Wired for engagement – the Schoolwires blog

Need to improve parent engagement? There's an app for that!

Posted by Debbora Woods on 9/2/14 9:00 AM


Schools have already started, or will be soon, the 2014/15 school year. This means the calendars get loaded up with athletic events, PTO meetings, music performances, homework assignments, school closures due to inclement weather, and more. If you're a parent, you know the drill! How do you keep on top of it all and run and organized household? If you're an educator, how do you keep your parents informed and engaged in a timely manner? Well, Schoolwires has the win-win solution: we offer an affordable mobile app that will save district parents time and clicks when getting the information that's relevant to them! And, district staff can update website content via their smartphones when they're on the move.

Over the years we've seen schools' channels of communication evolve from backpack fliers and home visits to group emails and text messages. From folded and stuffed envelopes mailed to homes to social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Parents want information now - they don't want to hunt for it. It all comes down to real-time information -- easily available when your K-12 community needs it, where they are.

Many of our K-12 district clients realize the importance of having responsive websites that adapt automatically to the various mobile formats - laptops, tablets, smartphones - to provide the best user experience for their website visitors. And these beautiful responsive sites are being rolled out all across the nation. However, here's one thing to consider -- those websites can't do everything that a mobile app can do. That's why your district needs both a mobile app and responsive website template to ensure you're reaching your stakeholders and increasing parent engagement through all possible channels.

In our research, we've found the following are some most-needed pieces of information on-the-go parents want to access from their smartphones:

  1. Check lunch menus
  2. View athletics and extracurricular schedules
  3. Monitor student grades
  4. Receive weather alerts
  5. Locate school addresses and maps

Sure, they can find this information on your website. But, a mobile app provides this information with one click from the palm of their hand. There are benefits for both parents and your district.

Benefits for Parents:

  • Choose from which schools in your district they wish to receive information
  • Quick, easy access to information they want and need
  • Notifications of events, news, and critical announcements
  • One-touch access to school contact information
  • Directions to your location from wherever they are
  • Save time and effort from visiting separate web pages and drilling down to information

Benefits for your District and Schools:

  • Build engaged relationships with parents
  • Increase your visibility and accessibility
  • Connect with on-the-go parents
  • Enhance your social networking strategies

A mobile app will save your parents time and clicks when getting the information that's relevant to them. And, a mobile app is the most affordable and effective way for your K-12 district to reach out to parents these days! Click here to learn more and schedule a mobile app demo today!

Topics: K-12, Mobile Communications App, Parent Engagement

Does your K-12 district need a responsive website AND a mobile app?

Posted by Debbora Woods on 7/24/14 9:00 AM


If you’re like many K-12 district leaders we’ve chatted with, you struggle with whether your district and schools should design a responsive website that works across multiple devices – such as desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone – or focus on building a branded, native mobile app. It can be a difficult choice to make, but here’s something to consider. Two very popular social media sites, Facebook and LinkedIn, feature responsive websites that render well on multiple devices. And millions of their users choose to access their accounts via their mobile apps too because it’s quicker and easier to get the information they’re looking for while on the go. Both options are important and available to their users.

The truth is your district has different audiences that access your website content for a multitude of reasons. For example, internally you have various website content editors, such as teachers and school administrative assistants, who update their web pages on a daily basis in order to keep parents and students informed with announcements, events, homework assignments, test dates, etc. Externally you have community members who may be new families looking for the right school for their child – yours, of course! Or, voters that you want to update on the latest bond needing their support. In essence, they are all your “consumers” needing access to your content. So in this constantly connected world, what do consumers say about their web browsing experiences on mobile?

According to this Google blog post:

  • 67% of website users state, “A mobile-friendly site makes me more likely to buy a product or use a service.”
  • And 61% state, “If I don’t see what I’m looking for right away on a mobile site, I’ll quickly move on to another site.”

Let’s stick with this “consumers” analogy for a bit. As mentioned above, you have internal and external consumers as unique audiences with diverse needs. Here’s how both a responsive website and a branded mobile app provide the access to your website information that they need…

Native Mobile App. A native mobile app is software developed specifically for mobile devices that users download from an app store, like iTunes or Google Play, and install it on their mobile device. Your district serves loyal “customers,” also known as parents, students, teachers, and staff, who want to be able to quickly access the information that’s important to them while they’re on the go, such as school closings, weather notices, and more. A mobile app keeps your district family informed and up-to-date with alerts and access to information from their smartphones. And, the Schoolwires Mobile Communications App allows your website content editors to update and publish content straight from their smartphones, including photos, podcasts, alerts, and more!

Responsive Web Design. In order to capture the attention of your entire audience and give them an optimized experience no matter what device they’re on, a responsive website delivers. Want to grab the attention of new families or potential staff in your district and ensure they have complete access to the information they need, no matter what device they’re on? A Schoolwires Responsive Web Design displays properly on any device or screen size and helps to promote your district’s brand.

As you can see, both options play a critical and different role in your district’s mobile strategy. So, why choose between one or the other? Consider both to provide the ultimate user experience! Check out our latest informational document hot off the press this week: Why your district needs a Responsive Web Design AND a Mobile Communications app.

Topics: K-12, Mobile Communications App, Responsive Web Design

How-to Tuesday: Schoolwires Mobile Communications App

Posted by Debbora Woods on 7/15/14 9:00 AM


Guest Blogger: Kristi Gottwalt, Sr. Product Marketing Manager

Here are some interesting stats about websites and mobile apps:

  • 46% of mobile users report having difficulty interacting with a web page, and 44% complain that navigation was difficult. (Source: Keynote)
  • 48% of users say that if they arrive on a business site that isn't working well on mobile, they take it as an indication of the business simply not caring. (Source: MarginMedia)
  • More than 9 out of 10 respondents (95%) agreed with the statement that "good user experience just makes sense." (Source: Econsultancy)

So, with this being the case, keeping your K-12 district and school websites up-to-date can be a daunting task, especially in the digital age. Your school community is used to updates as they happen, on a variety of devices. As a site administrator, it can be difficult to keep current content on the site while you are busy with the day-to-day aspects of your job. That’s why with the Schoolwires Mobile Communications App anyone with rights to edit their content can make changes to the site and the app right from their phone!

How can you do that? It’s easy! Simply select the Site Manager option from the sidebar of the mobile app. Once in site manager, administrators will be able to add, remove, or edit announcements, the photo gallery, or podcasts right from their mobile devices. Once saved, the changes will appear immediately on both the app and the district or school's website.

Just consider the possiblities:

  • The webmaster can add graduation pictures to your home page as they are happening
  • The athletic director can make an announcement about winning the big game
  • The teacher can update homework assignments while waiting in the grocery line

Editing content while on the go will make life easier for all users of the Mobile Communications App. Want to learn more about how our mobile app can make school-to-home communication simple in your district?

Learn More

P.S. Are you at NSPRA? Check out our presentation, "Does your mobile app play well with your district website?" today (7/15) at 4:15 pm where we'll be demonstrating our exciting new mobile app! See you there!

Topics: School-to-Home Communication, Mobile Communications App

Mobility Series: Part 3 – Don’t Settle When Choosing Engagement Sol'ns

Posted by Debbora Woods on 7/8/14 9:00 AM


This is the final post on our Noblesville Schools story. We definitely saved the best info for last!

So, did they find that perfect mobility package they needed for K-12 community engagement? We can answer with a resounding, YES! The third website and mobile solution was the charm. Here are just a few of the results the district is ecstatic about:

  • They’ve received numerous compliments on their responsive website
  • Site traffic is averaging nearly 120,000 views per month on the main page – with no stability issues
  • Staff members whose trust and confidence were lost due to past issues from previous providers love how easy it is to manage their content
  • They can proudly say they are among the first in Indiana to have their own school mobile app available on both Apple and Android devices

Noblesville Schools is coming up on their one-year anniversary with Schoolwires. Teachers are sharing content with parents and students through their teacher pages. Students and parents are downloading the mobile app to stay informed and engaged with their schools and the district. And the community comments about how they love the new solutions and how easy it is to find the information they need, when they need it. It just doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

Want to learn more about our “mobility” solutions for your K-12 community? Visit our website today>>

Topics: K-12, Mobile Communications App, Community Engagement, Mobility, Responsive Web Design, Communications

Mobility series: Part 2 – Why mobility is critical to K-12 engagement

Posted by Debbora Woods on 7/3/14 9:00 AM


In the first post of this series, we covered a few of the challenges Noblesville Schools faced with prior website vendors. Today we’re focusing on the engagement features they required to meet the goals set by leadership.

The district’s vision was that the new website would be the main source of information for the students, parents, staff, and community members – to be the portal to all things Noblesville Schools. That meant it must be:

  • Reliable hosting – operating 24/7
  • Mobile-friendly
  • User-friendly for both website visitors and district content editors

And, since Noblesville Schools is an eLearning and 1:1 district, it was critical that the evaluation committees -- which included teachers, parents, and technology personnel -- searched for a solution that would support all of their goals for engaging students, parents, and the community. That meant the new website must be fully accessible on iOS and Android devices.

It was a large order to fill. There had been a lot of disappointment with the last two website solutions. Would there be a solution provider out there that would answer all their questions, meet their requirements, provide personal attention, and offer a total package that would give the best return on investment? Hmmm, we’ll get to that in our next blog post. But, if you’re like me and like to read the last chapter of a book first, go ahead>>

Topics: Mobile Communications App, Community Engagement, Communications

Mobility Series: Part 1 - Challenges On The Journey

Posted by Debbora Woods on 7/1/14 9:00 AM


Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Andy Swickheimer, Director of Technology, and Michele Turner, Data Integration Manager, from Noblesville Schools in Indiana. We spoke about the importance of “mobility” – not physical movement, but ensuring web content is mobile device "friendly" for K-12 districts.

The district has been on an interesting journey over the past several years searching for the perfect solution for communications and community engagement. They shared with me the challenges they faced with previous websites – maybe some of these sound too familiar to you?

  • Significant downtime with websites often crashing due to traffic volumes
  • Slow hosting because of hardware and server issues
  • Vendor was bought out by another company that no longer supported their website
  • Unable to translate languages to accommodate the diverse demographics of their community
  • >Website content was text-heavy since systems couldn’t house engaging photo content

Their story doesn’t stop here. They also shared the goals Noblesville leadership has to provide a forward-looking communications and community engagement solution to their K-12 students, parents, and staff. Here’s a sneak peek – there was a focus on mobility, especially since they are an eLearning and 1:1 district. Their goals will be covered in our next blog post, so make sure you come back to learn more!

In the meantime, visit our mobile solutions Web page to learn more about our Mobile Communications App and Responsive Web Designs for K-12 school districts.

Topics: Mobile Communications App, Community Engagement, Mobility, Responsive Web Design, Communications, Website Hosting

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