In the fall of 2014, High School Today published an article regarding ideas for administrators on the use of technology to support their daily efforts. Those same guidelines are pertinent as well for athletic directors, school board members, music educators and coaches — all of whom use technology to improve their efforts in supporting students in their activities and athletics.
It would be beyond the scope of this publication to list all recommended apps, not only because of the diversity of tasks our varied readership under take every day, but due to the many choices currently available. In 2015, it is estimated there were 1,250 new apps being created every day and 342,000 were downloaded every minute (180 billion in that year). Further, one can easily fine online a review of the ‘Top 10’ for just about anything including apps for administrators, educators and others.
The points made in the 2014 article are still valid, and they are worth noting here:
Basically, you need to know what you have and what you want, and then use the resources available to find the answers.
So, what if it’s not a matter of what you should download or purchase, but whether you should in the first place? Adding a new app to the 100 you already have on your smartphone does not mean that you’re improving your use of technology, just that you have access to more of it. Given that even the most expensive smartphone has a limited amount of storage and memory to use those apps, here are some thoughts on improving how you and your apps get along.
Clean Out the Closet — Making better use of the space you have
Go through the apps on your smartphone and consider when the last time you used each one. If it has been more than a year since you last opened one (something you can likely find out in settings), delete it to free up storage and memory for those that are a part of your current technology needs. If you really need it, it can’t be so critical that you need it immediately; and if you purchased it, you can get it again for that same initial cost.
The Latest and Greatest 1: Upgrading to save your own time
First consider your current hardware and whether it has outlived its usefulness. The inability of a device to be updated to the latest operating system or its inability to support the latest versions of your current roster of apps is a sure sign that it is time to consider getting a newer device. This is especially important before your device is no longer able to be synchronized with its newer versions. The time it would take to download a new version of all your apps, transfer all your photos to another device to import them or losing all of your songs is not worth getting another two months out of the phone in your hand.
The Latest and Greatest 2: Updating to be efficient and effective
Once you are sure your hardware is what you need and can support, make sure its operating system is up-to-date and that all the apps you are keeping are updated to their latest versions. Not only will you possibly find improvements in the features of each, but they will also work more effectively and efficiently.
There’s an App for That: Unchaining yourself from your computer
Many of the programs you use on your computer have a smartphone app to allow you to access the same data or perform some of the functions remotely. These apps can be found in the online stores (App Store or Google) or on the software’s main website, but they rarely show up in the Top 10 list. Your school broadcast system would be the first one to consider as it’s far easier to create and send an alert through the app than through the computer or the remote phone system. This is a real plus when cancelling school at 5:30 a.m., due to weather. Having your SIS system, your teacher evaluation software, as well as Google Drive and DropBox (along with the Excel or Word apps) on your smartphone will allow you to check on information outside of your office space and inside a classroom or on an athletic field.
Catch them doing something good: The camera’s ready to go
Now that you’re out of the office and not attached to your computer, make sure you have the apps (and your administrator log-ins) for your social media on your smartphone (or tablet). Use the camera on your device to take that photo of your students doing something worthy of sharing and send it along as it is happening. Make sure you double-check each image by thinking about its appropriateness and include an explanation of what people are seeing. If you do this often enough, you will generate more traffic on your social media sites and then they will be more effective when your message is more serious.
By keeping technology current, updated, readily available and purposeful, you increase your ability to use your devices to not only improve your efficiency but to enhance the opportunities you have to support your students in a more direct and personal manner. Keeping up on the latest and greatest tools makes sure that your smartphone delivers every time you use it, allowing you to make more of your time, and more of what your students are accomplishing on a daily basis. Every tool needs to be sharpened every so often.
Steffen Parker has worked with computers since the mid-70s and has been a Macintosh user since its introduction in 1984. Serving as an IT support person for the Vermont Principals’ Association and the Information Support Specialist for Vermont’s Lamoille North Supervisory Union, Parker supports computer use for adults working in education, administration, finance and publication including the NFHS High School Today Publications Committee where he also serves as the Performing Arts representative.