New Stevenson app offers easier connectivity for parents, students
Stevenson High School senior Maria Vinueza of Buffalo Grove uses her iPad at the school on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 18, 2013 5:11PM
LINCOLNSHIRE — The one thing that there may never be an app for: touching the icon that activates the app.
Other than that, Stevenson High School officials are hoping their latest technology will drive parents and students through more of the mental roadblocks that keep them from looking at the school’s online content. In recent days, educators signed a contract with Blackboard Mobile to develop an application for smartphones and tablets that, with a single touch instead of web-browsing, should connect users to emergency notifications, Infinite Campus, Patriot Dollars, athletics schedules and more.
“The mobile app is not going to replace anything, all it does is supplement,” SHS spokesman Jim Conrey said on Friday. “We’re going where the technology trends are going. This is the way people are using their phones these days.”
He said that the app, once finished, should give Apple and Android users the chance to, through simple icon-pressing:
• Monitor their children’s spending in Patriot Dollars, the already-existing system from Blackboard that lets students use their Stevenson IDs like debit cards at the lunch counter and vending machines (Conrey said the simplicity of streamlining Patriot Dollars into the app was one of the reasons Stevenson chose Blackboard over two competitors).
• Receive the same notifications already coming to their mobile and work phones on SHS’s “instant alert” system.
• Check students’ homework assignments and grades through Infinite Campus.
Stevenson’s three-year contract with Blackboard begins with a $10,000 setup fee, then an annual license fee that grows from $10,000 in the first year to $11,025 in the third, Conrey said; that contract renews itself, at a rate that increases by 5 percent annually, unless one side opts out. This is the same arrangement Blackboard made last year with Community High School District 128 — whose spokeswoman, Mary Todoric, helped Blackboard design its apps for Vernon Hills and Libertyville high schools.
“We’re getting a lot of traffic,” Todoric said Monday. “A whole lot of great feedback, and people wondering, ‘When’s the next update going to come, and what are we going to see next?’”
Todoric said they launched their app on Dec. 10, 2012 and had 998 Apple users and 146 for Android so far.
Stevenson’s will be free to download, Conrey said. Todoric said District 128’s contract was nearly cost-neutral, by cutting back on how many notices they printed and mailed.
“The cost just shifted,” she said.
Conrey said Stevenson hopes to have its model available on iTunes and other sites before the 2013-14 school year begins.