One of my favourite things with working for SkoolBag is the chance to conduct independent research. My target: any fellow “in the trenches” parent who also uses a school app, of any kind.
Actually, you know what? That sounds like I’m conducting creepy, out-of-hours subliminal advertising. Truth is I don’t even instigate these chats. A typical conversation opener at any children’s party is always a predictable two-step dance of: “which of these sugar-injected monsters are you responsible for?” followed by “so what do you do?”
Sometimes there’s a rhetorical third question. “I’m asking if you’re gainfully employed because you do realise you’ll be paying for that ceiling fan your son’s hanging off… yeah?”
Surveying what’s out there
Semi-isolated incidents of property damage aside, whenever I name-drop ‘SkoolBag’ as my vocation, it’ll trigger a 20 minute verbal bombardment from a perfect stranger. Folks are more than happy to give a passionate, unfiltered review of their school parent app of choice. Quite honestly, I love hearing about it, good or bad.
It sure beats the alternative: that excruciating social prison of small-talk with somebody you share no other interests with. Plus I get to hear disgruntled parents vent about what their school isn’t doing well (in a broad sense). There always seems to be something. It’s very cathartic…
So I’ve taken the pleasure of summarising parents’ most common loves and hates when it comes to school apps.
Love: It makes schools more open
When the topic of a school communication app comes up, there’s general affection for them. Because how can you not love a dedicated tool for centralised communication? It’s just handy. Especially when you compare it to ye olde approach of only printed out newsletters.
Skirting the hassles involved in the manufacture of those outmoded “mini-newspapers” has improved communication lines, too. A few acquaintances noted an uptick in frequency and quality of content with regards to parent communication via a school news app. The faculty being “more talkative” was heartening to hear. A barrier not brought down completely, but certainly lessened.
Hate: They’re used inconsistently
It wasn’t all good news, however, as I did hear some horror stories. One in particular stood out. It involved a Sydney school swapping a school app for communication for a misguided mixed-media approach to parent-teacher communication. I’ll not mention the school by name, but they were using an informational collage of Twitter, email, school posters and those problematic old printed handouts.
Long story short: an acquaintance mentioned a Halloween event that got changed only a few days earlier. But only on Twitter. All other modes in this school communication system did not broadcast the same message. After a night spent carving a pumpkin and getting her young daughter setup with a sweet outfit, they found out the event was now – surprise! – a swimming carnival.
Half the kids were in the wrong sort of costumes and were left high and dry, to say the very least.
The lesson here is - that whilst social channels can be helpful for building your schools’ brand, when it comes to communicating important messages to your schools’ community (and ensuring they get seen) a school app is the only channel you need.
Love: They save time
Admittedly, that worse case scenario doesn’t come up that often. And for this I’m glad. What I encounter more is that a parent teacher communication app will streamline the busy schedules of all involved. Far and away the biggest appreciation is for scribbling – as in using the screen to make one’s impression for a permission slip.
Almost all the chaos theory goes out the window by doing digital forms. Printed slips can be lost, destroyed or dare I say it, forged by some of our craftier offspring. Hey, you even sidestep the fun game that is finding a pen to use that works when this document is pushed under your nose. (In my experience, this occurs at the 11th hour, right as a bus or car has to leave.)
And eforms are just the start of the convenience. Just the simple ability to quickly filter info purely to your child’s own class seems to be widely appreciated. That and knowing you can scroll back through the entire history of enewsletters to double-check policy changes. Nobody keeps 52 weekly communiqués on hand for that purpose. I sure would like a refrigerator with a door that big…
Hate: When the school stops using features
But, once again, the topic of features can dredge up the potential negatives of school apps. Well, not the app itself, per se, rather the decision to curtail certain functions. One responder lamented a function that was disengaged from their school communication software by a new principal. Seems permission slips were reverted back to the tree-murdering approach that he was used to.
Trying to play devil’s advocate, I pointed out that it was great that the app allowed that degree of versatility. Not every fandangle new feature has to be to every user’s taste. An app needn’t be an all-features-or none proposition. New technology needs to be malleable. To co-exist to either the personal preference of the educator or to serve some pre-existing school tradition.
I told that parent that I admired the principal for both trying something new while also sticking to his guns. There’s no shame in keeping things a little old school. (The painful groans from my audience were considerable.)
Love: They make life simpler
Looping back to our time-saving point from before. I was also pleased to have a chat with a “Class Parent”. She was one of a disappointingly rare breed – a caregiver who volunteers their time as a parent-teacher go-between. It’s a role whose responsibilities vary greatly from school to school. Difficult to quantify.
In this minor saint’s case, she undertook the following:
Maintaining a parent contact sheet
Posting short news items to an app
Recruiting other parents to help as co-class parents
Organising special events
The latter duty was her real passion, she confided in me. She and her husband love to put on a “dos”, especially if it involves baking something. (Her chocolate crackles are a gastronomical miracle; his Mars Bar slice is as advertised – out of this world.) They were both more than happy to tell me that technology made all of the “paperwork” stuff a breeze. Everything can be composed and fired out in-app, from anywhere they please.
Though the leap to new technology always comes with a few naysayers, the odd luddite, your average school community seems to be enhanced by an app. Digital tools for schools are loved more than they’re hated.
As for me, I’m sure my surveys will continue unabated, whether I want them to or not. Certainly at least until I learn to come up with a different job cover story at parties. (I’m thinking astronaut or matador.) Until then, life’s going to continue to be educational.
Over to you
Does your school app need a rethink?
Speak to one of our School Communication Specialists today about how to ensure your parents are talking more LOVES than HATES when it comes to your school’s communication style.