Roll Call Reinvented
Eric Hicks is a man on a mission – make that many missions. He is registrar for Mercersburg Academy, a school comprising 430 students in grades 9-12. He teaches biology, coaches varsity tennis, manages seven dormitories and, in his spare time, customizes and maintains the school’s FileMaker Pro-based inRESONANCE (iR) technology solutions. These include iR’s full suite for admissions, enrollment, and registration.
His involvement with the school’s technology is rewarding, but it also presents him daily with new user requests and fresh ideas for enhancement.
“Our iR solutions have changed expectations for how technology should support everyone on campus,” says Hicks. “Everybody wants all things technology-oriented to work in the same streamlined, near-instantaneous and intuitive ways that iR solutions do—and that’s beneficial and challenging all at the same time.”
iPad arrives, with data mobility in tow
When it came to the foundational iR solutions the campus relies on, Hicks saw altogether new opportunities arise once the iPad became ubiquitous almost overnight. The school supplied iPads to the faculty, who have embraced them.
Students are required to bring the tablets in on their own for the 2012-2013 school year.
In his search to deliver data to mobile devices running iOS, Hicks didn’t have to look far. Because iR solutions such as KEYSTONE are created based on FileMaker, he was able to use FileMaker Go, the top-selling business database for iPhone and iPad, to provide intuitive data exchange between the iR solutions such as KEYSTONE and FileMaker Go for iPad. He first decided to automate attendance tracking in the classroom. The new mobile attendance app, created in a matter of two days with a few additional days of field-testing by staff, allows teachers to instantly take attendance using the tactile, gesture-based interface of the iPad. Additionally, faculty can obtain contacts, photos, late/absent status, and emergency information, from anywhere on campus.
Student information, on the go
Teachers can update their own class information or see which students from other classes are absent or late. They also can find contact information for the family to reach out by email or phone as necessary. The new app promotes productivity and reduces paperwork by providing instant, real-time synchronization with iR KEYSTONE.
“Technology has changed expectations for the general speed of data input, transfer, and availability. Everything has to be instantaneous,” says Hicks. “So when it came to attendance, we wanted to enable teachers to ‘call roll’ in 20 seconds or less – and not ever have to worry about manual re-keying of data. That’s what iR KEYSTONE and FileMaker Go have enabled us to achieve.”
Many possibilities, new insights
Not surprisingly, these new technology capabilities have further raised expectations in a good way, and more uses for the school’s mobile application have emerged. With iPad and up-to-date information in hand, sports coaches, teachers, and others can monitor attendance at important events such as study hall, or note and track student behavioral patterns. Why didn’t John show up for soccer practice three nights in a row? This type of information is no longer conveyed through lunchroom conversations shared by few; instead, it is documented in a mobile database field and available to all to help ensure that John is getting the best possible education and mentoring.
According to Hicks, customizing the new mobile attendance application is easy, and now, he says, the sky’s the limit. The school is looking into other mobile applications that dovetail with iR solutions to empower faculty and staff campus-wide with data on the go. “We’re considering accounting for faculty attendance at seminars, or even possibly automating tracking of information about dormitory furniture and facilities,” Hicks says. “We do not have to start mobile app development from scratch, but instead can leverage our existing iR solutions and FileMaker Go to mobilize data across campus. iR and FileMaker Go based apps are providing fast, mobile, two-way information exchanges with our iR systems, and this is making all the difference in the ways we can streamline processes and assist students.”