All posts by Berni (Jigsaw School Apps)

Birmingham – you were wonderful!

What a delightful show the Education Show 2014 at the NEC Birmingham was!

Working with a Guide Dog
Working with a Guide Dog

From the moment we walked in we could tell this was going to be different from the others we have done. For a start everything was so bright and colourful! I’m not sure if it was targeted more at primary schools but it seemed like a big playground!

Secondly – there were animals! Real ones and lots of them. We saw the wonderful placid and patient guide dogs at the RNIB stand. They were allowing people to try out working with one – by putting on glasses to restrict the view and showing them how a dog helps and guides you. It was lovely to see. Then there was the PDSA stand who had a lovely sleek whippet sitting on their stand. He seemed to be enjoying the attention. Just round the corner from our stand was one staffed by ladies from a children’s holiday farm who had rabbits and guinea pigs.

Then there was the Animal Man who was sitting on his stand quite calmly with a snake round his neck! Also, he had a tarantula in a glass case and if anyone asked he would let them hold it. I didn’t ask!! One brave lady did though and she had it on her hand for a second before begging him to take it off her!

Want to pet a snake?
Want to pet a snake?

I did meet Sid the Sloth from the Ice Age films – he was much cuddlier than the spider and snake! There were some inspirational speakers too. In fact Professor Brian Cox walked right past our stand. I asked him if he’d like a leaflet – but he politely declined. To be fair – he was on his way to the arena to give his speech about making science more exciting in schools. We also caught a glimpse of Dara Ó Briain – who was doing a question and answer session about the importance of maths and science – though sadly he didn’t come past our stand, so missed out on the offer of a leaflet.

Nice exhibits opposite us!
Nice exhibits opposite us!

Our neighbours were great fun too. The stand opposite ours was all about Health Education. They had some very interesting exhibits and we had quite a laugh watching people try on the beer glasses that simulated intoxication. They then had them trying to walk in a straight line down the edge of the carpet. We did wonder what kind of risk assessment they’d had to do for that – as so many nearly wobbled over or walked into the table!

There were also lots of stands with theatre group dressed up – we saw a gladiator walking around as well as some characters from the army and also Victorian times.  The Harry Potter Experience had a stand too – and they were photographing people sitting on a broom in front of a green screen and then giving them a glossy photo with a background of a Quiddich field in a very nice cardboard frame. All for free. Needless to say one or two of the Jigsaw School Apps team had a go!

Fun with Quidditch
Fun with Quidditch

It was a great position for a stand – we were very close to the café. This meant that we could offer visitors some biscuits to go with their coffee or tea as they walked past. it was a great conversation starter! We met a lot of great people – all full of ideas and keen to improve their school – or pre-school nursery or after-school clubs. We can make apps for anyone who has a group of people they need to keep in touch with.

Sid and Berni :-)
Sid and Berni :-)

We are going to be very busy over the next few weeks – we will contact all those who asked us to and let you know how to get started with your own branded apps. We have hundreds in the stores now and look forward to helping even more institutions improve their school to home communication and parental engagement. It was so much fun to see the look of amazement on visitors’ faces when we showed them the instant translation feature or the survey  function for quick and easy parent feedback. They were a picture!

Please do check out our website if you’d like more information and get in touch if you’d like to set up a free trial for yourself.

 

Next stop – Birmingham

It feels like we are doing a nationwide tour!

First London, then Manchester, and next on to the NEC Birmingham. We’d love it if you want to come and see us and watch what the school apps can do for your school! We’ll be at the Education Show from 20th-22nd March – come to Stand H83 – we’ll ply you with biscuits while we show you what we can do!

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Feeling peckish? Help yourself!

In the meantime we have been busy building the apps for our new customers and getting them into the app stores. That means their parents will soon be able to download them and get immediate access to the news and events from their children’s school. We are particularly proud of our categorisation system which means that parents can decide which news sections they want to receive. If they don’t have a child in the football team – they can switch off that news section! That means that parents aren’t swamped with messages from school. They are in control of what they receive and what language they receive it in.

Don’t forget we make apps for iPhones, Android phones as well as Windows Phones. We had lots of interest in Manchester and people especially loved the translation feature. If you have placed an order – do get your artwork into us and approved as soon as you can so that your apps can be submitted with the next batch.

In other news – we have been featured in the local press! We were very happy that The Sentinel put us in their business section – highlighting our latest translation feature and our appearance at the Education Show 2014. We’d love to see you there! We’ll be in good company – we hear that Professor Brian Cox and Dara O Briain will be there too!

Thank-You Manchester!

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Jigsaw School Apps at the EICE 2014

JSA had a great time at the Education Innovation Conference and Exhibition in Manchester. It was a very well organised, friendly event. Darren and Nathan gave lots of demonstrations to a variety of interesting and inspiring educators. Lots of leaflets and biscuits were handed out to the many visitors. Also, we enjoyed looking at the other products on display and meeting the other exhibitors. We were all fascinated by the blow-up classroom – it was wonderful!

eice
Live demos at the show.

It is great to see people’s reactions when we show them the apps that we create. Some are amazed when they see how quickly the messages we type in the live demos pop up in the app. Others love how quickly they translate the content when they choose a different language. It is fun to watch! Thank-you to all of you who asked for more details – we will be in touch very soon.

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Help yourself!

Talking of translations – we were asked if we had Punjabi and we realised that we didn’t. So, Nathan, our developer, has already had a look at that and it is now among the over 70 languages we offer.

We are always open to new ideas – please get in touch if there is a feature you’d like to see. We have quite a few things in the pipeline as we are continually looking to stay ahead. Keep checking back with us to find out more.

If you would like to meet the team and have a live demo –  we will be at the Early Years Annual Conference at Yarnfield Conference Centre, Stone, ST15 0NL on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th March. We will also be at the NEC in Birmingham at the Education Show on 20-22 March. We are looking forward to meeting new customers!

10 Reasons to visit Jigsaw School Apps at EICE 2014

Are you coming to the Education Innovation Conference and Exhibition at Manchester Central on Thursday 27th or Friday 28th February? Then here are 10 reasons why you should come to Stand C31 and see us:

 

1 We can make your app in your school colours with your photos, motto and logos

2 We cover iPhones, Android phones and Windows phones

3 Parents can download the app for free, by searching for your school’s name in their app store

4 Parents can choose which language they read your content in

5 You have complete control of your content – the second you add it the parents receive it

6 You will be able to get instant feedback from parents by including surveys

7 Parents can add your events to their device’s calendar and set reminders for themselves

8 You can add pdf files to include things like lunch menus and school newsletters

9 Reach your parents right away with urgent news – wherever they are

10 We give out free biscuits!

 

So come along to Stand C31 and we will give you a quick demonstration of all these features to improve your school-to-home communication. You’ll wonder how you’ve managed without one!

How to be Innovative

As we are going to be exhibiting at the Education Innovation Conference and Exhibition at Manchester Central ,I have been thinking about innovation in education and what it means.

I came across this wonderful article and blog from A J Juliani, an American educator, about the 5 Things Innovative Schools Do Differently. In it he lists these five things – and the one that caught my attention was:

Innovative Schools are transparent” – he says that all stakeholders should be aware of what is going on and schools should use social networking, such as Twitter and Facebook, to keep everyone informed. What better way to keep parents informed and engaged than via a smartphone app? This is immediate – as most people have their phones with them everyday, wherever they are! You can make sure they have your news and event information as soon as you post it, including any last minute changes. They can also read your newsletters, see the changes to the timetables or school meals and take part in surveys.

It can also improve parent and carer engagement with your school as you can post event information and the users can add them to their device’s calendar and set a reminder so they don’t forget to go. Everyone’s lives are so busy these days that this can be a real boon to set a reminder to pop up the day before – or have an event in the calendar already so if anything else comes up they know they are already booked up for that evening. Also people can share calendars on these devices too – so all the family knows what is booked in for them.

He also stressed that innovative schools use technology the right way and are connected – with their stakeholders and other schools and teaching staff.

If you want to know how apps can help your school innovate – and improve school to home communication – come and see us at EICE 2014, we are on Stand C31 – or get in touch via the website http://www.jigsawschoolapps.com/ You may still be able to take advantage of our free trial.

Gearing up for Manchester

bett3Things have been very busy here at Jigsaw School Apps. We’ve been inundated with orders since Bett2014 and if you are waiting for your apps – they are on their way! If you want to order yours before the end of the financial year – let us know soon. We are expecting even more interest once we have been to the Education Innovation Conference and Exhibition in Manchester on 27th and 28th February at Manchester Central. If you are coming to that – look out for our stand C31 and come and say hello! We have free biscuits – which you can munch while watching the demo!

Meanwhile there have been some very interesting articles in the education press and on social media. Department for Education figures reveal that English is no longer the first language for the  majority pupils at one in nine schools. The Telegraph said “schools have enlisted  interpreters to help at parents evenings and bi-lingual teaching assistants for reception classes.”  This also highlights the need for even better school to home communication so that parents can feel included too. Our school apps can be made available in up to 72 languages. The school decides which languages are appropriate for their needs and can offer those choices to parents. This means the parent can download the app to their phone and choose from the list which language they would like to read the content in.

This means they get the news, learn about the events at the school (and can put them in their own calendar with a reminder) and take part in surveys in their own language. It is another way you can keep up the parental engagement that Ofsted are so keen on – but more importantly it is better for the pupils if their parents are involved in their schooling too.

I enjoyed reading a recent discussion on Storify – a kind of sharing of best practice between Primary Schools on ways of Developing Good Parental Relationships. Click on the link and have a read – there are some great ideas! I like “Having a range of communication strategies in place imperative as parents like to engage in different ways”. It made me laugh when one contributor said that she liked to ring parents and tell them good news – she said they were always suspicious!!

Some good news that came out last week: a Harvard academic had done a study which showed that closing school for occasional days for bad weather did not affect pupils learning. In his article he said “Such a clean break seemed to cause less disruption than trying to stay open, when many pupils might not be able to get into school.”  Although this year it seems they are less likely to be snow days – more like flood days!

Either way – when you need to close in any emergency – your school app will be able to notify parents wherever they are! As one visitor to our stand told us at Bett 2014 – “You have identified all the issues schools have and solved them all!”  That is nice – but we still have innovations in the pipeline – so watch this space!

Welcome to Jigsaw School Apps

bett2Hello!

Welcome to the Jigsaw School Apps blog.

We are a software company based in Staffordshire, England, who specialise in making smart phone apps for schools. We started with a soft launch in our area and currently have our apps in around 70 schools.

This month we decided to launch properly and attend the Bett Show 2014 as an exhibitor. We have been amazed and very happy with the response so far! It was great to meet so many inspiring people from the world of education who stopped by our stand for a chat and a quick demo of our products.

So, what exactly do we do?

Basically we design and create smart phone apps for your school or organisation to keep in touch with parents (or customers!) We brand them to your organisation – with your logos, mottos, colours and photos and put them in each of the app stores for your parents to download for free. We cover iPhones, Android phones and (unlike many other app providers) we also make them for Windows Phones too. We wouldn’t like to leave anyone out!

This means that the parents can go to their app store and look for your name and find your app, download it for free and keep in touch with all your news and events wherever they happen to be. People usually have their phones with them wherever they are – so will not miss any important posts from you.

So, if the boiler breaks down – post a news item and immediately your users will get a push notification – their phones will buzz and there’ll be a pop up message at the top of the screen to let them know that there’s a new message from you. There is no delay while you send info to us and then we post it – you have complete control of all your app content via a simple web-based control panel. So, the second you press send – everyone gets the news.

Say it snows on a Sunday night and you don’t know whether to shut the school the next day. There is no need to go into school to access the control panel – you can access it from anywhere – even your phone. As long as you have your log-in details you can add anything to your app.

Another very cool feature is the survey option. It is a way for you to get instant feedback from your parents. Enter a question, give multiple choice answers, post it and sit back and watch the responses come in. We’ve had some very happy heads who have told us that within minutes of posting a survey they have had twenty responses come in!

As you know parent feedback is very important and this method improves on the original “note sent home that never returns to school” or even a text that asks parents to look at the website and fill in a form. With an app they have the question and responses there immediately wherever they are – and it is as simple as selecting an option and pressing send. The responses are then collated by us and appear as a bar chart in your control panel.

Talking of parent engagement we have a NEW feature which we launched at Bett 2014 – the translation option. If you have parents for whom English is not their first language – then they can choose which language they receive your information in. You decide which of 72 languages you wish to make available to your parents and they choose, in the app, which they’d like to use. We can feed it through a translation service and you include everyone in the school community.

This is proving very popular – it is the sort of thing Ofsted like!

In a nutshell, we feel that smart phone apps are the future of school to home communication. Unlike texts, where you often have to pay per text, there is no limit to the number of items you can post each day. Also, you can make them as long as you like – no character limit, and can even include photos. In fact anything you have on your website can be made available in your app, if you can supply them in .pdf format. This means schools are including lunch menus, newsletters and that sort of thing.

So, down to basics – how much will this cost you? We’ll set up with apps for free, let you test them out, and if you like them then there’s a very simple pricing structure via a yearly subscription. Visit the website below for the price list:

email: info@jigsawschoolapps.com

phone: 01782 305504

website: http://jigsawschoolapps.com/