District-created app improves the home-school connection

The eBackpack was developed using Microsoft SharePoint as the content management system.

Missouri’s Rockwood School District (RSD) aims to have all district parents as involved in their children’s education as possible. Toward that end, the district has developed a unique communications application that gives parents up-to-the-minute information about school events, as well as important district news, resources, and principal blogs.

For creating this innovative application, we’ve chosen the Rockwood School District as our “eSchool of the Month” for November/December. Here, Karl Weinrich, the district’s senior webmaster, describes the project and its results.

(Editor’s note: To nominate your school or district for our “eSchool of the Month” feature, and to read about past winners, go to: http://www.eschoolnews.com/eschool-of-the-month.)

How did Rockwood’s eBackpack initiative come about?

In an effort to centralize the location of important information on school websites, as well as shift away from printed fliers in students’ backpacks, the district began researching alternative methods to share this information with families. Because 92.3 percent of Rockwood families have access to the internet (according to a 2010 survey), RSD’s communications department decided to develop a web-based solution to keep parents in the communication loop.

Parents frequently commented that they appreciated the breadth of information found on school websites, but they had difficulty navigating the websites to find what they were looking for. The eBackpack, a one-stop-shop for school news and information, was created in response to this need.

RSD uses the eBackpack as a comprehensive approach to communications and parent involvement, which promotes student learning. The eBackpack was developed using Microsoft SharePoint as the content management system. The Rockwood mobile app, a feature of the eBackpack, connects parents to school and classroom news and information. The app is available to parents through the iTunes App Store, Google’s Android Market, and BlackBerry’s App World.

Prior to implementing the eBackpack, RSD sent information through a once-a-month newsletter eMailed to parents or sent home with students. With the implementation of the eBackpack, schools can send up-to-date news, which includes principals’ blogs, a “Friday Folder” system, a community resource center, announcements, a calendar, a photo gallery, and an AlertNow phone/eMail retrieval system. The Rockwood App offers immediate access for parents to view all of the above items on their smart phones.

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