At a recent Smithtown Central School District Board of Education meeting, Jonathan Jacobs, a 2007 High School East graduate, introduced “Whisper”, a unique iPhone application designed to provide up-to-date information to faculty, students, parents and residents of the district.
Jacobs, the chief marketing officer of Digital Natives Group, a full-service digital agency and the company responsible for making the application possible, explained, "The problem is when these constituencies have questions, they are not always around the Board of Education, the football coach or even a newspaper. In the information age, it's important to recognize that they are not always around a laptop or desktop. What's important is that they have this information when they are around this screen, their mobile devices."
Among others, Whisper will feature contact information, directions, one-tap emergency contacts, emergency alerts, news and information and a calendar of events. What separates this phone application from the applications other districts are using, Jacobs said, is that the information it will provide is current and not static.
The application, he said, would be iPhone specific, adding that one-third of high school students are currently using iPhones.
Jacobs explained that Whisper is designed on four pillars: community, safety, publicity and simplicity. It will promote neighborhood connectedness with community-focused resources.
"It's meant to protect students and families alike with emergency alerts, report a bully feature and one-tap emergency contacts,” Jacobs said. "The third pillar is publicity: putting your district's best foot forward for college employers and potential neighbors and, finally, simplicity: put the answers to all the questions in one easy-to-use and up-to-date mobile solution."
The idea is for the mobile application to match the district's website, making information accessible to more people. "The beauty of this is that the website will now be in the palm of people's hands so it will help increase the level of communication that we have," Superintendent Edward Ehmann said.
The school district plans to create a communication/technology committee to discuss implementation of the new application. "We have to have a discussion with all stakeholders to make sure everybody is comfortable with how much access we are giving people at both sides," Ehmann said.
Jacobs, who owns and operates Digital Natives with a team of energetic, recent college graduates, said, "We owe so much of what we're able to do—being able to start and the experiences that we had—[to the district]. We are a team of four and two of us are High School East graduates and one's a High School West graduate, so it's really exciting to come back and be a part of everything going on here."
Following the meeting, Superintendent Edward Ehmann said that he's proud to see students help the school district they came from and help bring the district further into the digital age.
"It's great to see graduates come back and contribute to the technological evolution of the district," he said. "I think parents are going to appreciate having that increased level of communication. We're very excited and hope it works out."
Jacobs said he hopes to have the new application completed by August and ready for use in the upcoming school year.