Photo: VPS info on the go

This month, Vancouver Public Schools (VPS) hosted weLearn Tech Shows at McLoughlin and Alki middle schools. As in years past, these events gave the community a chance to see some of the district’s innovations. As our one-to-one initiative continues in its first year, the shows demonstrated how iPads are helping to boost student engagement and transform teaching and learning.

But our focus on technology isn’t limited to students and teachers. At the shows, we debuted a new resource for parents and all district staff: the VPS mobile app for smartphones and mobile devices.

Yes, now there’s an app for our schools, too. Communications Director Pat Mattison explains:

“The mobile app is actually part of our effort to support family engagement. To give parents anywhere, anytime access to information about their students or their school.”

With the app, parents will have password-protected access to Skyward and their children’s grades, attendance, and assignments. Employees also can use Skyward to access their information.

District news, elementary lunch menus, bus routes, and a calendar are just a few of the other reasons to download the app. Later this year, it will expand to include additional school-specific news and resources.

Pat tells us that the app will help the district serve a large and growing population:

“Recent research shows that 56 percent of adult Americans own smartphones. So this is our effort to continually engage with our parents in an increasingly digital environment.”

That environment includes some of the 10 percent of American adults who have Internet access only through their smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

And with functionality that will translate the app into nearly 70 different languages, the app also has the potential to reach the 20 percent of VPS families for whom English is not the primary home language. As you know, strong home support is one of the biggest variables in academic success. The more resources we have to reach parents, the more we can help them stay engaged in their children’s education.

Sarah J. Anderson Principal Debra Hale perhaps said it best:

“All of our best instincts and all of our best research together say that education is a partnership. That’s the best environment for kids to learn, so a critical component for most of us in education is reaching out to parents and making sure we’re a team as we work on a child’s education all the way from pre-K to 12.”

And just like any team, we need good communication.

You can learn more about the app by following the link at the bottom of the page, or visiting the booth at the last weLearn Tech Show at iTech Preparatory on March 4. If you weren’t among the nearly 1,000 people who downloaded the app within the first week of its launch, I encourage you to do so. It’s free to download. If you already have the app, please share it with others.

Take care,

Image: Steve signature