Hot Tips & Topics

We are dedicated to providing you with a comprehensive collection of relevant and up-to-date K-12 education news and editorials. For teachers, by teachers.

Apps to Improve Home-School Communication

Here, we explore five ipad apps for teachers (and some for iPhones too) that will allow parents to play a more organic role in the classroom and beef up the interface between home and school life by connecting teachers, parents and students quickly and easily. At the very least, this collection of ipad apps for teachers (and some for iPhones too) will surely provide more information about what your children had learned that school day than “stuff.”

A dojo is, by formal definition, a formal training place, which makes it pair naturally with any K-12 classroom. Although the app foregoes the belt rankings you might find in more traditional dojo applications, it does allow you to easily award both merits and demerits based on classroom conduct to your class roster right from your iDevice or Android. Consequently, Class Dojo helps teachers improve behavior in their classrooms quickly and easily by generating “behavior data” that can then be shared with parents and administrators on the fly and younger kids will get a kick out of picking their own monster avatars. So why is this valuable?

For Teachers: It’s said that more than 50 percent of class time is spent managing behavior rather than delivering instruction. And given how precious time becomes in a single class period, this statistic is huge. Whether that extra stint is spent on further instruction, one-on-one troubleshooting or group work, any additional time is worth its weight in gold.

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For Students: In addition to providing instant feedback to parents and administrators, students also get notifications (whether good or bad) and can help either encourage positive behavior or curb the negative – especially when they know their parents are finding out right away.

“Specific positive reinforcement helps students develop a sense of purpose in the classroom, enhancing intrinsic motivation over time. By giving students visibility and data on their own behavior, Class Dojo makes class less disruptive and creates a more positive learning environment.” [Via ClassDojo]

For Parents: Class Dojo makes it easy to keep regular tabs on their child's development rather than anxiously awaiting a report card at the end of the term or the dreaded phone call for an impromptu parent-teacher conference. In this way, corrective action (or a helping of praise) can be dealt out quickly.

All in all, it’s a great tool to have in your classroom toolkit and may in fact help level the playing field for your substitutes since the students will be held accountable for the same merits while you’re away.

Teacher App & Grade Book - AB Mobile Apps LLC.

Delving deeper than demerits or its positive counterpart, Teacher App & Grade Book provides educators with a portal that does much more than its “to the point” name suggests. To be fair, listing the app’s full offerings would probably command a place in the Guinness Book of Records, but there are definitely a handful of worthwhile features that the app’s current title leaves out including parent messaging and absentee notices, a built-in messenger system, interactive class calendars, cloud account recovery just to name a few.

Indeed, this app is like the Swiss Army knife for your classroom – enabling you to perform daily tasks like taking attendance and organize grades with ease while having the luxury of tools you’ll only have to whip out once in a blue moon.

Its presentation is a bit of a throwback yet borderline cliché given the chalkboard background and the graphics themselves, although large and easy to comprehend, are slightly “8-bit” versus some of its colleagues in this issue. I suppose the interface compliments its “to the point” name, but we would definitely appreciate a generous revamp for its next iteration. Nevertheless, if all we can nitpick about are its graphics, it’s quite a testament to this app’s superb functionality.

Remind101 - remind101

It seems like phones are more like text messaging devices than anything else these days, which is great for two reasons. One, the massive minute overage bills may be coming to an end and two, we can incorporate this SMS technology into our classroom and beyond with apps like Remind101.

At the core, Remind101 is an app built (in conjunction with educators) to solve communication obstacles between teachers, students and parents using devices that rarely come unglued from our hands. Teachers are able to send SMS messages to individual students or class-wide to remind them of upcoming due dates or exams or simply send words of encouragement. And, as aforementioned, parents are also able to receive texts for upcoming conferences, updates on their child’s progress or more pressing behavioral/emergency matters.

Like I’m sure you’re thinking now, we were a bit apprehensive about the app’s security. Happily, Remind101 has that covered – neither your or your students/parents phone numbers are accessible through the app and communication lives and stays within Remind101’s interface entirely. It’s also worth mentioning that we were able to sign up within a couple minutes on its brilliant and clean interface so regardless of your tech proficiencies, you’ll be able to get Remind101 up and going very easily and it’s a great portal to start experimenting with the connected classroom movement if you haven’t already.

Class Messenger - Learn Anything

iPhone only

Class Messenger just changed its name from WDWDT (which stood for What Did We Do Today) – a happy transformation that doesn’t prompt instant head scratching or require you to be acronym savvy. Nevertheless, it’s an app that seems to have thought of everything to keep teachers, students and parents at step with (you guessed it) what’s been going on in the classroom.

Class Messenger was bred from the founder of CoveritLive, an increasingly popular liveblog service for educators. Given how incredibly thorough and gorgeous Class Messenger is made, you can tell they learned a thing or two directly from educators on what they’d like to see in the app. Here are just a few things you can do with the app via e-mail or push notifications:

  • Gauge your performance from students or parents (i.e. end-of-year polls, obtain field trip feedback, etc.).
  • Instantly build and receive back volunteer or permission slip forms from parents and students.
  • Schedule meetings with anyone in your Class Messenger community with the “Meet With Me” feature.
  • Receive real-time communication from parents about their concerns or excitement and offer feedback

Amazingly, all this functionality is free (which is a win for all of us who are budget conscious) and takes pretty much all the guesswork out of whether you can start using this app in your classroom all together.

Bonfyre App – Free Private Photo Sharing App, Group Chat & Text, Event Planning and Picture Messaging App -

iPhone only


Admittedly, when Mark Sawyier and Raymond Gobberg were building Bonfyre, they didn’t know they were making such a valuable education tool. Although the app is still very much used for its intentional purpose for events and private social groups vastly more than in the classroom, we couldn’t be happier with its unintentional entry into education. The essence of the app centers around this question:

“How do I share better with the people that matter?”

And as a platform that boasts a better way to privately plan, capture and share experiences with the people that matter in your life, it makes perfect sense to utilize this tool to help interface teachers, parents and students on a more regular basis.

“Bonfyre provides an intimate, private level of connection between a student's daily classroom activity and their parents that cannot be achieved through other social networks or content platforms. This has opened up the lines of communication between parents and their children in beneficial ways that we could not have anticipated.” – Raymond Gobberg, co-founder & director of communications at Bonfyre.

But more than just being a portal to share and communicate with parents about your classroom activities on the fly, Bonfyre also helps you plan and coordinate field trips, solicit volunteer and chaperone opportunities, or maybe just give notice for an upcoming class play. And speaking of that play, Bonfyre will also take the liberty of organizing the performance’s photos from parents, teachers and students alike in one private place. Hard to argue with that.

We couldn’t help be curious about whether there will be an education-specific version of Bonfyre in the works, but even if its current form, it’s a beautiful and well-organized app that lowers the walls between the classroom and the life beyond.

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Which types of articles would you like to see from us in 2020?
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