I’m starting a new tradition–testing and working with a new technology tool every Tuesday. This will give me the opportunity to stay abreast of current trends in educational technology, helping me to be more selective with tools I decide to use in my online teaching. And, of course, this will inform my readers of the ways they might use these technologies.
This week, I’ve decided to explore MailChimp. My friend and co-host of the Cool Teacher Show, Dr. Chris Haskell, has been preaching the merits of MailChimp for years. He recommended this tool for teachers, so they could easily stay connected with parents through a sophisticated emailing tool that simplifies the creation and sending of newsletters.
However, I remained unconvinced–after all, don’t we already have powerful email tools? What would MailChimp offer that traditional email clients don’t? But, after seeing how MailChimp can create an email campaign (think class or school newsletters) along with detailed reports, my opinions quickly changed.
What is MailChimp?
First of all, MailChimp is an email service provider (ESP) that offers a free plan (called “Forever Free”) that would meet the needs of most teachers. This plan allows the sending of 12,000 total emails per month up to 2,000 subscribers. (MailChimp calls your email recipients “subscribers,” and your mailings “campaigns.”) According to their website, this means you could send six times to 2,000 subscribers or 10 times to 1,200 subscribers at a time. I hope you are not teaching any more students than this during the academic year.
MailChimp offers quick and easy ways to prepare professional “campaigns,” which could be a teacher’s weekly newsletter, for instance, providing links to students’ work, updates on important dates, student-contributed stories, and anything else you want to share with parents. You can quickly import parents’ email addresses into a list by copying and pasting from a spreadsheet. MailChimp also includes an online form you can create to embed on your website, allowing viewers to subscribe to any number of lists you create.
Reports: Find Out What Your Readers Want
But the real benefits of MailChimp appear after your email campaign. You can view various reports on how your readers interacted with your content. You can view how many subscribers engaged with your campaigns on your MailChimp dashboard. By clicking on the Reports section, you can access even more information and download, share, or print specific reports. You can see how many parents looked at your message, which links they clicked, and their geolocation. This will allow you to prepare more meaningful newsletters, with content that parents want. Also, you can direct specific content to specific people.
Too Much Work?
Ok, I think by now you have figured out that MailChimp can simplify the creation and sending of parent updates, along with seeing just how important these updates were to these parents, but you still might be like I was–unconvinced this was worth the effort. However, if you want to be able to really communicate with your parents on a level that is more personal and directed to their needs, MailChimp might be your answer. Through building and fostering relationships via email “campaigns,” you might actually save time by reducing the number of individual email responses to parents, returning phone calls, and informing parents of the current status of student work and schedules. A little bit of planning every week or every month through an email newsletter might prove to be a worthwhile, efficient endeavor.
Have Students Help
Better yet, have students help write the newsletter. You might be a Language Arts teacher who wants to incorporate different genres of writing in your course. Have students learn how to write newsletter articles and how to construct a newsletter. Have them share their writing in this newsletter and other school/community updates. Think of this as a collaborative effort across the classroom (or school), with students reviewing reports and adapting content and design to meet the needs of the readers. Maybe a marketing class would also want to participate in a study of MailChimp results. Once you start adapting technology to meet your needs, you directly experience its potential and power.