Schools smarten up on parent contact

Parents stay app-to-date

ALISA YONG
Last updated 05:00 27/06/2014
School smartphone app
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ
MOBILE EDUCATION: Kelburn Normal School principal Andrew McFarlane and pupil Tatyana Kooznetzoff check out the school's new smartphone app.

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Reporting absences and checking events is getting easier for parents as Wellington schools embrace smartphone technology.

Kelburn Normal School is one of a growing number of Wellington schools adapting to changing communication by using a customised smartphone app.

The school app allows parents to notify absences online, receive instant alerts and check the school calendar for upcoming events.

It also allows users to check school notices and contact details.

Principal Andrew McFarlane says the app helps parents stay up-to-date.

"Its key role is communication. It's another string in our bow that enables our parents to be better informed about what's happening at school.

"We thought it was a really good way to connect with our community, seeing that the majority of our parents actually have smartphones."

Although Kelburn Normal has only about 300 pupils, the app was downloaded 90 times within 48 hours of going live.

While there have been a few minor problems, staff at the school have largely received positive feedback from parents, McFarlane says.

"It hasn't worked perfectly, as with any piece of technology, but we are learning as we go."

The cost of the app is comparable to publishing a contact directory, which the school had done in previous years, he says.

"This is just a natural next step to enhancing that. It used to cost us a lot of money, whereas this is a more cost-effective option for us, plus it gives us more capability than that ever did. We're getting bigger bang for buck."

The school aims to be as paperless as possible and moving more information online fits with that goal, McFarlane says.

Although it can be downloaded from Google Play or the iTunes store for free by anyone, pupils and parents are provided with a password that allows them to access or provide personal information.

A possible future refinement to the app might be to get parents to subscribe to specific age or interest groups, so they would only receive information directly relevant to them, McFarlane says.

Joshua Woodham, a director of Snapp Mobile, the company that developed the app, says it has provided the school app to six schools in the Wellington region and 40 schools nationwide.

"We saw huge potential and went ahead and researched the communication technologies that New Zealand schools are currently using."

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There is also interest from overseas, he says.

"We have recently launched in the UK and have a couple of apps under development for UK schools. We have also fielded inquiries from Australia and the United Arab Emirates."

- The Dominion Post

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