New School Apps Inform Parents, Follow Pope’s Social Media Lead

| April 16, 2015

Photo of TabletBY CHRISTY PERRY

St. Margaret’s School Principal Amanda Hopkins was sitting on the bleachers at a basketball game when she decided the school’s families needed a mobile app. “You see all of the parents with their phones, taking pictures, and I immediately realized that this is a population that needs that information at their fingertips,” she said.

At Immaculate Conception School (IC), Principal Sally Lisi came to the same conclusion. “We’re in a society now where everything is mobile,” she explained. “I just wanted to make it easy for our parents to access information.”

Now both schools have apps, available via iTunes, that put important school information at users’ fingertips. The app, designed by Glyph Mobile, shows school lunch menus, a calendar of upcoming events and students’ grades and homework assignments, among other helpful bits of information.

Photo of school appThese schools are riding a social media and technology wave that is becoming part of their overall mission. “It’s definitely a trend and something they’ve been asked to embrace,” said Danielle Cummings, assistant chancellor and director of communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse. She cited a call from the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops to all who “provide ministry or service or are employed by an entity associated with the Catholic Church” to use the conference’s social media guidelines.

In fact, that edict comes straight from the top. In his June 2014 message for the 48th World Communications Day, Pope Francis gave his blessing to social networks as outlets for spreading the Gospel: “Communication is a means of expressing the missionary vocation of the entire Church; today the social networks are one way to experience this call to discover the beauty of faith, the beauty of encountering Christ. In the area of communications too, we need a Church capable of bringing warmth and of stirring hearts.”

In addition to mobile apps, diocesan schools communicate via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Cummings said.

To expand her St. Margaret’s Facebook audience, Hopkins has used Facebook’s post boost option, which allows page owners to pay for greater exposure on the social network. “Part of the push for that was to have weekly updates and doing them at a key time for families, like that eight o’clock time when parents have time to go on social media,” she said.

Photo of school appSixth graders at IC now have Chrome Books that they use both in class and at home. Students in lower grades and all faculty have iPads. At St. Margaret’s in Mattydale, teachers are using a digital science textbook that students access with Nook tablets.

“They live it every day. They’re digital natives,” said Chris Zapf-Longo, IC’s technology coordinator. “We don’t know what the technology will be ten years from now. So what we’re trying to do is expose them to as much technology as possible, so that they are comfortable with whatever’s coming down the road.”

Christy Perry is a freelance writer in Syracuse, New York.

Category: Digital, Quality

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