Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2017
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Stellar translation, speech features boost parent-teacher messenger

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Pros: Terrific translation and text-to-speech features help make messages from school more accessible for more parents than ever.

Cons: Teachers can't do much without a school-based subscription; messaging features could be better scaffolded.

Bottom Line: If your school or district makes the investment, this is a neat and accessible way to keep parents engaged.

If your school has subscribed to SchoolCNXT, you can use it to send simple updates to parents of your whole class or to individual parents. Kids will need permission from their parents to use the app: If your school is using the app with both parents and students, consider using the tool for announcements that are important for everyone, such as field trips, special events, or special meetings. Also, you can help parents connect to one another: Consider setting up parent groups to help them coordinate volunteer opportunities or for other ways to get involved at school.

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SchoolCNXT is a messaging app for teachers, administrators, and parents. Once a school or district subscribes to the service, parents can use their school-provided access code to log in, create an account, and start communicating with teachers, administrators, and other parents. Meanwhile, teachers can set up their classes and plan to send notices to all parents or to groups of parents within their classes. Messages are then delivered to parents' mobile phones, where the messages can automatically be translated into more than 80 languages. Messages also can automatically be read aloud on the device, a boon to visually impaired parents and parents with limited literacy skills. 

In addition to the app for Android and iOS, teachers, parents, and administrators can visit the developer's website to access an extensive library of how-to videos. This wealth of resources includes video playlists, frequently asked questions, and even seasonal "clip art" to use in messages.

It's appealing that this developer emphasizes parent engagement: Unlike some other communication apps, SchoolCNXT doesn't claim to become your one and only communication tool. Instead, the focus here is meaningfully engaging with parents and finding ways to reach them effectively. SchoolCNXT's edge might be its translation and text-to-speech features; it's terrific that the app will automatically translate messages into so many languages and also read text aloud. These features could make a huge difference in helping to engage parents for whom reading messages in English might have been a barrier to access. The app could be improved by the addition of templated or pre-populated messenger features so teachers know to use a specific feature for a type of announcement, like a bake sale sign-up. Overall, this app's look and feel may not be as flashy as some others, but it's a solid choice for bridging the gap between home and school. 

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The app isn't flashy or especially fun, but there's great potential for helping parents use their mobile devices to keep in touch with their kids' schools and their fellow parents. 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

While this isn't explicitly intended as an app for students, it's a great tool to practice open, frequent communication in a format that's flexible enough to engage as many parents as possible. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

There's a huge suite of instructional videos on how parents, teachers, and administrators can use the tool, and the app is easy to use for parents and kids alike. 

Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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