Thursday, April 16, 2009

Text and Email Alert Systems Can Increase Home - School Communication

My colleague the Techomnivore often talks about and has shared in his blog information about how Notification tools are increasing parental involvement in their child’s school life. Though I haven't had personal experience with schools that are using these systems, I do believe that cell phones provide a powerful resource as a home-school connection tool. I was recently contacted by one such service that is available free (with advertising). If this is something your school might want to investigate, here is an overview of Schoohoo, one such service. You can read the Techomivore's post for additional resources.

Innovative educators who are looking for ways to better communicate with parents, students, faculty and staff may be interested in looking into Schoohoo. They offer a free web based service at that allows schools of any size to send text message and email alerts to parents, students, faculty, and staff. Developed by parents of elementary school students, they set out initially to just make a system that made sense for their own school district in Champaign, Illinois. They had come up with the idea years ago, but it wasn't until an emergency lockdown in their elementary schools that they put their own financial resources into developing an easy to use and universal program that any school could make use of.

Jonathan Hoover, Executive Director shared that, "We wanted to build a system that was easy for everyone to use, from both sides - that of the school district and that of the parent". To that end, the software is entirely web based, and yes - entirely free. Eventually they hope to get local sponsors behind them, to append a brief text only message at the end of the alert - maybe from a local grocery store, class ring jeweler, or other school-approved vendor. Until then, they’ve put their own funds into it and with low operating costs they can keep it going for years without a hiccup. They've also kept it very easy for schools in several ways. One important feature is that schools don't have to maintain the contact list - parents register via the Schoohoo website and "subscribe" to the school or schools they want to receive messages from. These schools can be across several districts, public and/or private, and the parents only have one contact form to maintain - leaving the schools free to simply inform them of the service and send alerts.

Mr. Hoover is happy to answer any questions you may have - he jokes that it often takes a couple of conversations before people get that it really is free, and that Schoohoo is truly just out to do some good in tough economic times. He can be reached at, or you can leave a message with Schoohoo’s answering service at 217-819-4678.

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