Tag Archives: communications

Parents and schools connect

Developed by MGM Wireless Limited in Adelaide, South Australia, School Star is a secure mobile phone app that keeps parents in the loop about attendance, functions and other school news.

MGM Wireless invented the world’s first SMS based automated communication solution for schools in 2002.

Almost 1300 schools from around Australia use MGM’s communications system and half of them will be active users of the new School Star app within the next six months.

MGM Wireless CEO Mark Fortunatow said the company plans to take the app internationally after its success in Australia.

“We are formulating plans and strategies and hope to move in to the United States and Canada by the end of the calendar year,” he says.

“We also have partners and people in Shenzhen and Singapore that we have been working with for some time and have a network in place there already.”

School Star has a Facebook-styled news feed that can be regularly updated and is the only school app that allows direct two-way messaging between parents and schools with an SMS failover.

“Parents need a feedback loop. School Star does that and a number of other things that no other school app does,” Fortunatow says.

“Communication through other school apps gets to about 40% of the intended recipients at best.

“School Star will automatically send messages and content by SMS instead if parents run out of mobile data or don’t have access to Wi-Fi – so schools will reach almost 100% of parents.

“It is also unique because it promises a secure environment where only approved users can access school information.”

Schools install MGM’s content management system and enter in relevant news and information for parents.

Parents and students then register themselves using a secure two-factor verification process and once complete will allow users access to school information.

Only registered users from the current school database can use the school specific School Star app. It also allows the schools to ‘lock out’ unwanted users.

MGM ensures that sensitive information like names, photographs, dates, and places are kept secure at all times.

“Schools are loving School Star – they can publish news and send messages with a smooth interface and easy integration path,” Fortunatow says.

“News articles are easy to create, and parents love keeping in touch with what’s going on at the school.”

“School Star includes an engagement dashboard with state-of-the-art analytics so schools know which content is working best.”

School Star is available to download for free in the App Store and Google Play in Australia and will be available in the United States and Canada later this year.

– Caleb Radford

This article was first published by The Lead South Australia on 27th April 2016. Read the original article here.

iSee: Education’s future

Known as iSee, the technology merges videoconferencing with interactive, virtual environments. It’s been built by University of Wollongong (UOW) researchers in partnership with the Smart Services CRC and now through the spin-off company, iSee VC. iSee operates by immersing dozens of users in a game-like setting where they appear as ‘mevatars’.

Like avatars in online gaming, ‘mevatars’ represent the user in a virtual space. However, while avatars are typically an alter ego or fantasy character, mevatars are created by streaming the user’s webcam into an immersive setting in real time, enabling authentic face-to-face interactions.
The technology can stream more than 50 webcams in a virtual space where users can move around, form groups, converse and share content. It employs point sensitive hearing, where multiple users occupying the space and engaging in multiple conversations will only hear what is within earshot – just as they would in the real world.

Farzad Safaei, Jessica Sullivan and Graeme Booker are all playing a role in making iSee software a reality for schools and beyond.
Farzad Safaei, Jessica Sullivan and Graeme Booker are all playing a role in making iSee software a reality for schools and beyond.

iSee is designed to mimic natural conversations and the real life act of mingling, explained Chief Technical Officer Professor Farzad Safaei, from UOW’s ICT Research Institute.

“You can have multiple, simultaneous conversations going on in the setting between different groups,” Safaei said. “Importantly, the user – not the system – chooses who to focus on. From an education and training perspective, this makes it easier for students to interact with their peers, which is one of the key elements missing from online education tools.”

The NSW Department of Education and Communities is already trialling the iSee program to connect secondary students and teachers from a large metropolitan high school with staff and students from a small regional high school.

Colin Wood, who leads the department’s Virtual Learning Environment team, said the technology is helping students overcome regional isolation.
“It eliminates the need to travel long distances to experience natural social interaction and access specialist education, training and professional development,” he said. Wood agreed that a major benefit is that users can interact as they would in a physical space, such as a classroom.

Teachers have the ability, for example, to post slides and content on virtual whiteboards, break students into groups and then circulate, listen to the chat and provide feedback. Meanwhile, students can meet, interact, share ideas and collaborate with each other.

Safaei said iSee requires at least 70% less bandwidth to operate than other videoconferencing systems. This is because to any given user, it only transmits the audio and video from people who are visible or within earshot inside the virtual setting.

“You could have 20–25 users in the environment, but one user on average is only downloading three to four videos,” he said.
Although commercialisation has been initially focused on education and training, iSee’s Client Business Innovation Leader Jessica Sullivan said the technology is set to have wide-ranging applications for organisations interested in humanising the web.
Myles Gough