Smartphone app makes life easier for students, parents, teachers, and administrators

May 1, 2018

Screenshot of KPBSD smartphone app.
Credit KPBSD

On last week’s “Local Science” Friday during KDLL Spring Membership Drive, we heard about the technology the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District uses to keep everyone connected.

And that’s not an easy job - “everyone” includes not only students and teachers, but parents and administration and support staff, and last but not least, the general public.

For a few years, the district has been moving toward a one-stop-shop for routine and not-so-routine messages, as well as calendars, scheduling, access to lessons and teachers, through the use of a mobile app that was introduced a few years ago, and which has been added to ever since. But it was a long time coming.

“It took about a year and a half to convince everybody that we really should have an app," said Pegge Erkeneff, district communications liaison.

“We interviewed lots — every major app company for universities and for public education K-12. Because we wanted to have something that worked in our context. And we narrowed it down, and we decided not to go with our own developer and designing our own app, because they were doing such a good job already," she said. "And they were on the forefront of everything happening, so we chose a platform for it from a private vendor.”

Eric Soderquist is the district’s director of information services, and was in on the app selection process.

“The beauty of the platform though, and one of the selling points the I remember evaluating it years ago, is they give district authoring control," Soderquist said. "We have the ability within the app to drive the content that gets consolidated down into school news feeds, and largely have the ability to upload the information that we want our parents and students to have access to.”

Erkeneff says users of the app would be the first who will find out about school delays or closures because of weather or road conditions, and can they can synchronize the school calendars to their phones.

Teacher Jake Doth at Nikiski Middle-High School says he uses one feature much more than others - it’s the one where he and his science and drone students share assignments back and forth.

“The Canvas page is something that we use every day. It’s our learning management system that allows us to communicate with our kids and our parents. We link our grade books up to it, and all of my work, every worksheet, every quiz I want them to see or exam that they’re able to locate, or pretest they can find on the learning management system. Click on it, they can print it from home, they can e-mail me assignments, they can attach assignments, pictures, videos," Doth said. "And so that particular device has completely changed how I assign things, how I grade things. And there’s more inside that Canvas tool than I’ve been able to use the last couple of four years. So that piece alone has kept me pretty busy.”

About 4,000 people have downloaded the school district’s app. It’s available on your phone’s app store.

KDLL had numerous hours of special local programming during last week’s Spring Membership Drive, and you can access them all here online.