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An 'App'le for Teacher: Tech to Help Parents, Students Communicate

Two Washington Township school teachers and Long Valley natives in the midst of creating mobile app to bridge gap between students and parents.

Two of Washington Township’s educators are turning to technology to make the learning experience that much better, and it’s going to impact students more outside the classroom than anywhere else.

David and Colleen Jones, high school sweethearts who grew up in Long Valley and graduated West Morris Central in 1998 and 1999, respectively, are now teachers in the district they both attended as kids.

David Jones has been a teacher in the district for 11 years and is now a fifth grade instructor at Flocktown-Kossmann, while Colleen Jones has been teaching for a dozen years, and is a kindergarten instructor at Cucinella School.

With three children of their own, education isn’t an object for them: it’s become a passion.

The couple started a company called Educate Einstein to “come at education from a different angle,” David Jones said. The company would act as an umbrella to house a variety of resourceful education tools. The teachers are now on the brink of creating their first product, an app called Wink.

Wink is a vehicle for teachers to communicate with parents in a more timely and efficient way, but more importantly, to help create better students.

By their own admission, the Jones said they’re extremely fortunate to be teaching in a community where there is so much parent involvement. But they feel too much is being thrown at parents, from newsletters to Friday Folders and personal calls from teachers.

“We, as teachers, need to cater to today’s education and lifestyles,” David Jones said. “Today’s kids will discover solutions some day, and they could be sitting in your classroom right now, but we don’t have enough resources in the classroom alone. Ground needs to be made up.”

The Wink app would be a three-pronged attack, Jones said, involving parents, students, and teachers, and would allow one-way communication from teachers to parents. A quick note or “headline” to the class’s parents could explain a big project the students participated in for families to follow up with at home that night.

Conversely, a single note to a mom or dad could tell them their son or daughter had a tough time in school that day or was involved in an altercation.

“It’s a proven fact that better family involvement breeds better students,” Colleen Jones said. “And that’s what Wink would do.”

David Jones likened the app’s timely accessibility to the private sector, saying parents and teachers can see real-time results in their child’s learning.

A teacher would use the app to send updates however frequently they preferred to individual families or the entire class. “It would be used as deemed necessary by the teacher,” David Jones said.

Teachers could send their messages during prep time or during their lunch period. Parents have the choice of customizing the app to receive the updates the moment they’re sent or receive that day’s messages at a single time when they are available.

“The app wouldn’t eliminate the phone call home to parents,” Colleen Jones said. “If there’s a need for a phone call, it should be made. Sometimes that communication is necessary, but sometimes it isn’t.”

The app is scheduled to be built by a company in New Hampshire after the Jones sought out ten developers to create the product. The teachers have set up a website and are seeking donations and funding through indiegogo.com.

Funds can be donated through Jan. 11. The fundraising site says the goal is $15,000, and there are different levels of donor status, ranging from $25 to $200.

For more information on the indiegogo.com fundraising campaign, go here.

To find out more about Educate Einstein and the Wink app, go here.

Washington Township schools administrators have supported the Jones in their venture, and the two admit they’re just as excited to share it with colleagues and other educators as much as they are with families in town.

“Learning isn’t something that closes at 3 p.m.,” David Jones said. “This will help parents hit the ground running at home with their kids.”

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