All the applications are already seamlessly integrated into a single platform, and we have the capability to integrate other applications as well. This integration met our objective of having a robust, digital environment that did not require in-depth technical support. In addition, the integration of the three products into a single platform makes them easier for end users, like teachers, to use and thus increases their value even further.  A user can move seamlessly among the three solutions because the suite is built on the LDAP software protocol. In our experience, the ability to move seamlessly among all the applications within the communications suite has greatly increased the products’ usability while providing the district with the interactive tools we wanted to foster better communications and collaboration.

Teacher/Parent Communications Deserve Special Emphasis

As we reviewed different products, we took all our stakeholders into consideration, but frankly, we gave our teachers special consideration. Why? Because they are the frontline for parental communications. They are the people who parents want to reach most often; and teachers want parents supporting their classroom initiatives.  For this reason, it was essential that we selected a solution that was easy for teachers to use and easy for parents to access.

The templates within Centricity for creating teacher web sites look and feel like Word and eMail applications–tools that teachers are already comfortable using. Even novice tech users can easily go in to the software and create a teacher web site with basic information like contact information and homework assignments. And more technologically-sophisticated teachers have access to powerful capabilities like HTML source editing, JavaScript and Flash support, and even custom asp programming integration.

The more information and resources that teachers put on their web sites, the more parents are engaged. Today, our parents can go online and see student homework assignments and find resources for helping their child with difficult subjects. Some teachers are posting photo galleries and RSS feeds that demonstrate the activities taking place in the classroom. These are additional tools for parents to engage with their children and to have discussions about what is taking place at school.

I believe that one of my most important roles as CTO is to make technology easy for our teachers and other users. If the technology is too hard to learn and to integrate into the daily activities of the classroom, teachers won’t use it.

For this reason, we always start our training and pilot programs for new technology products with our most reluctant teachers, rather than the early adopters. Many districts start with their early adopters, but we know that these teachers will quickly grasp new technology tools.  We start with the most reluctant teachers because if they can understand and use the tool, then we know we will eventually have 100 percent adoption.

We had one teacher nearing the end of his career, considering retirement and was reluctant to learn the applications within Centricity. But when he saw how easy it was to use–and the potential of the applications to engage students further–he quickly adopted them and is still teaching with us now. He told me that, “these are the kinds of things that help me stay around a little longer.” It made my day.

We had other teachers who also were resistant to using the product. They expected it to be complicated. But as they started training, their emotions went from apprehension, to being pleasantly surprised and now we even see excitement from teachers about the product. To date, we have 261 teachers trained on and using the teacher web sites. We expect that number to grow dramatically in the next year as we are training more teachers daily. As a result, our parents have much more information about what is taking place in the classroom, they have easier access to teachers and we have greatly increased the exchange of information between teachers and their students and parents.