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Pine Tree ISD launches mobile app, social network

By Jessica Ferguson jferguson@news-journal.com
Sept. 11, 2012 at 11 p.m.


Pine Tree ISD is expanding its student-used technology with a new mobile application and social learning network.

The district introduced the "Pine Tree Mobile App" at this year's freshman orientation.

The thought of creating an app for the district first came up at the end of this past school year when the district was brainstorming ideas for the 2012-13 freshman orientation.

"Assistant Principal Tony Tipton thought we should go digital," Vickie Echols, public information officer for Pine Tree ISD said. "It was originally supposed to just be for the freshmen, but we then decided to have one for the entire district."

The app, which is available through Apple and Android marketplaces, gives students access to district information including the bell schedule, grades, and campus photos and videos.

Parents can also keep up with district happenings through calendars, event postings, a district news feed, and a staff directory.

It can be a task for parents to find district phone numbers in the phone book or online, then call, Echols said.

"You can easily just click on the app to call the school campus from your phone now."

Users must log in to access password-protected information just as they would through Skyward Access which is available through the district's website.

"This gives you access on the go," Echols said.

Parents and students say they are excited about the new feature.

"I am too proud of this PT Mobile App," Shalonda Adams, a Pine Tree ISD teacher and parent, commented on a blog. "As an employee, parent, and community member, I say 'Well done!' as we continue to move forward."

The app has been downloaded more than 400 times since its launch this past week.

Since launching the app, the district has implemented a Bring Your Own Device or BYOD policy. This allows students and teachers the opportunity to use their mobile devices - laptops, tablets and smartphones - while on campus.

The district has also created a campus community on Edmodo, a social education network.

Through this site, students and faculty members can communicate with one another in a manner similar to Facebook, Echols said.

"We added it this year to teach our students to use digital media effectively and appropriately. The teachers can use this as part of their class and post videos and power points for students."

The students can communicate with one another by posting on a wall that is monitored by Tipton and a school counselor.

"Kids are talking to each other on Edmodo asking each other for help and reaching out to one another," she said.

Both programs have proven cost-effective for the district, saving them from disbursing paper documents.

The mobile app and online community are stepping stones in the district's move to keep up with the digital age.

The improvements were made possible through the district bond passed earlier this year, Echols said.

"Our bond allowed us to pay for a larger bandwidth and to redesign our local network, add new filters and get a much more robust system to handle this type of feature," she said. "If you're on a one-lane highway, it's a lot different than being on an eight-lane highway."

Echols credits district superintendent TJ Farler for the innovative spirit within the district.

"We are preparing future-ready students," Farler said.

Echols agrees.

"It definitely helps students adapt to the college environment as well as their future jobs as more and more people are putting information in a digital format," she said.

Echols says the district's next step is to "build a way for parents to receive text messages in emergencies or to notify them of late buses or anything like that."

The push notification will be available for all those who elect to use the feature.

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