I recently spent an afternoon with a group of teachers at The Thinktank in the heart of Birmingham learning about the latest advances in Groupcall technology. The teachers were from primary and secondary and were there to find out about Groupcall Messenger 5, the latest version of the Parental Contact system that reads pupil and attendance information live and in real time from the school’s Management Information System.
Groupcall is used by more than 5,000 schools. It is inextricably linked with Sir Bob Geldof, one of the co-founders, and was set up with the aim of improving communication between schools and parents. I knew that but during the afternoon, courtesy of Steve Baines, International Business Development Manager, I learnt a whole lot more.
Here are ten things you may not know:
- Every single second 193,000 texts are whizzing round the world
- Messenger lets schools send text, voice or email messages to parents’ mobile phones or landlines. In Scotland they use a lot of voice messaging, and believe voice gets a better response. With Messenger schools can record a voice or use an automated text to voice facility
- A text can have a maximum of 160 characters. This is the default limit and is based on the notion that a text is supposed to contain roughly the same amount of information you would fit on a postcard. Longer messages can, of course, be sent but increase costs accordingly
- Messenger 5 features e-cards so schools can create certificates which are sent via email and can be printed out. There are templates for Merit Awards, Thank Yous and Well Dones but staff can make their own if they have a basic knowledge of HTML
- Messenger lets schools translate messages into 64 languages. These are the Google Translate alpha languages. Of course, you’ll be flummoxed if they send the reply in the home language
- On average once you press Send it takes 13 seconds for the message to reach a parent’s phone
- The History section of Messenger 5 shows who has received the text. This can be useful if parents claim hey have not see a text or email
- Messenger 5 will let parents send notification of a child’ absence via text so if a child has been sick all night, parents can send a text instead of hanging on and trying to send a message by phone in the 830 to 9 o’clock slot
- Xpressions is a FREE app for parents that will work on Android, iPads, iPhone or other smartphones. Imagine a school trip. A teacher can send a text message to parents direct from a smart phone instead of notifying the school and getting them to relay a message. This makes communication more immediate
- OFSTED is very keen on engaging parents and Xpressions is a fine example of push technology that will integrate with other systems such as Show My Homework, FasTrack