Design Teaching

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 12 2012

The Ultimate iPhone App for Teachers: Dash4Teachers Makes Contacting Parents Easy and Enjoyable

TFAers, listen up. If you could download only one iPhone app, ever again, make it this one. Dash4Teachers is available in the App Store for $4.99. It is literally the most indispensable iPhone app that I’ve used as a teacher, and I love it so much that I’m going to spend a whole post convincing you of downloading it, too!

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Dash4Teachers is an iPhone app that makes contacting and documenting parent communication incredibly fast, easy, and productive.
 
With Dash, teachers have parent phone numbers and email addresses in one easy place. Teachers can also make notes of student behavior, both positive and negative, so that information is captured in-the-moment instead of forgotten by the time they are able to call their student’s parents. Most importantly, Dash keeps a running record of all parent communication so that teachers can make sure no students are overlooked and that patterns in student behavior are addressed.
 
Ultimately, Dash solves three major problems that currently plague teachers as they do their best to communicate with parents:
- What number do I use to contact my student’s parents?
- (At the end of a long and busy day) What do I need to call about again?
- Who haven’t I checked in with for a while?
 
Best practices for using this app: 
- Use Dash to track what percentage of your calls to a student’s parents have been about positive things, and what percentage has been about negative things. Work to keep the positivity above 70%.
- Build parent communication into your daily routine, such as calling at least two parents every day as you walk out of the school, so that over the course of a month, you’ll contact every student’s parents at least once.
- Use Dash to immediately document behavior, both positive and negative, that you want to call home about, so that you don’t forget later.
- Use Dash’s sorting features to figure out which students you may be overlooking, or which students need more positive feedback. For example, sort by least recent to see which students you haven’t called in a while, fewest calls to see which students haven’t received as many phone calls, and positivity to figure out which students you need to give positive feedback to.
 
Pros
- The Dash4Teacher’s team is incredibly responsive. They are always ready to troubleshoot as well as to improve their product based on teacher feedback.
- All the information you need to contact parents — phone numbers, behavior notes, and historical documentation — are in one place.
- Dash4Teacher’s user interface is intuitive and fast. You can use a single tap to add a student to a call list. With a single glance, you can also see if that student’s ratio of positive calls to negative calls is positive, neutral, or negative.
- Dash4Teacher’s sorting functionality is very powerful and flexible. You can sort by all sorts of useful categories such as Least Recent, Fewest Calls, Least Positive, and No Working Contacts.
- You can easily upload an initial spreadsheet of student names and parent contact information by using your Manage My Dash account on www.dash4teachers.com.
- Student contact information is always up-to-date – Dash keeps track of which  numbers are disconnected, makes your working numbers into “Favorites,” and allows you to easily add more contact information.
- Student contact information and call logs are always synced and safely backed up. Even if you lose your phone or change phones, your data is online in your Manage My Dash account.
 
Cons
- You cannot create student groups yet so that you can group-text, group-email, or group-call but this is high on Dash’s list of priorities.
- It isn’t possible, yet, to sync student contact information with other colleagues using Dash with the same students. One workaround is to have everyone on a team sign in on the same account, but this is suboptimal. Again, this functionality is high on Dash’s list of priorities.
- Sorting by Most or Least Recent calls can take a long time if you have a lot of students or have made a lot of calls. You’ll just need to wait a moment while Dash does its thing.
 
There you have it. Download Dash4Teachers in the App Store today! And, let me know what you think in the comments! How do you envision Dash4Tech changing your teacher life for the better?

Bonus note. Dash4Teachers was started by three kick-apple TFA teachers who were trying to solve a problem that we all have. See the rest of their story, here: www.dash4teachers.com.

7 Responses

  1. meghank

    Many parents will not answer the phone unless you are calling from a school phone. I have had the experience of calling a parent multiple times with no answer and no call back, but when I called later from a school phone, they quickly answered.

    • debryc

      Fascinating. Have you tried giving your phone number out to your parents so that they can call you and will enter your phone number into their address books? My hypothesis is that when you call, they ignore it because it’s an unknown number, but when you call from the school, they pick up because they know someone from the school is calling.

      I’ve always given my phone number out to my students. And, I and my team teachers coordinate a homework assignment where they all have to call one of us and leave a message… “Hello, my name is Sally Ferrari. I’m calling because it is my homework. My phone number is 123-456-7890. Thank you.” Because they call my Google Voice number, it’s super easy to check if they did their homework assignment. And, we now have a working phone number for each of our students.

      This might not work for the very young ones. But 3rd grade and up, at least, you’ll guarantee that every student knows how to call a teacher.

      I’ve never had a problem with parents not picking up.

  2. Suzanna

    FYI: It is against Chicago Board of Ed policy to call students/families from any phone line but a school line.

    • debryc

      One of the reasons KIPP provides cell phones for teachers. Technically it’s a school line.

  3. Morgan Tranier

    Oh, for the love of Peter! 70% of the numbers are not working! Many of you won’t be able to call because the parents do not speak English! With all the paperwork and charts and more paperwork and charts you will be given–and did I mention the New Age of Meetings every day! Call parents!! Lol!! Teach the kids and fly down from pie in the sky land!

    • debryc

      I am sorry you feel this way, Morgan. I stand by my belief that contacting parents is incredibly important for the students I have in my class, and that Dash4Teachers makes this much easier, so much so that I want to share this tool to other teachers who can benefit from this immensely.

      • CAT

        I would agree. Perhaps not all parents are accessible by phone but even if 1 is, that’s only 5-10 minutes of your day, which can be during your commute, walk to your car, or even sitting on your couch — and that’s one more parent and student who are getting a dialogue going with the teacher about improving student performance academically and behaviorally. I think this app is great and just forwarded it to everyone at my school.

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