves into the dynamics of school-to-home communication, focusing on the need for positive interactions and the potential of technology to strengthen relationships between teachers, students, and families.


  • Evolution in Education: The interview explores the changes in education, particularly in the areas of social-emotional learning, parent-teacher communication, and diversity, equity, and inclusion, influenced by the pandemic and broader cultural shifts.
  • Focus on Family Engagement: Vidya highlights the increasing focus on family engagement in education, citing the importance of collaborating and partnering with families to support students’ learning.
  • Role of Technology: The conversation emphasizes the role of technology, specifically text messaging, in enhancing communication between schools and families. The use of technology is seen as a tool to bridge gaps and make communication more accessible.
  • Positive School-to-Home Communication: Vidya stresses the significance of maintaining positive interactions in school-to-home communication, aiming to build a bank of positive interactions to address challenges effectively.
  • District-Level Implementation: The technology and services discussed are primarily implemented at the district level, with the goal of making family engagement tools more accessible and customizable for teachers.
  • Future Vision: Vidya expresses excitement about the potential for technology to further connect students, teachers, and families. The vision involves creating a more holistic understanding of students, and incorporating their cultural backgrounds and experiences into the learning process for a richer educational experience.
Kevin Hogan
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