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DIY smartphone app is a class act

ROSE CAWLEY
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2013
Billy Merchant and pupils
Rose Cawley

EASY APP: Deputy principal Billy Merchant developed an app for Pakuranga College and it has helped year 9 students Jade Fairweather, 13, left, and Jessica Lin, 13, settle in at the school.

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CLOSE UP: The app has all the information a parent or student could want even the school magazine, Pakage, is on the app.

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A college is harnessing digital technology to bridge the gap between home and school.

Pakuranga College deputy principal Billy Merchant developed an app for androids and iPhones.

"It has all our information streams in one convenient place - your pocket, you don't have to find the webpage and you don't have to click on all the different links."

He says as students get older and progress through their schooling parents become more removed from what is going on in the classroom.

"Primary schools have these very strong bonds with their parent community but with secondary schools unfortunately that bond drifts.

"Lots of parents are unaware of how much actually does go on at the school, they have teenagers who just grunt at them when they come home."

He says the app was a great solution to conveniently connect parents and the school but there had been barriers to making it a reality.

"Initially it was one of those things where we knew it would be useful but companies were charging thousands of dollars for apps to be created."

But thinking there must be a cheaper way Mr Merchant delved into the web itself to find a solution.

And he found he could do it himself.

As technology progresses it becomes easier for everyday users to take the reins and craft their own content, he says.

"Back in the day when web pages were first launched you had to spend thousands of dollars creating them and then all of sudden these template websites started turning up," he says.

"No longer did you have to know how to programme, you just follow the template or even the YouTube clip with some 11-year-old explaining it," Mr Merchant says.

He says it is the same with apps and the school intends to continue taking up technology in this Kiwi DIY way.

Mr Merchant has also created an app specifically for his year 13 class.

"The app points them to all the assessments that we will be doing for the year, it shows them their weekly timetable of when they need to bring certain types of gear, they can feed back to me about anything they haven't understood."

He says the school app has been downloaded 639 times and that is "growing with every day".

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- Eastern Courier

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