Appazur’s Laketa Smith interviewed Jonathon Sproul, a Math, Science, and Technical Education teacher, about his school’s 3 1/2 years of experience with “Vipers e-Genda”, an iOS & Android mobile app developed for Georges P. Vanier Junior High (Middle) School and in use since April 2015.
Georges P. Vanier Junior High School, Fall River (near Halifax), Nova Scotia, Canada. Student population approximately 392.
What were some of the reasons you decided to get the Vipers e-Genda app?
When we first started with the app, we wanted something that students and parents were able to use with minimal effort. We wanted push notification options and a simple interface. That’s it! The “Vipers e-Genda” app fit the bill perfectly!
What were the school’s particular challenges/needs concerning communication/engagement?
There always seemed to be a disconnect between the messages passed on during class and what was remembered or actually discussed once the students arrived home. There simply wasn’t any other system that we were currently using that could help to fix this issue in a user-friendly way. The e-Genda has helped to eliminates that ‘gray’ area where students either forget or don’t pass on messages. Any quick little messages can be sent, without a lot of effort from staff, and details can be clearly communicated to help remind students and inform parents.
What had you tried in the past?
Our Educational Centre (previously known as the School Board) has used communication tools like PowerSchool, GradeBook and Google Classroom, both of which have great functions, but they didn’t quite fit the need for our students and staff here at Vanier. We tried using these pre-existing tools, but they just weren’t exactly what we were looking for. We even tried paper agendas and other traditional techniques, such as paper communication logs, etc., but nothing seemed to provide us the solution we were really look for, …until we found the e-Genda!
Why did you choose Appazur?
It’s simple. On both sides. For staff, they can quickly and easily send notifications home. For parents and students, they can receive the necessary push notifications that are specific to their class (or club), minimizing that excess and unnecessary information that often comes out with ‘mass-emails’ or whole school notification systems.
How did you get buy-in from your staff?
We didn’t need to get that ‘buy-in’ from staff, simply because we were actively searching for solutions that the e-Genda was easily able to provide. It sold itself because it makes our lives as teachers easier!
How did you encourage parents & students to use the app?
Now, the app is just a known entity here at Georges P. Vanier. It’s known throughout the community and within families in our area. Earlier on, when we started using the app, we communicated with parents via email and paper notices to get them on-board and adjusted to using the app. We taught them the basics and explained how it would be used during our parent teacher evenings and curriculum nights. Its user friendly interface and ability to transmit information quickly had parents and guardians sharing positive feedback with one another, and the word quickly spread that the e-Genda was a great tool for students and parents alike.
What has improved? / How has it improved?
The app’s overall usability has improved. We find it to be quicker, with less lag and quicker loading times, and although we mostly stick to the basic notification functions, we do notice the improvements and growth within the development of the app.
What particular feature(s) solved a problem that students, parents, instructors, or administrator(s) were having regarding school communication?
School communication was always a hurdle to overcome. Providing quick, timely and accurate information is so important and the e-Genda allows us to do just that! The notification feature that allows you to send messages to specific groups of students (classes, groups, etc.) helps to target the necessary students and/or parents. Then, the ‘notification to all’ feature, allows updates that are helpful for everyone to know (like photo days, parent teachers, spirit week reminders, etc.).
What, if any, feedback have you gotten from your app’s users?
Parents provide feedback on a regular basis about how much they enjoy the app. They speak to its simplicity, how nice it is to receive direct notifications and to simply be ‘kept in the loop’. Students, although more indirectly, also give positive feedback around the app on how it helps to remind them of upcoming tests, assignments, etc. that they would have otherwise forgotten about.