Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
E-mail this article
Print this Article

Come October, parents of Charles County public school students will be able to whip out their iPhones or tablets and check their children’s grades on a whim.

The public school system will release a mobile application, “CCPS on the Go,” on Oct. 1 that can deliver school news, calendars and information about a child’s grades to any “smart” device, a phone, tablet or even, theoretically, a Nintendo DS gaming system.

Anyone may download the free app. Students specifically may use it to access resources within the school system’s electronic library. CCPS subscribes to various digital encyclopedias and similar learning tools that already can be accessed by a full-scale computer, dubbed the electronic library.

Parents also may access information about athletic schedules or any necessary forms or materials on the app.

Katie O’Malley-Simpson, schools spokeswoman, announced the app at the board of education meeting Aug. 12, along with Sylvia Lawson, assistant superintendent of school administration.

The app is a product of Blackboard Inc., a corporation that develops software used to assist educators. “CCPS on the Go” will serve as one of the pilots for the company to test the app at a high school. Blackboard apps already are present on college campuses nationwide.

“It’s going to be a one-stop shop for information,” Lawson said at the school board meeting Tuesday.

The app is in the midst of development, O’Malley-Simpson said. Staff will test the app prior to its Oct. 1 release to ensure any kinks are worked out before its inception. Then, after a trial run, school officials will survey parents and students on the success of the app, beginning in December via email blasts and the app itself.

During the course of winter break, scheduled to start Dec. 22, CCPS will modify the app and add features based on the public’s suggestions.

“We don’t want to build the app for parents. We want parents to tell us what they want,” O-Malley-Simpson said at the meeting.

“CCPS on the Go” also will function as a notification system. The school system may fire off “push notifications” to a smart device to inform parents or students of schools closings or other emergency messages.

“This is how people communicate now,” O’Malley-Simpson said.

The app will include seven sections initially: gradebook, meal payments, calendars, athletic information, the electronic library, school-specific news and CCPS news.

CCPS has worked with Edline, a similar service that was bought by Blackboard, since at least 2010. Then, Edline/Blackboard was primarily used for students to submit an electronic copy of assignments to a teacher, but its role expanded in August 2011, when CCPS instituted Blackboard Gradebook, which made it possible for parents to check grades of their child whenever they pleased. The last component, instituted in January 2013, allowed for mass email notifications to a class by means of the Blackboard Connect software.

The app is CCPS’ latest attempt at integrating electronics as a learning tool. At the end of last school year, the administration piloted a Bring Your Own Device at Arthur Middleton Elementary School, General Smallwood Middle School and Thomas Stone High School.

Students may carry their smart phones, tablets or laptops to a classroom for use during specified times. Laptops or desktop computers were provided to students without a gadget from home. The program will expand countywide to any principal interested in instituting the Bring Your Own Device program.