By Dinnah Escanilla
Principal, Ellen Ochoa STEM Academy
Grand Prairie ISD
Raise Your Hand Texas Alumna, ’13 (Harvard)
As a long-time principal and administrator, I’ve heard it all. Sometimes teachers miss deadlines, meetings, and trainings because they are busy educating students. The usual truth is that information is not always at their fingertips.
The most common information teachers need to access on a daily basis and in different places are emails, the district website, memos, instructions, documents, forms, the calendar, newsletters, training videos, and meeting agendas. I can truly empathize with my teachers. When I was a teacher, the first memo I received from my principal was about my failure to report to morning hall duty. The (paper) memo was put in my mailbox at the end of the day. By the time I finished my after-school tutoring, the main office where my mailbox was located was already closed.
What can we do as principals to help teachers access information in a faster, convenient, and easy way? Sometimes it’s not information overload that frustrates our teachers; it’s the lack of time and directions to access it. I love problem-solving using creativity and innovation. That’s exactly what I did this summer; I built a mobile app featuring frequently accessed school resources, internal communication channels, as well as some existing popular apps, all in one place for my teachers to problem-solve the question “how can teachers simplify the process of accessing information needed for the job?”
If I can make it easy for my teachers to find as much information as they need in one place, I might be able to help them manage time so they can work better, increase learning and collaboration among colleagues, and most of all, have more time to spend with students.
“The goal is to increase productivity, performance, and efficiency, and ultimately improve teacher job satisfaction.”
“Sometimes it’s not information overload that frustrates our teachers;
it’s the lack of time and directions to access it.”
The goal is to increase productivity, performance, and efficiency, and ultimately improve teacher job satisfaction. We all know that happy and satisfied teachers are more motivated and have more impact on student learning. When creating an in-school app, think of a design that will benefit teachers and staff. To eliminate device incompatibility, and excuses for the not-so-tech-savvy staff, our school app is a hassle-free application that can be easily accessed in all platforms: mobile Android, iPhone IOS, iPad, and desktop. Don’t create apps just to be nice and look innovative (although those are benefits too!)
Mobile apps could help drive deeper family engagement too. Timely communication with parents is very important. We know most parent letters, important announcements, and PTA meeting reminders end up in kids’ backpacks for a period of time. I am in the process of building an app for parents using a mobile technology they are already familiar with. Now that school has started, I can’t wait to teach my teachers to create their own classroom apps. If you’d like advice on creating a customized collection of apps that works for your school, contact me through Raise Your Hand Texas and I will share my process for designing our system.
Update: The related app for parents, called the Ochoa Parent Connection, is ready to go! Parents were introduced to the tool at a PTA meeting September 8th. Click below to watch CBS-DFW profile principal Dinnah Escanilla and talking with parents about the app.