As a school teacher or administrator, chances are you’ve experienced undelivered notes and forgetful students which led to confused and uninformed parents. There is clearly a gap between teacher and parent communication. A gap that, if filled, could lead to better informed parents who are more engaged in their students’ education, while also providing flexibility in schedule changes, as well as peace of mind in case of emergencies. Lisa Williams, President of Media Authority Marketing, believes mobile apps are the answer to this communication gap.
“A mobile app increases engagement, communication, and participation amongst all that have access to it because parents, students, and faculty are all able to receive information right on their mobile devices and receive unlimited push notifications quickly and easily that can be sent as often as the school likes. Because of this, everyone stays informed,” Williams explains.
Additionally, the statistics seem to indicate the time is right for taking advantage of mobile technology in schools. According to a 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center, 58% of American adults have smart phones, a number that will only continue to rise. Moreover, that percentage jumps to 81% in households with a total income over $75,000.
One of the key components of mobile apps for schools is the speed of communication. “Push notifications” can be sent easily from an app that pop up on your phone’s screen instantaneously, just like a text message. Says Williams, “By having an app, a school can always stay connected at the push of a button with parents, students, and faculty by sending a push message which has a 97% open rate within five minutes.” Ultimately, Williams says, the biggest win is that “a mobile app aids in the constant and ongoing communication necessary for school officials to get important information directly to parents in real time.”
The ways in which a mobile app could improve communication between schools and parents are endless. From something as fun as Silly Hat Day at school to a parent’s worst case scenario of a school emergency closure or lock down, a mobile app can deliver that information quicker and more efficiently than any other form of communication. With the push of a button, a school could schedule a notification to go out to all parents at 8pm reminding them to pack lunch for their first grader’s field trip tomorrow. An app can also offer great benefits for high schools.
Jonathan Burke, Head Counselor at Palisades High School in Grand Junction, Colorado, explained one of the greatest benefits a mobile app had at his school was the increase in participation and attendance at college planning events and meeting college planning deadlines. The development of the app was partially paid for by a Colorado grant that was designed to increase the amount of students headed off to college. Burke explains that having a mobile app allowed them to send reminder messages to students and parents about college planning requirements. “One of the big problems we had before having the app was with communicating with the students as they were missing deadlines for college applications, scholarships, and financial aid. Not getting their financial aid was huge, so with the app, and with push notifications, we were able to bug them into doing it.” Better yet, he said, “Parents receive push message as well…so when the kid got home that night, mom and dad said you better sign up. Maybe it wasn’t a priority for the kid, but it was for the parents.”
Communication is not just a one-way street on mobile apps either. Parents can fill out an absentee note right from the mobile app or setup parent-teacher meetings. Mobile apps eliminate the need for students to be the messenger and allow for direct parent to teacher interaction. In addition to the advanced communication abilities, a school’s mobile app will have all the necessary information already found on their website. Except with a mobile app, this information is walking around with parents, students, and faculty everyday right on their mobile devices.
For many schools, getting a mobile app may sound like a luxury they can’t afford, but as Williams counters, “You would be surprised how affordable a mobile app is.” In fact, she says, “A mobile app can actually be a revenue stream for a school. A school can contact the local businesses that advertise with them currently for their sports teams, yearbook etc., and they can sell them a greater opportunity to be listed on the mobile app and get exposure to the parents, faculty, students, and community members that download the app. And we help with obtaining sponsors, so the app can virtually pay for itself.”
Simon Duffy, Principal at Holy Spirit Primary Catholic School in Darwin, Australia, agrees. Duffy, who has championed the adoption of mobile apps in three different primary schools adds, “I would say having a school mobile app is a very cost effective, a well-worth while endeavor to do. It lifts the profile of the school and helps bring the school into the 21st century.”
Williams and Media Authority Marketing are working hard to make local partnerships easier for all parties. “We are a PR and online marketing firm that has the resources to offer great exposure to the school and the local businesses that partner with us to get apps in schools, which is a benefit other mobile app companies can’t provide.”
She adds, “This publicity will make schools and businesses stand out and set them apart in the community. So really, they are receiving not only a mobile app, but a publicity campaign as well. The principal will be interviewed, and an article and press releases will be published online. The article about the school will be syndicated and picked up by local affiliate media outlets for ABC CBS, NBC and many others. With this extensive media exposure, it will create a greater interest for prospective families in that school.”
Mobile apps have the power to completely revolutionize the way schools and teachers communicate, and ultimately educate their students and children. Communication can be direct and instant, providing reminders and delivering urgent messages. Schools do not have to pay for the app themselves. Cost to the school can be eliminated by involving local businesses to sponsor the app or purchase ad space.