Web Site Keeps Teachers, Parents and Students on Track
For teachers and administrators at Walton High School in Marietta, Ga., informing students and parents of changes in class assignments or school events is just a click away.
Using a new online community to provide round-the-clock access to a variety of school and non-school events, administrators and teachers have been able to save a tremendous amount of time and energy updating busy professional parents with constantly changing school events. Studies show that improving relationships with parents can increase the learning experience of students.
Atlanta-based eHomeRoom.com is closing the communication gap between K-12 teachers, parents and students at schools across the country with its unique calendaring system. Through eHomeRoom.com, schools can post academic, extracurricular and sports activity schedules. The information can be updated easily without any computer programming. It can also be integrated with the schools Web site, providing one single source of information about the school and individual classes. Parents can easily view the school schedule, relevant school activities, class assignments or homework, and can also include their childs own personal appointments.
In the past, it took a considerable amount of administrative time to write and distribute memos or newsletters to the students. Then, we never really knew if the announcement made it into the hands of the parents, or if it was left on the bus or in the childs backpack, says John Flatt, principal of Walton High, which U.S. News named as one of the six best high schools in the nation based on its use of technology. We realized that a convenient, efficient reporting system was needed to keep parents and students up-to-date with school activities.
In the fall of 1999, school administrators began looking for a solution to increase communication among parents and teachers, while decreasing the paperwork associated with it. With 2,500 students and more than 4,500 parents, the school recognized a frustration level among teachers who could not easily communicate with parents and students on certain issues. Parents also expressed concern that they were not fully informed about how their children were doing in class and what was going on at the school. Flatt found out about eHomeRoom.com while looking for a more efficient way to keep parents and students better informed.
Teachers are trained to use the system so they can post homework assignments and test schedules for easy access by parents. The site allows teachers to communicate conveniently with parents and notify them of any special concerns or class issues. Additionally, teachers can add links to homework or project resources. Parents can then tailor the site to display a user-specific schedule by adding personal appointments or narrowing down the calendar to list only their own childs activities. The site also supports multiple children who attend different schools, allowing their information to be viewed in one place.
eHomeRoom.coms initial uses were to improve communication between teachers and parents. However, Flatt sees other uses of the site at his school.
1. School Closings. Because of the hundreds of calls that flooded our office during ice or snow storms, many parents either were put on hold or received busy signals, explains Waltons Associate Principal Judy McNeill. Now with eHomeRoom.com, parents can log onto the Internet and find out if the school opening is delayed. According to McNeill, eHomeRoom.com is like having additional staff respond to questions from parents.
2. Cancellations. If its raining and baseball is cancelled, we can put it on eHomeRoom and save everyone a lot of time and frustration, she adds.
3. Fundraising abilities. Schools can opt to pay an annual fee to purchase the advertising space on the Web site and then resell the space to local school supporters. Most schools spend a considerable amount of time selling ads for football programs, yearbook or fall festivals. Being able to offer our sponsors another way to publicize their messages to the community is a great enhancement to our sales efforts, says the PTA president.
Since the school began using the site, it has received a great deal of positive feedback from parents and students. Parents would much rather log onto the site and have an instantaneous answer than receive a busy signal or wait on hold for several minutes, says Flatt.
Within the next year, Flatt plans to utilize the site to raise funds for the school. eHomeRoom.com offers businesses an effective tool to advertise their products and services to the local community on a daily basis. It will also provide the school with additional funds.
Walton is considering using the eHomeRoom.com printable calendar as the master schedule that gets sent home each semester. Once the school schedule is entered in eHomeRoom.com, it can easily be printed and sent with other new bulletin information. Then parents have a hard copy and they can access it via the Internet at any time, Flatt adds.
Deni Corbett, director of instructional technology at The First Academy in Orlando, Florida, implemented eHomeRoom.com this fall. We spend a fortune on paper, copier toner and repair not to mention a lot of time copying and stuffing newsletters into students folders to take home, she says. Our parents are so transient, we need a one-stop location for virtual calendaring. eHomeRoom.com is a major time-saver for our teachers, parents and students.
Additionally, the company developed a Web clipping application for the Palm VII that will allow users to access eHomeRoom.com school and family information via the wireless device at any time.
The eHomeRoom site was developed using state of the art technology. The primary development language is Allaires Cold Fusion running on Microsofts NT Operating System and SQL Service Database. The site also uses HTML and Java Script programming languages. The Cold Fusion development technology allows the company to develop and enhance the site more quickly than traditional programming languages. The SQL Server Database component of the site allows eHomeRoom.com to deliver a more customized, dynamic display of information not found in many of todays Web sites.
This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.