5 reasons we love Shutterfly for connecting parents to our classrooms!

“As a parent myself, I always wondered what goes on during my child’s day,” explained Fairmeadows Elementary 2nd grade teacher Amanda Oleson.    “With that in mind, I wanted to paint a better picture for the parents of my class.”   She’s now using a free website tool available from Shutterfly to provide her parents with a view into her classroom.  First grade teacher Jillian Robbins from Westridge Elementary is also doing the same, “Many parents have commented on how they enjoy being able to ‘see’ what is happening in the classroom, and it’s opening the lines of communication with parents.”

Why Shutterfly?

5 reasons we love Shutterfly for connecting parents to our classrooms!

#1:  It’s simple!

“In one single word, Shutterfly is….  SIMPLE,” said Oleson.   It’s easy because the system already provides the framework for the website, teachers just need to plug in their content.  There are even options to customize the site to tailor it to your specific needs.  Here are some examples…

Volunteer Tab:  Post information for what tasks and roles you need parent volunteers.

Class List:  Since you can make your shutterfly site “private” for parents only, you can post your class list with contact information.

Wish List:  Publish your classroom needs…   whether it’s for you or for students in need.

Student Blog:  Use it to post student writing!

Web Links:  Have a list of commonly used websites for students and parents?  Post them in your site for easy access.

Documents & Newsletters:   You can post all types of documents:  pdfs, Word, even PowerPoints.

 shutterfly classroom website example
A snapshot of Oleson’s classroom website built with Shutterfly, featuring links to the calendar, photos, and more.

#2. We love PHOTOS & VIDEOS!
Parent Tammy Wright exclaims, “Our favorite feature is the photo gallery!”  This is where Shutterfly excels, it’s easy to take photos of any classroom event and post them to a photo gallery in Shutterfly.   “I love the pictures and videos on the site which document classroom activities like when the student learned the continents through a song.  Being able to play these back at home helps me get involved and help spark great family conversations,” states parent Ken Morton.  Parent Deborah Lind said, “I’ve always wanted to be ‘bug on the wall’ in the classroom and with the photos and videos, this is the closest I’ve ever come!”  Parents are also finding that classroom photos are great conversation starters with their children, “My son loves to tell me about who is in the picture and what they are doing,” says parent Gina Feingold.

shutterfly classroom website example

 Organized photo galleries are one of the many strengths of Shutterfly

Besides your traditional photos of classroom celebrations and major events, here’s a few other ideas suggested by parents…

  1. Record a video of learning rhymes and songs.  If you’re using a song to learn or memorize facts or concepts – record a group of students practicing it.  This enables parents to see exactly what students are practicing and enables families to help out with practicing at home.
  2. Science experiments:  A quick video clip of a science experiment can draw lots conversation at the family dining table.
  3. Student work:  Parents expressed an interest in seeing student work examples, as they’ve found that it’s a great conversation starter and helps them gauge classroom expectations.
  4. Recess.  Really?  Yes!  Of course, no one is asking for daily recess photos… but the idea was suggested by several parents, as they found that a few random shots of recess will draw huge conversations from students, enabling them to work the conversation towards what’s going on in the classroom.

#3. Calendar and Email Notifications
Shutterfly’s calendar is not only easily to use, it also has notification options available for parents.  Oleson states, “I plug in homework dates, due dates, or reminders of events and Shutterfly sends my parents emails reminding them of these times.”    Shutterfly also has the ability to send weekly digest updates… a quick weekly update of things that are new on the classroom website.  In fact, Shutterfly even provides parents with the ability to submit their photos from classroom events.

shutterfly classroom website example

A snapshot of Robbin’s classroom website, showing the calendar, wish list items, and links to documents.

#4. Private vs Public
Shutterfly has two basic options for your classroom website:  private or public.   Both Robbins and Oleson are currently using a private site.   This restricts search engines from finding their student photos and projects, enabling a safer environment for posting photos.  At any time during the school year, parents can request an account from the teacher by simply emailing the classroom teacher.

#5. It’s FREE
You can’t beat the price!!  Although Shutterfly does have limited storage for videos, there is no cost for the standard, basic classroom site.

Considering Shutterfly’s strengths in providing a safe environment for posting photo galleries, it’s easy to see why parents are so excited about using photos to get a view of what’s happening in the classroom.  Parents agree that the use of photos certainly appears to be the key to sparking the conversations at home.   As Robbins has found, “it gives parents an idea of things they can prompt their children with,” giving parents a new angle towards answering the age old question of “What did you do in school today?”

Amanda Oleson
2nd grade teacher
Fairmeadows Elementaryolesona@wdmcs.org
Jillian Robbins
1st grade teacher
Westridge Elementary

6 thoughts on “5 reasons we love Shutterfly for connecting parents to our classrooms!

  1. Julia McGuire

    Yes to shutterfly sharesites. i use it for scouts because the images at the official website is very clunky for photo sharing. other parents prefer it over the official website as well.

  2. Mark Brown

    “As previously announced…”

    As a parent with 4 kids in the WDCS district, I’m more concerned than ever about the push to try and buy iPads for every school, every classroom. Reading through this “Shutterfly” review reads / looks so much more like a Sales Pitch than an actual peer review.

    I’m perturbed by the lack of clarity coming from the school board on why PTA groups are being asked to fund iPad purchases for schools when there are so few answers as to WHY we need these in the classrooms.

    What about all the PCs already sitting idly in classrooms throughout the district? Were those purchased 5-6 years prior under the same premise? That they would revolutionize teaching?

    So, Shutterfly takes photos of classroom activities. How does that improve child education? What’s wrong with just using a webcam to accomplish the same function without a huge investment in Apple IPad technology?

    1. “It’s Simple.” “… teachers just need to plug in their content”
    I personally am not a fan of social media sites. They tend to eat up an exorbitant amount of effort to maintain. Would teachers expect extra remuneration for extra effort to post this content?

    2. “We love PHOTOS & VIDEOS!” If we really want photos / videos of the classrooms, a simple webcam would be sufficient. I personally would rather have teachers teaching; not taking a break every 2-3 minutes to snap another photo. Further, with implementing such a nanny-cam application, we are that much closer to indoctrinating our children to accept a Big Brother state. While its all cute and games before puberty, afterwards, as our kids grow into adults, they may resent the constant attention… the lack of privacy. I’m sure kindergartners could care less, but even fifth and sixth graders would be distracted by such constant classroom monitoring. The school is one place where kids learn to grow and become self-sufficient. There is a clear difference between asking your child: “so what’s due tomorrow?” versus “I see you have a division math test tomorrow—you need to study.” The former requires the student to develop her/his organizational skills; whereas the latter does not.
    3. “Shutterfly’s calendar is not only easily to use, it also has notification options available for parents.” The West Des Moines Infinite Campus already includes such features / functions.
    4. “Public v. Private” – even a webcam for classrooms could be made secure via Infinite Campus.
    5. “It’s Free” – as long as you purchase iPad hardware first, and don’t use the advanced features.

    Parents, please ASK questions.

    I am not against new technology in the classroom. I am for technology & methods that improve our kids’ ability to learn and / or learn better. I am not for technology just so we can be more social. That is a waste of taxpayer money and childrens’ rights to a quality education. If there were applications to promote learning, that’d be one thing. However, something tells me most applications are not just limited to the iPad and could run on those PCs sitting idly in most schools in the district.

    When are we going to focus on improving child education in this district?

    1. Brian Abeling Post author

      Hi Mark… Thank you for your comments. You are ABSOLUTELY correct that parents should ask questions. It is very easy to get caught up into the latest and greatest gadgets- and we all must careful identify what is worthwhile and what is not.

      Regarding the usage of Shutterfly – it is in no way related to iPads, but I’ll go ahead and work through a few of the points for each subject…

      Why does it read like a sales pitch for Shutterfly? I accept responsibility for that, as I wrote the article based on conversations and feedback with other parents and the teachers. In a sense, it is a sales pitch to other classroom teachers – to let them know that this great resource is available for those that need it. Although it seems like photos of classrooms events by themselves are not directly related to instruction, what we’ve heard from parents is that they want information about what is going on in the classrooms, so they can provide better support for their children at home. The district does not have any requirements for teachers to have a classroom website or photo site (such as Shutterfly), however, it seems there are a significant number of classrooms that are running sites and finding that there is value.

      Why are we investing into Apple iPads? So far, the district has invested in 290 ipads. We have them spread around the district in various schools, grade levels, and content areas for testing in each of these areas. At this time, we are exploring with iPads to figure out what its best uses are and what grade/content areas its most beneficial.

      In fact, I’m concerned that you feel there’s a push to buy them for all schools, especially if you feel the push is from the School Board. {CORRECTION, I have re-read Mark’s post, and he is NOT implying this at all, but instead concerned that there isn’t guidance from the Board on fundraising related to this, my apologies} However, I am aware that several Parent Groups have established their own push to buy iPads. Schools are certainly welcome to buy them, but from the district perspective, we have an exploration going on right now – and the results are not yet available, so we haven’t determined what our long term goal is related to iPads.

      I wpuld certainly be open to and would appreciate the opportunity to meet in person, to hear more of your concerns. You are correct – our goal is find resources and methods that make a difference and we should all ASK the tough questions.

      Brian Abeling
      WDM Technology

  3. Mark Brown

    Hello Brian,

    Thank you for your prompt and detailed response.

    First, I must apologize because I misread your technology email, thinking that the links were how iPad technology and applications on iPad were being used in the district. Your email simply states “technology” in general, not specifically iPad.

    Second, I would be happy to meet in person to discuss these issues in detail. However, I also know there are other parents out there who(m) are concerned about the insistence that we role out iPads in our schools just because “XYZ ___ School already has them”. In the past 2, 3 PTA meetings I have attended it has become very clear a concerted effort is underway to fund the purchase of 20-30 iPads, because another school already had them, and our school is/was going to be left in the Dark Ages if we do/did not immediately purchase them!

    You’ve mentioned that the district already has 290 units of iPad. 10 ~ 20 units seems like a reasonable sample size to me. 290 seems like we’ve already invested heavily into the product; i.e., a decision has been made. Who made that decision, how much has this cost the district, how are these being used, etc., are all questions that come to mind.

    I am not trying to be adversarial to all you do, Brian. In fact, I did not know Shutterfly was your project. Certainly you are a benefit to the community, nor am I attempting to pick or attack your suggestions for improvements. I am concerned. Concerned that new technology be utilized in the best manner. Concerned that our tax dollars and PTA revenues be best put to use. Concerned that our teachers be as uninhibited as possible to focus on teaching. Concerned that ordinary parents do not have a viable path of critiquing what our schools invest. Concerned that all 95% of recent PTA discussion revolves around finances, with less than 1% geared towards improving our childrens’ education.

    If I saw this program or that technology would elevate our district’s kids to learn calculus by the 4th grade—awesome! Until then, I respectfully reserve the right remain skeptical.

    I look forward to speaking with you.

    Mark Brown

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