Friday, November 5, 2010

Students, parents, developers help high schools enter the mobile age; but district administrators still lag far behind

Back in April Abilene Christian University became the first college to launch its own iPad app, and since then other colleges have begun launch apps, as well. By the time this semester (or quarter) is over, I expect to see a flood of new apps thanks to college course work.
The iPhone, of course, is no stranger to apps from educational institutions. Do a search for "Stanford" and you'll find quite a few, as you'd expect -- there's even one called SEP, for Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, put out by the Metaphysics Research Lab.

The Dallas Morning News now points to an app put out by a local area high school. The Highland Park High School's iPhone app contains news from the school's media department, as well as a calendar of events. The app is free to download, but access to the content requires a password provided by the school.

Credit for the app should probably go to Kelly Snowden, the advisor for the school’s broadcast and newspaper staff. "I was looking for extra things for my kids to do. We started brainstorming ideas, first for a website and then the app," Snowden is quoted as saying by the Dallas Morning News.
Highland Park High School was then approached by Allan Restrepo, owner of YOUniversal Ideas. That company currently has 49 iPhone apps listed in iTunes (for a developer this company is seriously under the radar -- take a look at their website). The app itself was then launched on September 3 and according to the DMN story has been downloaded over 1500 times (plus one more this morning by me).

Updating the content on the app is an activity fully integrated into the school work of the high school's media students. “The content is updated daily,” Snowden is quoted as saying. “Each broadcast student is required to produce a new package every two weeks. Newspaper students work the beat system and each is required to turn in one story a week.”

Great work -- and a good story by the Dallas Morning News which is worth reading in full here.

I've spoken twice to students at the local area high school. Each time I recommended that they seriously consider launching a website to support their media efforts. The second time I mentioned mobile applications. Unfortunately, the local high school seems to be doing a very good job of lowering the expectations of the students than expanding them.

Kelly Snowden, and the staff and parent supporters, at Highland Park High School deserve some credit for pushing this project and seeing it through.

A search for the term "high school" in the iTunes App Store does not bring up a lot of apps directly tied to high schools. One app, sold by Vicinity Live, is for Westlake High School in Texas -- specifically, for its football team. It, too, must have been a labor of love based on the developer's website (or lack thereof).

But apps for high school football are sadly far more common than apps for the high school's themselves. But there are some exceptions which is really nice to see. Wayland High School from Massachusetss used the service AppsForUsAll to launch an iPhone app. There is also an app from Stephen T. Badin High School, from the Cincinnati suburbs -- nice logo, too.

There is also an app for Plum High School, put out by Kevin Schaefer. The app is careful to say that the app is not endorsed or supported by the Plum Borough School District (Pittsburgh, Penn.). Kevin is a student at the school and is apparently a tech wiz -- this story I found mentions his use of UStream. I hope he at least got some extra credit for the app!

I also found two apps from England: one from Seven Kings High School, and one from Epsom and Ewell High School. These schools are not the exact equivalent of U.S. high schools, but are worth mentioning since this site gets a fair amount of non-US traffic.

Other high schools that deserve shout outs are East Meadow High School in Westbury, NY, an app from Columbus North High School (Indiana), and probably a couple of others that I missed.

I wish I could report that school administrators are going mobile. But when so many media executives are slow to move into mobile I suppose it would be unfair to point the finger at school districts that often have serious funding issues to contend with.