Why do schools buy apps?

When we set up Idea Farm's Apps for Schools in Summer 2012 it was primarily because we were looking for a sector to enter in which to build apps. My business partner Stuart and I at the time had between us, 5 children attending 3 different schools, Stuart had 3 youngsters in primary and my partner and I had each had two girls  just about to start A levels in Year 12 at two different sixth forms.
We decided on Apps for Schools, because we couldn't use any of the 3 websites that covered our children's schools. This was not bewcause we were unsophiosticated as far as websites were concerned, but because schools were not maintaining their websties very well and information within them was not easy to find. Even essential information such as when Summer term  starts was not freely identifiable on any of the websites. I have found out subsequently that schools often tend to dump website management on someone who is very busy and their first priority is to get the information into the website not necessarily to signpost where that information is located.
Our first enquiries came about mostly from schools who were keen on trying something new. At the time, we sensed that there was an element of not knowing why they wanted an app and I'm not sure many what they wanted to do with it. A regular series of questions was how easy was an app to maintain. I must confess that we didn't understand the question. We thought they meant that assuming an administrator has some time how easy is it for them to manage the content. What some of our first customers meant to say was"assuming our adminstrator has no time how easy is it to manage the website"?
At first several schools simply waqnted every bit of content to view their website through the app. Then we had the crazy statement from one school (after they asked for every element of their app to view their website) that they could save themselves the cost if they just  produce a mobile website. This statement is more laughable because at least one school has said to us that the cost of their website being made mobile friendly was significantly higher than the cost of our app.
Anyway gradually we have now worked out a number of ways to bring content into the app not just by viewing a page on the website. We can now bring into an App, events content by ICS feeds and XML feeds, we can bring in news by RSS and we can bring documents into app from website by setting up importers to view the school's websites. Hence almost all the content is brought in automatically, thus reducing the need for admin for the content. However the increase in functionality surrounding push notifications including filtered and individual notifications and the possiblity of registering users so the school can see to whom they are sending push notificaitons, means that someone in the school needs to use the control panel.
The real question school's needs to ask themselves is how does the app fit into their opverall communication strategy and can the app be used for anything else within their schools educational business.
We are currently developing a facility for a school to use the app for taking the school register. We have already launched a school e-planner. Although we accept with all this increase in the use of mobiles within schools that a new attitude needs to be developed in relation to pupils and their devices
Exciting times!
Feel free to contact us to see if we can take your ideas and use them to the enhancement fo your school.

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