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North Carolina teacher creates student carpool app with Google Cloud’s AppSheet

It’s been a school year like no other for teachers like Erin Wolfhope, Instructional Technology Specialist at Burke County Public Schools in Hickory, North Carolina. A former kindergarten teacher, Erin earned a master's degree in instructional media, and since 2005, she’s helped her fellow educators integrate technology into their district’s K–12 classrooms. “I help other teachers learn and grow with technology to use with their students,” says Erin, a Google Certified Educator. In early 2020, she transitioned from working in elementary schools to helping high school teachers master their school’s learning management system. “I moved to the high school a week before COVID took over the world,” Erin says. “I’m trying to help teachers work smarter, not harder. They've been forced to use technology for virtual teaching or hybrid learning. They are stressed and overworked. I thought, ‘How can I help them?’” Erin has helped teachers navigate the previously unchartered waters of teaching online via video conferencing. “A lot of them will say, ‘I don't do technology,’” Erin says. “But they literally are doing all the technology right now. I show them new things apps and other digital tools can do in little snippets, so as not to overwhelm them.” When North Carolina teachers and students returned to in-person learning in fall 2020, they entered a new world of COVID-19 safety precautions. This included trying to keep students from congregating in groups, including when waiting outside for their rides home from school—a topic Erin and her husband, Jeff, a middle-school teacher, knew all too well.  The challenge: Keeping students safe during school dismissal School districts all over the U.S. have faced unprecedented challenges creating a safe teaching and learning environment during the coronavirus pandemic. In the past, school dismissal has sometimes been a free for all, with excited kids racing through hallways to get outside and hang out together, as they wait for their rides home. This practice had to change in the age of COVID-19, to better regulate student dismissal and allow for physical distancing. Erin’s husband Jeff Wolfhope, a sixth-grade science teacher at Walter Johnson Middle School in Morganton, NC, vented to her that his school was having difficulty managing the student dismissal and car ride pickup process. “They were announcing student names over the intercom [to go outside to catch their rides home] for 35 minutes straight,” Erin recalls. “My husband said it was maddening. I said, ‘I have a way to fix that.’” Fortunately, Erin already had experience building a no-code classroom app using Google Cloud’s AppSheet. A few years earlier, Erin had looked for ways to engage students in learning about historical explorers. “I was looking in the Chrome Web Store for things to add onto Google Sheets, Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google Slides. When I saw AppSheet, I thought, ‘I've never heard of that.’ When it said you could build an app without code, I thought, ‘Well, I don't know how to code. That sounds good to me.’”   Using Jeff to test things out, Erin built a no-code app with AppSheet that allowed students to enter and cross-reference data about historical explorers in Google Sheets. “I wanted it to be mostly the kids inputting the data,” she recalls. “I just gave them some column headers and pointed them in the right direction. We used Google Search to find information about the explorers. Getting sixth graders to all collaborate on one sheet can be a little hairy. But they built this app. I threw in some maps. And I came to love Google Sheets and [AppSheet], and what [the students] could do with data.” Choosing AppSheet: Streamlining the after-school pickup process Erin set out to help schools in her district address the student dismissal and ride pickup issue. She created two tabs in AppSheet: “Students” and “Pick Up.” “I pulled the student rosters from our student information system and dumped them [into Google Sheets],” Erin explains. The lists of names synced with another app called Awesome Table that creates dynamic websites using data from Google Sheets. Here’s how Erin’s car rider app works: The app sorts student names by grade and displays them in an Awesome Table view projected in the classroom. “It’s really pretty basic,” Erin says. “Teachers and students see the names of students projected in their classrooms. Outside, in the car rider line, administrators have the app on their phones. When students see their name on the board, then they go outside. Then, when one of the administrators sees that kid get in their car, they tap their name on the picked-up side [of the app] and they come off of the Awesome Table view in the classroom.” The app supports an orderly dismissal of students, with real-time updates between students picked up and the list of students waiting projected onto Awesome Table in the classroom. AppSheet Customer Support guided Erin in finetuning the app’s functions. “Now, schools don't have a cog of kids out there on top of each other and they don't have to make those [student dismissal] announcements every day,” Erin says. I thought, ‘OK, this might be amazing.’”   The results: Getting students on their rides home safely Erin’s no-code car rider app made with Google Cloud’s AppSheet is now used by several elementary schools and one middle school in the county.  Because of her no-code app, the rider pickup process is easier for teachers, administrators, and students; and parents approve of the more orderly dismissal, too. “At my husband’s parent–teacher conferences, he bragged to his kids, ‘Hey, my wife made this app we're using,’” Erin recalls. “Then he said, ‘Erin, you got a shout out in my parent conference. [Parents] said since [schools] use the app, the car rider line is so much faster and efficient. They can get their kids and get out of here so much quicker.’  I thought, ‘Oh, there we go!’” Erin’s no-code app also saves schools money. This is so important, now more than ever, as resource-strapped school systems struggle to keep learning alive during the pandemic. “I know there are some [commercial] car rider [software packages] out there, but we have no money, we really have nothing,” Erin says. “So I'm super thankful that [AppSheet] is not something we have to shell out money for. I'm hopeful the principals will say, ‘Hey, this worked so well. What do you think about doing something else with this?’” Erin hopes to develop and expand use of her no-code car rider app to other schools in her district, including once the pandemic is over. She has other ideas for using AppSheet to create no-code apps for use in classrooms and school libraries, as well as to facilitate workflow and communications between teachers, school administrators, and parents. She says she likes AppSheet for its simplicity and ease of use for users at all levels, including the teachers and students she supports on a day-to-day basis. “There are lots of possibilities,” Erin says.  “I just need someone to say, ‘Hey Erin, I need this thing.’ And I will say, ‘OK, I can work on that.’ Point me in a direction to work on something and I'll see what we can do.” Do you have an idea for a no-code app that could help your school or organization work better? Google Cloud’s AppSheet is always free to try.

UVA Library Mines for Marginalia with Project Management Apps

An old library book can contain a trove of insight beyond its text. Margins can serve as direct windows into the past through the notes, thoughts, and doodles left behind by readers from long ago. There’s now a growing effort within the academic community to discover, archive, and study antique marginalia. This is the core focus of Book Traces, a University of Virginia (UVA)-led project that started in the school’s Alderman Library and has since grown into a global crowdsourced initiative. Of course, mining for marginalia may sound romantic. But it’s also hard work that requires patience, an eye for detail, and a significant amount of data entry. It’s also vital to use the right tools—which is something the Book Traces team discovered early on. Challenge: Streamlining data entry When the project first launched, students were surveying books in the UVA library stacks using bulky laptops and spreadsheets. “They had to manually enter items such as a book’s location, its condition, and whether any markings were present,” says project manager Kristin Jensen. “They’d then take the books with markings and enter more details into Google Forms. It was very inefficient.”  There were many photos to keep track of, too, which created extra work. “The team would have to spend hours going back through our digital camera, matching photos with books in the spreadsheet, and then matching the spreadsheet to the corresponding Google Form,” Jensen explains. Seeking a better way forward when the project expanded to other libraries, Jensen started searching online for a solution that could interface with her spreadsheets. After doing her due diligence, Jensen discovered AppSheet’s no-code development platform. Solution: AppSheet AppSheet was an ideal match for several reasons. Jensen liked its mobile nature and the fact that the platform can integrate directly with spreadsheets via the cloud. AppSheet was also in line with her budget. Most importantly, AppSheet was something her team could start using almost immediately. “We had a $60,000 grant, but half of that had to be spent on student wages,” Jensen said. “Plus, we only had a year to spend it and so we needed to get this project underway quickly. We didn’t have time to find a developer.”  Jensen decided to take matters into her own hands by becoming a citizen developer. Within just a few hours, she started designing an app despite having a limited amount of technical experience. “I started by building a prototype and then I kept iterating until I got it where I wanted,” she says. “I created a base app that I could copy for each new library that we go into. So each app is a variation of the original, but has its own spreadsheet.” The App Jensen’s team has now worked at nine different libraries, and so the project has nine separate mobile apps in use which students can access over a UVA-owned iPod Touch. “Our students are now fully mobile, which is very helpful when traveling to other libraries,” Jensen continues. “They don’t need to set up a laptop somewhere. They can just walk around the stacks and use an app.” The data entry process is now much faster and more intuitive for students, too. Each app is based on a spreadsheet which contains a list of books that students need to comb through. Students can type in data and attach photos when they find interesting notes in the pages. One noteworthy feature is a special “completion” dashboard, which appears when a student nears the end of his or her list of books. The dashboard alerts students about books that have not been completed so that they don’t accidentally bypass any titles—something that is easy to do when scrolling through a long list. Jensen also created a special feature that helps students enter data more efficiently for books with multiple volumes. Results: Accelerated workflows and increased productivity According to Jensen, the workflow is night and day compared to the old system. For example, in the past it would take several days or even weeks for photos and updates to trickle in from the field. Now, photos can be automatically tagged and tracked in the app. Jensen and her team can see updates in near-real time from a centralized dashboard. “When something interesting comes in, I can send it to my team right away for analysis,” Jensen concludes. “We love having instant access to fresh data.” With the help of AppSheet, the project is moving along much faster. It’s also eliminating a significant amount of backend labor, keeping it fun and interesting for Jensen and her team. The platform is enabling the Book Traces team to dig through history and pull out literary treasures that would otherwise go unnoticed—book by book. We’d also like to congratulate the UVA Men’s basketball team for its historic NCAA tournament victory! Go Cavaliers! Special Discounts: If you are seeking to build education management apps for your school or university, signup for our 50% off discount through our AppSheet for Education program. If you are a teacher seeking to use AppSheet in your classroom curriculum, signup for our free access AppSheet for the Classroom program.  

Free Excel and App Templates for Schools and Universities

Today’s educators work over 400 hours of overtime per year, averaging more than 50 total work hours a week. On the flipside, 88% of people say a teacher has had a significant and positive impact on their life. Simply put, educators are the backbone of tomorrow's generation. With grading, managing students, and developing lesson plans, educators have a lot on their plate. Why make teaching more complex than it needs to be? Can they be more productive without having to work long hours? The answer is yes, absolutely! This is why we created three free customizable excel templates to help educators do their best work.  And, because it's so easy to do on the AppSheet development platform, we turned each spreadsheet into an app. All you need to do is copy the app, replace the data, and then customize your app to meet your users' needs. If you're an educator, this post is for you! Short on time? Just jump to the template you're most interested in: Grade Calculator Student Information Sheet Attendance Sheet Grade Calculator This simple and straightforward grade calculator has 5 assessment categories—Participation, Homework, Quiz, Exam, and Project. Each category has a suggested grade weight that’s customizable by changing the column definition. For example, Participation is weighted at 5% and Homework 20%. After you enter a student's grades for all assignments, the calculator will return the Total Grade as a percentage and convert it to a Letter Grade.  Add in your students' info and the spreadsheet is yours! Bonus: To make this process even easier, we converted the spreadsheet into an app that runs on mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. With the app, you can do the following: Get an overview of the grade distribution with histogram and bar chart views; Easily navigate grades in a certain bin, i.e, A, A-, and B etc; Check a student's grade breakdown and make quick edits on the fly. Student Information Sheet  Every educator needs access to student information. This spreadsheet template allows easy navigation to vital information such as the student's major, current classes, and emergency contacts. It even includes a photo column so students are easily identifiable. Bonus: With apps, you can do so much more than a regular spreadsheet: Perform quick edits to any columns of the spreadsheet and have that information reflected in the app; Make phone calls right from the app and include notes on the calls; Organize student information by School, Major, and Graduation Year; Show student addresses on a map. That’s why we created a customizable app— you can access it on any device and get work done on your terms. Notice this app was created from a different spreadsheet, but the functionality is the same.  Attendance Sheet Taking attendance should be simple and seamless, especially when there’s limited time in the classroom. This spreadsheet makes it easy to take attendance: simply input the letter corresponding to the student’s status: P for Present, E for absent-excused, U for absent-unexcused, and T for Tardy. The spreadsheet will do the rest!  Both monthly and weekly options are included in our template. Add your student’s names, customize the dates, and it’ll be ready to use! Disclaimer: Make sure you copy the spreadsheet, not request access! Bonus: Taking attendance is even more seamless on a mobile app. The app we created makes it easy to take attendance anywhere, especially on the go. An app is your best bet for success. You'll be able to: Automatically record the time when you open up a new form; Easily enter data with drop-down options for First Name and Status; View charts with attendance status distribution for the whole class or a student.     Closing Notes Why apps? You deserve the best tools to help your students succeed. Compared to spreadsheets and other traditional tools, apps: Are easier to use on mobile devices. Have simplified data visualization tools. Lead to less data entry errors. Curious to know how other educators found AppSheet and why they wanted to make apps to manage processes in their schools? Check out our story on Kipp: Albany Public Schools. Kipp made a suite of apps to manage school operations—including food service, calls, morning attendance, and inventory. Preston Moore, CIO of the schools, said these apps provide the district with loads of value in terms of efficiency, safety, kids not getting lost, and more. Get started learning how to build your own apps and customize your life as an educator with AppSheet!

Education Apps: Mobile Apps Help Schools Improve Accountability, Efficiency, and Safety

                                                                                                             Courtesy of Preston Moore  Motivating students to do their best is an ongoing challenge for educators. But KIPP: Albany Public Schools has a novel approach for reinforcing desirable behavior. Its middle school teachers allocate points for completed homework and other positive outcomes. Those points appear on student “paychecks.” The kids can spend them in the on-site gift shop, for field trips or other school activities. The school used to record those points on a paper roster. That method required someone to key in that information later. Then the district tasked Preston Moore with finding a better solution. He found the right answer with AppSheet. The Discovery Process “I was looking for a way to record the data from a form or a sheet into a tablet, and AppSheet came up in one of my searches,” said Moore, CIO and district data coordinator. “And I saw it was really friendly with Google Sheets, which was easy for us to use.” The district in Albany, N.Y. was already using Google G-Suite with Google Sheets, although not for the paycheck rosters. But the fact that AppSheet worked with Google technology was attractive, Moore said, and creating the initial AppSheet app was fast and relatively simple. “I downloaded the AppSheet add-on for Google Forms. And so I set up the form that the kids would have to fill out. And from there I just ran the add-on, and that gave me the app in AppSheet.” The Paycheck App Now an “auditor” student in each of the middle school’s 11 classes records point entries, per teacher instructions, on a tablet. Teachers can add to and edit entries. Since launching the initial 11 paycheck apps (they’re all the same, but populated with different class information) a few years ago, Moore has produced six other AppSheet apps for the school district. Those apps include: A food service point-of-sale app A call logging app A morning attendance app A student’s app An alert app A tech gear inventory app The Food Service PoS App In addition to the middle school, the school district has an expanding elementary school. The middle school has about 330 students. The elementary school, which opened three years ago, has been adding a grade a year. This year it has kindergarten and first and second grade classes. Both the middle school and the elementary school use the food service point-of-sale app. (This is the only AppSheet app now in use at the elementary school. The district may introduce the alert and call log apps at the elementary school next year.) Here’s how the food service point-of-sale app works. Moore printed QR codes on plastic ID cards for each of the teachers to use at breakfast, lunch, and snack time. Teachers scan the cards using mobile devices equipped with the AppSheet app to track the food for their classes. The app then provides the food services director with the data she needs for her reports. In the past the schools gave the students IDs to track food purchases and used a paper “tick sheet” for food service record keeping. But the kids would frequently lose their IDs, and the paper-based process was less than ideal. Now it all happens digitally and immediately. The Call Logging App As for the call logging app, that ties back to the paycheck program. In addition to rewarding middle school students with paycheck points, the school used to subtract points for student infractions. When paycheck deductions of $9 or more were necessary, teachers were required to call the parents to explain the situation. The middle school administration wanted an efficient way to track these interactions. That way they would have records to show that parents were contacted. And they’d know when they were contacted. The AppSheet-powered call logging app helps teachers record those details. “This just gives them an easy way and a quick way to log their calls,” Moore noted. The Morning Attendance App Middle school teachers are also now using an AppSheet-powered app to take attendance. Moore said this app just recently went into production. And it's a big hit due to the time savings it affords. “Teachers love it,” he said. “They were doing it on paper before.”  .                                                                                                            Courtesy of Preston Moore  The Students App Moore refers to this next app as the students app, but it’s actually the teachers who use the app. But everybody benefits from this app, which has been very helpful in getting students where they need to go following dismissal at the end of the school day. The students app houses all student names, addresses, what classroom (or “college”) they’re in, the bus they’re supposed to take, their locker information, and contact information. Users of this app can initiate calls and texts from within the app. This app also can provide directions to the student’s house and present maps of other students who live near them. That way, if a student is still on campus after the buses have left, or a student doesn’t know which bus to board, the teacher can use the app rather than call the school office to get the information they need to help that child. “That’s something our leadership team and administrators find very useful,” said Moore. The Alerts App Speaking of transportation, the alerts app addresses that too. But this app focuses on use cases in which students diverge from their typical transportation plan. For example, say a student has a doctor’s appointment after school, their parents remember that after they drop off the child, and the parents then call letting the school know one of them is going to pick up the child to drive them to the doctor rather than having the kid take the bus home as usual. In the past, a parent would call with that information, and then a school staff member would walk up to the student and let them know. Now, however, front office staff can use AppSheet technology to send the teacher an alert letting them know that student is getting picked up instead of taking the bus. The teacher then shares that message with the student, and the student signs a form within the app denoting that he or she has received the message. When the teacher saves the response, the signature is saved as an image file and archived with the message. The Inventory App Moore also has created an app to keep track of technology-related equipment at the middle school. He tagged school laptops with QR codes. And people at the school can use the AppSheet app to scan those codes to figure out where equipment is and where it’s supposed to be. The Overall Benefits That’s a lot of apps. Moore said these apps have provided the school district with a lot of value in terms of efficiency, safety, kids not getting lost, and more. He couldn’t quantify the hassle, time, and worry saved, but Moore said: “I know it’s big.” “There’s no telling how many employee hours we have saved throughout the week for a lot of people at the main office, food services, administration, all the way down to teachers,” he added. “People are saving a lot of time using the apps.” User Experience & Advice For Others Moore, who built the apps, said he has had a positive experience using AppSheet too. “It was pretty easy for me” to build the apps, said Moore. “It was user friendly, I thought.” When Moore did need advice, he reached out to the AppSheet user community. He also got some help from AppSheet CEO Praveen Seshadri. “Praveen was very helpful,” said Moore. “I emailed him directly a few times, and he was quick to respond. Overall, it was a really good experience.” AppSheet’s Expressions feature was also a big help, he added. Moore explained that Expressions work like code or formulas that instruct an app on what to do. “Here’s a good example,” Moore said. “The rosters. The rosters change a lot. So with 11 deduction apps and 330 kids, if I had to go in and change the rosters manually every time a roster changed for classes, I’d pull my hair out – the little bit that I have left.” But “with an Expression you can say ‘pull the roster from this college from this sheet.’ And now all I have to do is keep one sheet with all of the colleges updated with rosters. And that updates all of the apps automatically because it’s pulling from that [master] sheet. So that makes life a whole lot easier.” Moore advises anyone who’s new to AppSheet to leverage the community and learn how to use Expressions. Expressions “helped me out a lot,” said Moore. “When I was just doing things the straight-up way I could still do things, but not exactly how I wanted them. “Once I learned how to start using the Expression in AppSheet, that opened up a whole bunch of possibilities.” Below are three app templates you will find useful. When you are on the app page, click "Look Under The Hood" to see how the app was built. If you the features and functionalities are exactly what you are looking for, click "Copy The App", replace the data with yours, and start customizing your way. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I will respond ASAP.  

US Nationally Ranked University Turns Trash Into Treasure with Mobile Apps

                                                                                                                         Courtesy of Jesse Escobar Becoming a zero-waste organization by just 2020 would be a tall task for any company—let alone a university system that spans a sprawling 419 acres and sees roughly 45,000 students traveling the grounds on a daily basis. But that is exactly what the university has set out to do. Making sense of data with apps Jesse Escobar, an analyst for the school system’s Facilities Management department, was responsible for trash pickup at over 300 locations across the school’s campus on a regular basis. Where most would simply see a place to ditch a coffee cup, Jesse saw opportunities. If the trash that Jesse and his team collected could be categorized and tracked from pickup, throughout the recycling and processing portions of the garbage’s life cycle, it might be possible to use that data to make smarter and more sustainable purchases in the future. Jesse had the vision, but not the coding experience, to achieve the strategy. “I certainly had no coding experience, and there wasn’t a developer on my four-man team,” Jesse remarked. “But AppSheet is simple enough that I was able to build my app in just a couple hours.” Rather than simply asking for more resources, Jesse’s app would enable him to utilize raw data to analyze and pinpoint action items to reduce waste. How It Works From there, Jesse and other team members spread out to cover more ground. After collecting and analyzing receptacles from across the campuses, Jesse became convinced that there were ample opportunities to realize the university’s sustainability efforts everywhere, hiding in plain sight. Trash reduction: Many of the materials that are thrown away are distributed on campus or by the university itself. Were the school to cut certain items from its inventory, the campus could not only reduce spending, but accelerate its zero-waste efforts too. With the app, Jesse’s team could add new data at each pick-up bin to track the life cycle of a piece of waste to determine what is tossed to help find out what items could be eliminated. Food waste: Massive amounts of food are purchased, made and sold to keep the student body well-fed. But food waste is rampant too. By tracking food waste, the university can more intelligently source food costs and find new ways to utilize waste rather than bring it to a landfill. Back-end costs: It gets expensive quickly to dispose of and transport waste. By exploring data-driven methods for reducing waste, the school saves on all the back-end logistical considerations involved in dealing with waste. Asset allocation: Jesse also was able to track bin volumes through his app, observing over the course of a year how different behaviors can impact the dissemination of waste across campus. If certain locations are found to be of no use, Jesse and his team were enabled to shift assets to other locations and projects, freeing up bandwidth and budget. Time management: By putting barcodes on bins, Jesse’s team was able to easily scan the bins to upload data to the app immediately. This cut down on having manual tasks to complete, keeping the team active and engaged.   Jesse argues that “There has been significant research and development done to push recycling efforts, yet trash pickup has remained relatively unchanged for years,” Jesse states. “This demonstrates that there is a huge opportunity for the school to rethink the way we deal with our garbage.” In reality, there are seemingly endless ways for the school to leverage Jesse’s app. Not only can the school control costs and assets more easily, but it can hasten its efforts to reach zero-waste status within the next two years. Indeed, other universities may benefit from the example set by this university. Academia is certainly full of administrators looking to cut waste and control costs in an era of tight budget constraints.

Education Apps: Choosing AppSheet Adds Up for Accountant Training Firm

  Accounting Professional Training (APT) prepares students in South Africa for careers in business. So it knows a thing or two about numbers. APT’s mission is to strive for excellence in the accountancy profession, providing professional programs that enable students to qualify as Chartered Accountants. The company is South Africa’s leading presenter of preparation courses for the SAICA (South African Institute of Chartered Accountants) Examination. It has operated successfully in the South African market for 16 years, as well as within Zimbabwe and Namibia. When APT looked at the number of students, exam factors, and grading personnel involved in its manual grading effort, it knew something had to change. So it set out to digitize and mobilize the process. That led APT to adopt the AppSheet platform. The Challenge More than 2,000 students take four APT exams annually. Each of those tests require individuals to complete eight or more tasks. When they’re done, 50 to 100 people located throughout South Africa grade the tests. In the process, APT’s grading team members provide students with detailed feedback about their responses. Traditionally, APT has used couriers to collect student tests, distribute them to graders through the country, fetch the graded documents, and then send them to students for their review across South Africa. The problem: an inefficient process with lots of opportunities for errors. The Solution “It was a logistical nightmare to get the results for students,” explained Husain Coovadia, an APT course presenter. So Husain and APT set out to find a better way to manage and test grading processes. Husain’s first move was to employ Google Sheets. That allowed APT to centralize document management so it could more easily distribute and collect the tests to and from its graders. But APT sought even greater efficiency. So Husain searched for an expanded solution that would work well with Google Drive, which he wanted to use. After some research, he discovered AppSheet. Today the AppSheet platform powers two APT apps. The Grader App The first app facilitates the grading process as well as provides live data for analysis such as grader consistency. When APT brings graders onboard, it asks them to grade a sample test. That way APT can make sure its graders have the skills they need to accurately grade student tests. If they don’t, APT provides them with further training until graders meet the required benchmarks. Graders also use this app to grade actual student exams. The fact that everything is digitized eliminates a lot of error, Husain says. He explains that grading on paper and then having to enter that information in an Excel file was cumbersome. Graders would sometimes put an entry in the wrong column or row, leading to discrepancies and a number of hours spent reconciling errors. “The students are your customers at the end of the day,” says Husain. “And we don’t want to make those errors.” Digitizing the process also makes it easier for graders to receive and return tests no matter where they might be. That’s helpful considering APT employs between 50 to 100 graders around the country in each grading session. The app also provides APT with a view of grading as it happens. It can see test averages, what questions were answered poorly by students, and more, says Husain. This real-time view is a nice feature that provides insight that would not necessarily be available in a manual process. It took 10 to 12 months to get the first app, which launched last summer, running at an optimal level. This app was somewhat challenging due to all the different formulas and tasks involved. Adding to that complexity was the fact that APT wanted to configure the app so individual graders would only see the tests they were supposed to grade. But Husain says AppSheet experts provided the necessary guidance via email communications so he could accomplish his goals with the app. The Student App APT’s other AppSheet-powered app takes all the information from the first app and passes it on to the students. This app provides each student with a grade. Students also get information about several indicators for each of their answers. For example, if a question asks the student to discuss revenue, the app signifies whether the grader marked them as not discussing revenue, discussing revenue, or discussing revenue in depth. Students can also use the app to review graders’ written feedback specific to their answers. In the past, students sometimes struggled to read graders’ handwriting. But with the AppSheet-powered app, feedback is keyed in, so reading the handwritten comments is no longer an issue. The app also presents students with a summary of their grades. That offers insight on where they excelled and where they did not. Allowing students to access their grades and grader comments via the app is also helpful because students receive timely feedback. Addressing Challenges Husain says launching this student app was no easy feat either. But he adds that AppSheet went as far as developing a new feature for its platform to meet APT’s needs. And after about four months, he was able to take the app live. The challenge here was the sheer number of students accessing the app with large data sets at the same time. Today as many as 2,400 APT students have been able to successfully use the app simultaneously. But before launch, when Husain was testing the app with 200 students, only 10 or 15 students were able to open their results. The app delivered an error message saying there was too much data to read. So Husain sent AppSheet a screenshot of the problem. And AppSheet responded by creating the Worksheet Bulk Read feature, which allowed the app to contend with all the tasks, indicators, and students in APT’s database. Together with Husain this feature was tested on numerous occasions. “Once enabled I tested it with 200 students, and it worked,” says Husain. “Then Appsheet ran a stress test for me, and it was able to read 1,000 results in a minute or something like that.”  

From Dated to Digital: How One Teacher Revolutionized His School with Mobile Apps

Like almost any educational institution, Stirling Primary School in East London, South Africa faces common challenges in accessing technology. Unfortunately, there aren’t a multitude of effective yet affordable technological tools available to organizations with limited budgets and resources. But as Stirling’s website declares, “the school is blessed with a highly motivated, caring team of teachers who go beyond the call of duty to provide the optimum levels of learning.” So when Grade 7 teacher Wesley Renton saw an opportunity to innovate upon some outdated processes, he jumped at the chance. Each day, teachers are responsible for taking attendance in all of their classes. Indeed, regular attendance is one of the most important factors in a child’s academic success, so it’s important that careful records are taken to ensure students are meeting their goals-- especially in primary school. In the past, teachers were printing many sheets of paper with students’ names, recording class attendance by hand, and then sending those papers to the school secretary via student delivery. Not only was the process wasteful due to the multitude of papers the teachers were printing each day, but it also took valuable time away that could otherwise be spent teaching and learning. As Wesley says, “It was a waste of paper and had the pupils in and out of the classroom.” He also saw a need for a streamlined system that enabled teachers to contact parents during field trips and external sporting events should there be an emergency. During these outings it’s impossible to haul around papers or address books containing parent information for each student. Wesley wanted to find a way to automate the contact registry and have the ability to share it with the rest of the school staff. Today, Wesley and his colleagues are using educational mobile apps he built with AppSheet to take attendance records and store important parent contact information. His attendance app allows teachers to quickly record who’s present and who’s not, as well as instantly share that data with the school administration department. The app also cuts down drastically on costs and significantly reduces paper waste, helping the school to become even more environmentally conscious.      Wesley remarks, “The school has definitely saved money with the use of the app. We’re are also not throwing paper away anymore and have therefore reduced our [carbon] footprint.” The contact database app helps teachers and administrators easily locate parent information in the event of emergencies. If a student needs to go home for any reason, the app allows teachers to quickly locate her parents and contact them straight from the app.*       “The parent information app has allowed teachers to not have to manually search for the parent details at the school office/back in the classroom should they need to urgently get hold of parents. Any teacher is now able to have access to parent details instantly. This obviously saves time,” he says. *Do you work in education and need mobile tools to streamline your efforts? Copy and customize our education app samples, or sign in right away and start building!

5 Ways Teachers Can Use Apps to Engage Students

Education technology is an extremely hot topic right now and mobile apps are the perfect solution for teachers hoping to enhance their classroom experience. There are several ways mobile apps can not only help teachers, but also students and their parents. With mobile devices becoming the norm in school settings, apps are the the perfect enhancement to any curriculum. Here are five ways you can use them to engage your students.   1. Improve in-classroom communication  Platforms like Twitter and Facebook are changing the way students communicate with each other outside of school. Many of them are collaborating on group projects and organizing activities through social media. Cell phones are becoming common as early as elementary school. Apps can be great tools for announcing updates and information to students in a timely manner. They're being used to also foster communication between students through chat, forums and other features that build on in-person conversation. They're a great option to provide students with the most up-to-date information on their performance and help them understand how to improve without having them rely on office hours.  2. Go paperless and get organized Apps are the perfect way to get a paperless classroom. Going paperless takes commitment and time, but once the transition is made, the efficiencies that come along with it are endless. Tools like Microsoft OneNote and Google Apps for Education help keep teachers organized and have several built-in tools for educators such as lesson plan templates, note-taking options, and more. Google Drive and Dropbox allow for an organized storage system that beats a physical filing cabinet any day. Many of these also have add-ons that power up their capabilities and allow educators to build their own custom solutions. Apps like Gradebook Pro are great for keeping track of student grades and materials without the pile of papers.   3. Implement hands-on learning There are several apps that are made for in-classroom experiences. Digital whiteboards are replacing traditional whiteboards and are enabling students to have a more interactive learning experience. There are now also apps such as Doceri that allow teachers to flip back and forth through several class materials such as PowerPoints, whiteboards and screen casts, providing students with a seamless and integrated lesson flow. Real-time collaboration features of integrated solutions such as Google Apps for Education show students they can directly contribute to a project and see the impact of their work. Chat apps such as Skype take learning to a new level by allowing students to personally connect with each other easily, and also connect with those they might not have had access to in the past.  4. Share and gain resources from other educators Educators learn the most from other educators. It's exremely invaluable to hear about other teachers' experiences first-hand. Teachers Pay Teachers has an app, where educators from all around the world share resources. This includes everything from lesson plans to classroom activities and decorations. Items sell for a small fee and the platform takes on an Etsy model with reviews for both users and products. Twitter is also a great resource for educators trying to implement technology in their classrooms. Follow the hashtag #edtech for the latest on technology news and even live chats where discussions happen regularly. 5. Keep connected with parents More and more apps are being developed to keep parents in the loop. Simple tasks such as push notifications, requests for signatures and record-keeping can be accomplished with mobile apps. Two-way communication between parents and teachers is essential. Apps such as BuzzMob are a good place to start. These apps not only enable parents to visualize what their children are doing, but also enable them to directly contact teachers. As you can see, mobile apps are the next wave of educational tools and have many use cases for any classroom. Whether you build your own or use apps that are already available, they are sure to improve the experiences you and your students have. Understanding the potential of apps in education, we offer a 50% discount to teachers and educational organizations looking to build mobile apps. Click here for more information and to get started. 

App Innovator: Paul Carpenter with Anglo-American School of Moscow

Paul Carpenter is a Technology Integrationist for the Anglo-American School of Moscow (AASM) in Russia whose job is to help administrators, teachers, and students use technology purposefully and effectively. His other tasks include collecting and analyzing data for the HR and Curriculum departments. Because AASM is an international school with expats serving as employees, there is significant employment turnover each year. As a result Paul needs a way to disseminate information to new staff quickly and efficiently. Before finding AppSheet, the school was using various methods to do this, but none were ideal. They tried housing the information on a password-protected website that wasn’t mobile-friendly. Then they gave every new staff member paper copies, which understandably no one ever carried around. Since the school uses Google Apps for Work, finding AppSheet was easy. Paul created an app that acts as a directory of people, places, and services that faculty and staff should have with them on mobile phones for convenient access. He included all kinds of helpful resources, like dental services, fire and evacuation protocols, emergency contact information, and more. The app also contains photos, phone numbers, map locations, links, and documents. Important organizations like embassies, hospitals, and law enforcement include contact information, so employees can reach them rapidly straight through the app during emergencies. The convenience of the app helps staff get acquainted with the school quickly and easily, rather than having to carry around stacks of papers or access a website that isn’t easy to navigate on a mobile device. This quick access really helps new employees and ex-pats become more comfortable and confident with their new place of employment and surroundings. In turn, they are able to provide better care and attention to students. Paul says, “AppSheet is allowing us to rapidly develop mobile apps customized to provide a service or interaction that satisfies a need within our school. I love that we are able to develop and manage the app ourselves without relying on an outside company or programmer to design or update the functionality and content."