Doug Bellamy, Web and Multimedia Coordinator at Wylie Independent School District, shares insights into why his district was looking for a solution for teacher and parent communication, and how they selected Blackboard Reach to help them solve their communication challenges.
Blackboard Reach is an innovative two-way messaging tool that allows teachers and parents to communicate within the Blackboard Mobile Communications App or online while archiving all messages for critical district oversight and safety.
Q: What was going on at your district that drove interest in finding an integrated solution to help with teacher and parent communication?
A: Our district has always followed the philosophy of providing our staff with the biggest toolbox we can possibly find with every possible tool in it. We let them pick the tool that works best for them. And while that is great for the teachers, it’s not always great for parents. We have doubled in size over the last 10 years and communication has become more of a challenge as our district has grown. In the past, if one teacher decided to use Twitter, one decided to use Facebook, and another decided to use another tool, it didn’t impact parents as much because students didn’t have as many teachers. In today’s world, parents, especially those with multiple children in the district, often have more than 10 different teachers to communicate with. Keeping track of all that communication was becoming increasingly difficult.
Q: How did you hear about Blackboard Reach?
A: I’m a big proponent of continuing relationships with solutions we’re already using. When Blackboard announced that Blackboard Reach was available, I was very intrigued. Finding a central product that everyone could use to send communications and also rolling it into our other Blackboard products simplified things for us.
Q: Was there anything specific about Blackboard Reach that was a driving force behind purchasing?
A: The biggest “aha!” moment was the fact that it didn’t require a separate app. We already have the integrated Mobile Communications App, so when I was told Blackboard Reach would function within our existing app, I was sold. Not having to ask our parents to go out and download yet another app for separate functionality was the big win.
Q: Were there any concerns about purchasing a newly launched product during your buying process? Who was part of making that decision?
A: Our superintendent, the curriculum department, and the communications team were all part of the conversation. The only real objection that anyone had was timing. Blackboard Reach would be available in September or October and that was after school started for us. We didn’t want to start the year without a solution at all. Once we were able to figure out that we could afford to buy Blackboard Reach and keep using an existing solution for the time being, it was a no brainer.
I personally had some concerns about buying a brand-new product. The most positive part of the process was that we were able to influence how the product turned out. Having a district perspective on looks, features, and functionality was good for Blackboard and good for everyone else using the product. That the Blackboard team listened to feedback and was a true partner in the process made the difference.
Q: Once you finish implementation, what is your plan for rolling out this new tool to your teachers?
A: I’m taking a grassroots approach. I asked my campus webmasters and staff development team to identify a group of teachers that are innovators, willing to adopt new technology, are technology driven, and aren’t afraid of some change. I got about 15 names and they’re going to be my first group to use the product. My goal is for other teachers to see this group using the product and say, “Hey, what is that? What are you using? How does that work?” Then those early adopter teachers can share their insight. Instead of coming from the district, adoption will happen from the bottom up. It tends to be more accepted if it’s peer driven.
Stay tuned for another Q&A session with Doug Bellamy as he begins to roll out Blackboard Reach to teachers across his district.
For more information on Blackboard Reach and teacher and parent communication, please check out our resources: