Digital communication is a key component to keeping students and teachers informed about classroom activities and important information.  Making information easily accessible is paramount to reaching as many parents and families as possible.  With a myriad of applications and programs meant to simplify the communication process, it is difficult to decide which are best and will stand the test of time.  There is nothing more frustrating to a parent than to have to learn a new communication app every semester and a different app for every teacher.  Here are three of the most successful digital communication tools teachers should consider for streamlining their parent communication efforts:

Tool Name:  Remind
Cost: FREE Digital Communication Tool
Key Features:  Remind is a two-way, text-based messaging program used on mobile devices and desktop computers.  After a very quick set-up, teachers send class announcements and collaborate with colleagues to communicate with specific groups of students and parents.  Teacher’s draft scheduled announcements or remind students in the moment.  Remind shares photos, important class documents, information about upcoming quizzes and tests, field trip and permission slip reminders, and request special supplies or classroom support through a secure network and monitor who is receiving and reading class messages for maximized communication.  Teachers are accessible but have the choice to post “office hours”.  This minimizes unnecessary late night and weekend interruptions and supports teacher privacy.  In addition to group messaging, Remind supports communication with specific parents and student via Chat. Furthermore, multi-language translation is available at the push of a button, allowing teachers to communicate more effectively with ELL populations.   
Disadvantages: Parents and students have varying access to digital devices.  For students with personal devices, Remind becomes a replacement for solid organizational and planning skills.  When students do not own a cell-phone, the parent must relay every message, minimizing opportunities for student responsibility.  Consequently, there is no class calendar feature to support student planning.  Some teachers may rely too heavily on last minute notifications, frustrating parents who need to plan and orchestrate multiple schedules.  Additionally, users of Remind are not able to chat privately with one another, only the teacher initiates the conversation.     
Using this Tool:  This tool is best used for whole class reminders about upcoming dates and activities, and long-term class projects.  Remind is also effective when important documents need signatures.  Also consider using Remind for announcing school holidays, half days, and parent-teacher conferences.   

Tool Name:  Bloomz
Tool URL:
Cost: FREE Digital Communication Tool
Key Features:  Bloomz in an all-inclusive application combining text messaging, email, scheduling capabilities, forum for questions, and document storage.  Classroom management begins with a personalized social media style page where teachers post announcements, class photos, and videos.  Teachers can see who is receiving and reading class messages for maximized communication.    A behavior management program within Bloomz allows the teacher to record student behavior and assign awards for positive behavior reinforcement.  Sign-up options make scheduling parent-teacher conferences and class parties/special events streamlined.  In Bloomz, students document their work and create a sharable portfolio throughout the school year.  This application allows parents to communicate with each other without sharing phone numbers.  In an age where school directories are guarded for privacy, the Bloomz program promotes a sense of community by connecting parents within a classroom.  Multi-language translation is available at the push of a button, allowing teachers to communicate more effectively with ELL populations.  
Disadvantages:  Setting up a Bloomz account can take upwards of 20 minutes or more depending on how much information and personalization goes into the creation of the class page and directory.  Giving parents the opportunity to comment and interact on the classroom page may ignite unnecessary drama.  The teacher must moderate all comments to ensure that the discussion stays focused on teaching and learning. 
Using this Tool:  This tool is best used to maintain positive communication with parents.  Use this tool to update families about classroom activities and achievements, schedule whole class reminders about upcoming dates and activities, and keep on task with long-term class projects.  Bloomz is also effective when the teacher must ask for volunteers in the classroom and donations.  This tool can minimize the number of places a parent needs to check-in for reminders, behavior management, grades, and class activities; therefore, Bloomz should be used when a teacher wishes to streamline their communication resources.

Tool Name:  Edublogs
Tool URL:
Cost: Free, up to 1 GB.  Pro version available for $7.95 per month or $39.95 per year.
Key Features:  A platform for writing and collaborating, Edublogs are individual and classwide forums for collaborating and continuing class based discussions.  The interface is customizable, offering a variety of colors, templates, menus, and widgets, as well as comment moderation by the designated administrator.  Teachers have the option to lock specific assignments following a due date.  Teachers and students use Edublogs to share current events, thoughts, opinions, and ideas with each other, parents, and administration.  Publishing work to a public forum gives students valuable online experience.  Students learn editing and formatting skills, navigation of customizable menus and techniques for working with hyperlinks.   A variety of privacy options enable teachers to incorporate lessons about digital citizenship.    
Disadvantages:  There are certain media limitations with the free account.  A limited amount of storage space means students will likely not be able to share large videos and audio recordings, limiting multi-media capabilities.  There are distracting advertising links in the free version. 
Using this Tool:  Teachers should use this tool to keep students connected to course materials, news, and important links, from school, home, or while traveling.  Blog posts facilitate group discussions and support collaborative assignments.  Class blogs also support student ownership of class curriculum, increasing student engagement.  Edublogs keep parents well informed with frequent updates and in-depth writing from a variety of sources; not all classroom news needs to come directly from the teacher.  Lastly, Edublogs are a valuable forum on which to survey students, ask for feedback, and show interest and empathy in student experiences.   

Do you have a favorite tool for digital communication?  What helps you relay information and form relationships with your students and their families?

Bloomz (2017).  One app for all your parent communication.  Retrieved from
Edublogs (2017).  Easy blogging for education.  Retrieved from
Halloran, J. (2016). 7 effective parent teacher communication tips [Digital image].  Retrieved from

Remind (2017).  School communication shouldn’t be so hard. Retrieved from

My heart was a lump in my throat for these families before I even set foot in Barnes Field House. When I had planned to photograph these soldiers arriving home from Afghanistan they were supposed to get in right around dinner time. Text message after text message alerted me to their later arrival times. Finally I set my alarm for 2:30am and headed to bed figuring they would arrive later than sooner. I've been in the shoes of these husbands and wives, waiting on eggshells for the plane to land, waiting and fidgeting as we received word that they were finally boarding the buses at the airfield. It is nearly impossible to wrangle the babies and toddlers, half asleep in their footie jammies, barely understanding the enormity of "daddy coming home"!
And so it was, around 3:15 in the morning that they finally filed into the field house, exhausted from their travels, excited to kiss their spouse, hug their parents or children, meet their newborn for the first time. It was a privilege to wander the floor and capture a few of these moments. I wish I could have gotten an image for every single, totally deserving, family there. I've posted some of my favorites here in this blog, to see the rest and save them for your own scrapbook, please click on the link HERE to access a Shutterfly album of your redeployment. May God bless you and keep you safe during this time of readjustment and reintegration, and heartfelt thanks for your service to this awesome country!

I cried when I saw this picture download off the camera. It's one of those images that I didn't see completely when I shot it.
He turns one year old today. Time has never flown by so quickly. He has surprised us so many times. He himself is a surprise. His quick and easy arrival was a big surprise to me. His easy going nature, relaxed demeanor, patient presence, has all been a delightful surprise. Everyone remarks at how even keeled this little guy is. In fact, the first year has been so mellow in his presence that lately, during play dates, should he express an opinion or distaste he is met by gasps and laughter from the mothers who know him and didn't think him capable of a complaint.
This baby is so funny. He is so very charming and coy, flirtatious and giggly. His smile is easy and his tears seldom seen. He's becoming extremely independent. He's fearless. Which of course makes me terrified. Our dining room, leading to the staircase, has become a kind of lock system, similar to those that allow boats to move up and down canals. Multiple gates temporarily stall his progress but it will only be a matter of time, minutes probably, before these baby gates become mere hurdles for this child.
I thank God that I am a photographer. Every tiny detail that makes this tiny person unique is bound to change dramatically from month to month over the coming year and sometimes it seems as though I cannot record enough detail and preserve it for all time. Someday he will talk back. Someday he will storm out of the house and slam the door. Someday he will have his heart broken by a girl. Someday he will call home from college and ask for a batch of my cookies, I hope. Someday he may become a father himself... And on those days I will want to reflect back to these easy going times, and the simplest of images.....
Happy Birthday Darling Boy!

I don't think she knows this, but my friend Pauline was the first person to know that I was pregnant with my third son. We were newly moved to Fort Huachuca in the summer of 2009 when Pauline called me and introduced herself. We met in person for the first time at Buena Highschool Senior Registration Day. It was on this day I was carrying around the surprising and somewhat overwhelming news that I was pregnant, again, rather unexpectedly, and I confessed this fact to Pauline. I think it's rather common to confess big news to a stranger- after all, you get to release something aching to come out, and practice the words before telling your family, and you probably won't see this person much anyway. Fortunately for Pauline and I, the "not seeing more of each other just hasn't been the case". One year ago at 9:22pm I was in the middle of a blissful, epidural induced, nap. They would eventually wake me up and ask "Mrs. Kuniyuki, are you ready to meet your baby?" And the following day a dear friend would visit me in the hospital to meet my new little man. Over the course of 2010 this friend, Pauline, and I would share countless stories, insights, creative thoughts, realizations that we are two people of very similar tastes, opinions, and interests. Pauline shares many special gifts with our family. The gift of her musical voice and strumming fingers rang out clear on Christmas Eve as we lit luminaries on our historic block. The gift of her friendship, her inviting home, filled with delicious smells and always a fresh cup of coffee. The gift of her love with generous hugs and silly remarks for my children who always giggle and smirk and linger in hopes of another tickle. The list is endless. Today there was an extra special gift. Today my friend produced a treasured family souvenir, a kimono from her days living in Okinawa, a baby kimono just the right size for my birthday boy! Only this friend, a fellow photographer and creative mind, could see the potential images combining my sweet little guy and this precious vivid piece of cloth. Thank you so very much for sharing your many treasures with us, we love you so very much!

If it weren't for all of the "Beware Of Rattle Snake" signs, I'd be trying to figure out how to live at Empire Ranch! I saw the historical landmark sign by the road a few weeks back and knew that when my parents were here visiting we would have to go back and explore Empire Ranch. It's located about ten miles outside of Sonoita, AZ, to the north, on route 83 which leads to Tucson through some of the most beautiful rolling hills one could hope to drive through. The ranch has an incredible history that is detailed on the walls of the still standing ranch house. There are nature paths and restrooms, essential for traveling with little ones, and is well worth the drive if you bring a picnic lunch and stay a bit. I already have Red River, starring John Wayne, in my NetFlix cue, as it was filmed at Empire Ranch and I'm dying to know what this beautiful property looked like in it's hay day. Check it out if you're local, just watch out for those rattlers!

(If the images in this post appear blurry, click on them individually for a clearer preview.)
I'm always really excited when my client is a tiny person. I love tiny people. Sometimes I think I should only photograph tiny people. They are challenging, adorable, always changing, and such a joy to work with. When this gorgeous little man arrived today for his 7 month old portraits I was immediately smitten with his beautiful baby blue eyes and eyelashes that super models would kill for. Seriously, his lashes were almost 3/4 of an inch long! We sat down to chat for a moment on the floor before starting and he relaxed right into my lap, what a doll! I can't wait to present this collection of images to his parents; I don't know this baby well but I know that I captured some of his most treasured "looks" today. Thank you for sharing your precious little one with me today! Enjoy your sneak peek!