Simplify Communications, Increase Reach

  • By Zuben Bastani
  • 19 Aug, 2015

With so many options: Social Media, E-Mail, Websites, Blogs, Text Messages, Robocalls, Apps, flyers... Where to Begin!?

With so many options: Social Media, E-Mail, Websites, Blogs, Text Messages, Robocalls, Apps, flyers... Where to Begin!?
 
Start by asking yourself three simple questions.
 
A. "Am I reaching families where they're looking?"
Look at parents 1 minutes after drop-off and 1 minute before pickup  Where are they looking? Their phones.
 
B. "Is my content where they'll see it and is it easy to reference?"
This is possibly the most difficult as some prefer e-mail, others, twitter, etc. however, everyone prefers apps.
 
C. "Is it confusing?"
Many schools over-communicate; important information is overlooked and school resources are wasted. We can reach a greater audience with less effort.  The best way to explain is a real example, take Ashley Elementary in Denver, CO.
 
Before
1. Newsletter is created in MS Word, and sent to translators.  Finished copy saved as PDFs
2. Staff prints and stuffs 500+ print outs (per language) into folders for ~3 hours
3. An e-mail is crafted with attachments and delivered to 50% of the families due to bounces or bad addresses
4. PDF's are uploaded to the website with the assistance of the Tech Liaison
5. Admin creates Facebook post and a Twitter post to direct parents to the "Thursday Folder" link on the website.
 
Result: Lots of effort with average results.
25% - 30% of the e-mails are opened
10% - 15% of the social media posts are seen
 
 
After - Ashley Elementary Mobile App
1. E-mail drafted in English and sent to the App News Page.  Subject line becomes the News Article Title and the email body and attachments become the News Article.
 
2. Admin sends a short Push Notification from their phone in seconds announcing "Updated News" to families.  The app opens to the News Page in their native language.
4. School Website, Facebook and Twitter update auto-magically!
 
Result: Very little effort with excellent results
  • Within 3-4 weeks of launch >50% of parents use the app 3-4 times per week
  • Reach your most isolated families as phones are how low-income and non-white parents access the web
  • Schools are saving dozens of hours weekly and thousands of dollars on paper.
  • Parents prefer it.

Feature Spotlight: Sandoval's App Store  
Sandoval Elementary released the Sandoval e-Store in their app  to sell Fall Festival tickets.

Families buy in seconds via credit card or PayPal on their phone.  Payments are deposited into their Paypal Account and their PTSA receives and e-mail notification. Families receive an emailed receipt (for tax purposes) with Check-In instructions.
 
"Enabling mobile e-commerce solution is saving us tons of effort and growing our sales. This is a far better solution than anything we could find online and it's included with our app!"
All the best and don't forget, Keep It Simple!
By Laura Johnson 18 Sep, 2017

This summer, Denver students created anti-bullying solutions during the 3rd annual Think Like a Genius Foundation Challenge. The challenge is over, but the solutions live on as the students implement them in their schools and community.

Think Like a Genius Foundation asks “young people to nd ways to solve community issues that affect children and youth.” The focus this year was bullying.

The challenge was created to help students learn about themselves and how to set goals. The foundation partners with other organizations which support youth struggling with the impact of pressures all around them—broken families, gangs, and violence. The foundation helps provide a supportive environment to students.

“Youth groups throughout the community are tasked with creating a model that solves a prob- lem, taking and integrating it into the community, and making it happen.” said Eric Siler, Think Like a Genius Foundation executive director. “All the youth teams come up with a solution that they have to implement and demonstrate sustainability. Just by coming to the challenge they use 21st century skills—critical thinking, collaboration, innovation, creativity and communication.”

The kids obtain help from mentors, but it’s minimal. Art Curtis, history teacher at KIPP Denver Collegiate, mentored a team from his school. “I was impressed with what a great plan the student team came up with, without much teacher coordinator input. The solution was 98% them.”

The KIPP Denver Collegiate team thought of creating an app that gave students an outlet to report bullying and an opportunity to talk to counselors or peers. The anti-bullying solution made a perfect t with the school’s existing Fly- er School App, which connects all fami- lies with relevant school information and resources.

“I felt kind of scared, we didn’t know how to develop the app and had a lot of questions,” said Arely, a student team member. She felt one of the biggest lessons she learned from the process was to reach out to adults and set up meetings. They sent Zuben Bastani, Flyer CEO, an email.

“I was thrilled to hear from the students,” said Zuben. I’m always looking for feedback to make the app more useful. The opportunity to work with these motivated, innovative students has been inspiring.”

The students chose the Flyer app as the means of communication since their community had al- ready embraced it. Families, teachers, administrators, and students use the app more often than other means such as social media, email, and phone for school communications.

“The challenge was a great way to spend my summer,” says Arely. “It helped me learn a lot of collaborative skills, I had to step up and work with a team. It was really fun.” She also learned from other teams who had an earlier start and were able to conduct more testing and get feed- back on their project.

In the next two weeks, the team will present the anti-bullying solution to the school at a town hall. Students will have access to the anti-bullying resources on their phone, complemented with options for in-person counselor sessions and peer group meetings. To make the solution sustainable, they plan to measure it’s success, learn as the school year progresses, and continue with ideas to improve it as they go. While the students look to create a sustainable anti-bullying solution, they’ll continue learning about themselves and how capable they really are.

About Flyer School Apps

Flyer is a team of parents, school leaders and young professionals on a social mission to increase student achievement through family engagement.

Flyer was created by the parent of elementary aged kids. Frustrated by the fragmented means of communica- tion by schools including yer-stu ed-backpacks, missed emails, auto-dialers, teachers’ notes, and inaccurate recounts by kindergartners, Zuben Bastani’s goal was to create a mobile app that is a one-stop-shop for school information and communication for every type of family regardless of their income or language.

Flyer has grown to serve traditional, charter and private PK-12 schools in both rural and urban areas across the US.

Flyer is a proud graduate of Unreasonable Institute 2016 Early Childhood Accelerator.

yerschoolapp.com info@ yerschoolapp.com (720) 336-9663

By Laura Johnson 06 Jul, 2017

Registration season is upon us, and over the last few years we’ve seen little progress in how most schools approach registration. Even more challenged are those schools serving high risk or low income students because of families’ inability to be present and because of multiple languages. We wanted to share how some of our schools are improving the experience for their families, reducing time for their staff, and increasing enrollment results.

Registration Tips

#1 - Promote events online through the web, emails, school mobile app, social media, and local news to attract families to visit your school and see if it’s a good fit for them. The more communication channels, the more likely you’ll reach your target. Everyone has a preferred method of receiving notifications and news, and it may not be the traditional ones like the postal mail. Many families don’t have Internet access at home, and rely on their smartphones to stay in touch.

#2 - Keep families in the loop with upcoming deadlines and open houses. With those messages, introduce staff and teachers that families will meet during open houses.

#3 - Provide videos online for those who can’t attend the open house.

#4 - Streamline the registration process, allowing families to register from home. This method is especially helpful with high risk students. If there’s a fee with registration, simplify school payments using the web site or school app.

#5 - Send notifications to families about what to expect on the first day, where to go, what to bring, and to which teacher(s) their student has been assigned. The more families know, the more comfortable they’ll feel.

#6 - Follow up with partial registrations or students who enrolled last year but haven’t registered yet and move them along to the next step.

These steps help ensure that all families receive the information needed to successfully register their student.

By Laura Johnson 12 Jun, 2017

Summer learning loss is one of the most significant causes of the achievement gap between lower and higher income youth and one of the strongest contributors to the high school dropout rate, according to the National Summer Learning Association. Flyer's focus on access and equity led them to help Gust Elementary in Denver curb summer reading loss.  Gust families can use their app to access dozens of Unite eBooks wherever they are. "I can send reminders to families and see they're accessing the eBooks," says Katie Harlfinger, Teacher Librarian/School Tech Rep. "All of our app push notifications are sent out in English and Spanish to help our English Language Learners." Families access the eBooks through the school app while they’re in waiting rooms, stuck in traffic, or wrapping up the end of the day at work. What’s more important is the books can read themselves to the family in several languages. Students can see the words in English, for example, and hear them in Spanish.  

By Laura Johnson 05 Jun, 2017

Centennial Academy of Fine Artsof Littleton Public Schools communicates directly with families to increase and organize volunteers using Flyer. Parents receive volunteer requests, respond to them, and log their volunteer hours, all on their phones.

“I have used the Flyer School App in two different schools and it has made a great impact on our ability to communicate better with all families,” says Karla Gruenwald, Principal. “Our parent community has provided positive feedback on the app and loves getting real time communication via the app and push notifications.”

By Laura Johnson 24 May, 2017

When Sandoval Elementary strove to improve office efficiency and communication to parents, they turned to Flyer app push notifications.

Sandoval, a Denver Public School, posts messages regarding events, closures, and lockdowns to parents’ phones. Parents also quickly access the calendar and connect with teachers.

Attendance reporting has greatly improved at Sandoval. Before Flyer, parents called attendance voicemail. “We had trouble understanding a lot of the messages,” said Maria Alvarez, Sandoval Main Office Secretary. Now 75% parents send an email from their phone to attendance, improving accuracy and efficiency.

Lockdown communications also improved. Alvarez used to scramble to print post-lockdown notices and set up a robocall. If the robocall reached a parent’s voicemail it would only leave a partial message and parents called the office back for clarification. Now it’s an automated push notification. In one instance the lockdown occurred at the end of the day. Parents received the notification and stayed in their cars until the lockdown ended.

Whether it’s a daily update or a school emergency, Sandoval has improved communications with the Flyer app. “Parents love it,” said Alvarez, “because they have the information at their fingertips.”

By Zuben Bastani 24 Oct, 2016
October is arguably one of the most important months this school year. The Colorado Department of Education designates an October date for each district the Official Pupil Count Date for 2016.                  

Several Flyer schools used their school apps to send push notifications to parents. Several schools used their app banners to promote their count day.  Flyer schools who did use their apps reached their goals and some even qualified for additional funding!

Have a goal to meet this fall? Just send us a note or give us a call .
By Zuben Bastani 14 Sep, 2016
Like many working mothers, Liz Wolfson is typically in a hurry, rushing to get her children ready for school and then heading off to work. The beginning of the school year is especially hectic.  “I’m the busy mom who doesn’t complete her forms until the last minute,” she said.

One morning in August, she was dropping off her two children at the Downtown Denver Expeditionary School when she was reminded she hadn’t yet turned in registration forms.

“They handed me an iPad that had the school app downloaded on it,” she said. “I completed forms for two children and was on my way to work within 15 minutes.”
Wolfson downloaded the school’s app onto her phone. She simply tapped a few buttons on her phone and the app appeared.
“I was impressed that there were no lengthy logins or other prerequisites to use the app,” Wolfson said. She so impressed, in fact, that she plans to launch a mobile app at the Girls Athletic Leadership School in Denver, where she is the director.
Ashley Ennis, who works in the front office at the Downtown Denver Expeditionary School, said the mobile app has been hugely popular with families, citing ease and convenience as its best attributes. Parents receive text reminders, check lunch menus and access forms.

“It’s easy. It cuts down on time and paperwork. We love it,” Ennis said.
By Zuben Bastani 01 Jul, 2016
Throughout the country, school staff members are realizing how effective QR codes can be to reach out to parents and school communities. “It’s important to take advantage of any opportunity to connect with the family. Parent engagement is an important part of ensuring the success of students,” said Monica Burns, ClassTechTips.com  blogger, and Curriculum and EdTech Consultant.
QR codes are one of the many features of our school apps. They are simple to implement and offer great information to schools. We have schools in Denver using them to gauge attendance at parent meetings and to award prizes for attendance.
“One of the reasons I’m so passionate about the integration of scannable technology is the opportunities it affords all stakeholders in the community,” Burns said. Read more from Burns.
Let’s talk about how to use a QR code at your school. Just send us a note or give us a call .
By Zuben Bastani 04 Apr, 2016
http://www.5280.com/news/education/digital/2016/03/6-winners-emerge-dps-imaginarium-design-challenge

"...through the design challenge, a smartphone app called Montclair Post  was developed at Montclair School of Academics and Enrichment. The school has an average 50-plus languages mingling together, which makes communication with parents difficult. This app was designed to translate in real-time, breaking that barrier. Now the app is being rolled out in other schools."
By Zuben Bastani 24 Mar, 2016
DCIS at Fairmont is a highly diverse school. Many families don't have home internet, consistent phone numbers / emails or speak fluent english.   They do have smartphones.

To connect, their families simply download the free Fairmont app for their iOS or Android phone or tablet. No login, password or registration is required which increases usage and interaction.

Families are instantly connected to receive news, notifications and have access to school, PTO, district and extras tools in their native language!
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