A new way to communicate

A student has not brought their homework to their math class. Within three clicks, math teacher Jennifer Nicholls is able to contact the student’s parents, notifying them that their child has forgotten to complete an assignment.

To communicate with parents more frequently, Nicholls worked with her brother, Greg Jackson, to develop a web app. Being a self-taught programmer, Jackson wrote the application using Hypertext Markup Language, programming language used for creating web applications, while Nicholls worked on the website’s database and suggested ideas to add to the website. She introduced her web application, Express Teacher-2-Parent, Aug. 15, 2018.

“I know the way to succeed at school is to make sure to do your homework. I thought, ‘I’d like to have the parents know immediately so that they can help their student get the work done the next day,’” Nicholls said. “Because it takes so long to communicate with parents, I wanted to make a way so I can contact more parents more frequently.”

Nicholls noticed that parents were not finding out about their student’s missing homework assignments until two or three weeks after the glaring, red number appeared on Aeries Parent Portal. In addition, she read in a Columbia University study involving 22 middle and high schools that notifying parents of classroom concerns reduced course failures by 39 percent while increasing classroom attendance by 17 percent. Keeping this in mind, Nicholls featured three specific drop-down menus in her web app: attendance alerts, homework alerts and behavior alerts. To notify parents, Nicholls selects an option from a drop down menu, then chooses either “Email2Text” or “Email2Email” to send an auto-composed message to the parent’s cell phone or email address.

“I like [using] the positive [behavior alerts on the website] because I have never been able to send positive [messages] home. It’s nice so that the parent can initiate a conversation with the student saying ‘Hey, your math teacher sent you a message saying that you did really well!’ I just like the positive aspects of it,” Nicholls said.

Math teachers including Jenny Herzog, Paul McLaughlin and Stephanie Tufenkjian are currently testing the application in their classes. Before the web app was released for other teachers to use, Nicholls wanted to make sure it worked properly.

“The web app is pretty perfect at the moment. It’s just so easy to use, and it’s really convenient,” Nicholls said. “[The messages] just go right to the parent’s cell phone; it’s convenient.”


By Andrew Kim, Staff writer
Photo by Sherlene Su