Tops in Tech

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Wearing cowboy hats, members of Dawna McColl’s class at Hoover Elementary School conduct a live interview on the iPads with attendees at a ParentLink conference in Provo, Utah on March 8.

“What is going on in Azle?”

That’s what representatives of ParentLink – a Utah company that helps school districts build educational communities – wanted to know.

So they invited Skip McCambridge, Director of Operations for the Azle Independent School District, to be the keynote speaker at a recent training conference in Provo, Utah.

At ParentLink’s expense, McCambridge traveled to the conference March 6-8 to share why Azle ISD leads all the company’s clients in the number of downloads of the mobile application (“app”) custom designed by ParentLink.

ParentLink’s name may sound familiar to people within the Azle community. That’s because ParentLink is the company used by Azle ISD to provide communications between parents and staff.

The services provided and used by Azle ISD include email, text and phone messaging regarding school and district announcements, The Buzz newsletter, attendance, and cafeteria balances notifications, and most recently, the Azle ISD app.

Gone are the days when families found out about weather-related school closings via radio or television. Notes for parents no longer risk being eaten by the dog or blowing out a school bus window because – in Azle – there’s an app for that.

ParentLink services are used by thousands of schools and hundreds of districts, including five of the 10 largest districts in the country, according to the company’s web site.

According to ParentLink, when you compare the number of Azle ISD app downloads with number of students in the district, Azle ISD out-performs every district ParentLink serves.

The Azle ISD app has been downloaded more than 1,500 times from the Android and iTunes stores.

McCambridge, though, felt others could help him get the point across to those attending the conference.

As part of his presentation, McCambridge and Hoover Elementary teacher Dawna McColl’s class conducted a live video interview in which they discussed the reasons the students’ parents downloaded the app.

“Prior to the interview, I told the audience I was from Texas but asked them not to stereotype all Texans,” McCambridge said. “All of us don’t wear cowboy hats, we don’t all say ’Howdy’ and we all don’t have horses.”

But when the link went live, many of the students were wearing cowboy hats – some were of cartoonish proportions – and all saluted those at the conference with a loud and hearty “Howdy!”

“That got a big laugh!” McCambridge chucked.

Wearing their Texas cowboy hats and utilizing Azle ISD’s latest technology, the class used Apple’s FaceTime on iPads to communicate with training session attendees in real time. Students explained to the group that their parents use the app to get “push” notifications about their school, the district, and extra-curricular organizations.

They showed attendees how parents can use the app’s calendar feature to look at events on the school’s calendar and then automatically add the event to their personal calendar.

“The ParentLink trainers and trainees alike were very impressed with the Azle students and their use of technology,” McCambridge said. “I believe the reason we have the number of downloads we do is because our parents support our schools and want to be informed. We have an app our community can be proud of – an app that gives them a modern and useful way to stay informed about their child’s school and the district.”

Whether or not you have a child who attends school in the Azle ISD, you can download the Azle ISD app from the Google Play Store or iTunes, depending upon what operating system your device uses.

It’s free.

If you’re the parent of an Azle student, the app will allow you to access student-specific information such as your child’s lunch account, as well as grade information and direct teacher communications.

Development continues, and the next feature on the horizon will allow both parents and students alike to check the student’s grades, according to McCambridge.

But let’s say you’re a recent AHS graduate, a grandparent, or simply someone who likes to attend sporting events or support the local schools.

The Azle ISD app is for you, too, featuring a robust sports feature, blogspot, and a complete directory, in addition to its very useful calendar feature.