The launch morning began with school staff introducing the app to parents from the school community. They spoke about how the app would make home/school communication easier for parents, as messages could can never get lost as with a paper newsletter, the posts can include as much information, links and images as needed unlike text messages, and the app brings new content directly to the reader, unlike a school website.
The community was shown how they could download the app from Apple App store or Google’s Play Store. By the end of the session the app had been downloaded over 200 times. Each of the sections of the app where explained to the parents. The calendar shows key dates of events at the school and it can be synced to draw items directly from the school website.
As a primary school teacher, it is wonderful to experience those moments within a school when the pupils, staff and community are excitedly working on a project together. Mission Grove in Walthamstow have recently embarked on one such project, and I was invited to see excitement as the school launched their new Piota App.
The latest articles are published to the ‘news’ feed and the school can push out mobile notifications to alert parents to the most important items, and newly published articles from the school website will be automatically published to the ‘timeline’ section of the app.
The parents were shown the ‘contacts’ and ‘information‘ sections where the schools vital details are easily accessible on the go, and a phone call can even be started from within the app.
Finally, the ‘surveys’ and ‘forms’ sections were explained and tried by the parents. These allow schools to gather feedback and information from the app users, such as absence reports, parent consultation appointments, opinion polls and non urgent messages to the school office – each saving time for the school and making it easy for parents to engage with the school directly from their mobile phone.
The parents were also shown how to set their filter settings within the app so they only receive content which is relative to them.
While the presentation with the parents was happening, the children, lead by the school council, were busily capturing photos from around the school on tablet devices to add to the app as a celebration of the learning at Mission Grove and providing a ‘day in the life’ look at the school.
The best images were selected by the school council and uploaded to the web-based app management system, which has a similar feel as composing an email, with attached images and adding writing to a text box.
The school council discussed how having the app would impact on the school. They said that as well as making things easier for the school staff, the app would improve communication between the school and the community. They also mentioned that the app is not just available to parents, but also grandparents and other family members can stay up to date with news from the school. Many of the children admitted that they had also downloaded the app to their own phones and wanted the teachers to include content and notes from class.
Lastly, I sat in on the staff training session about how to use the web-based management system. Staff were shown how to use their individual logins and were given a tour of the sections on the website. Collectively on the classroom whiteboard, the staff composed a news post about an upcoming event with text, images and links in under two minutes and added it instantly to the app with a single click. They were also shown how to design forms and surveys by selecting the type of question and adding the text.
Engaging the school community so that everyone is supporting the learning of the children in a unified manner is vital to raising achievement and effective communication is the key component. The Piota app will give parents and the wider community insight into the life of the school and allow easy communication and feedback like never before.
But more importantly, as Jemima and Asha told me, “The App is Cool.” I can’t argue with that!