Education

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July 15, 2015

Swedish Blood Donors Receive Thank You Text Messages for Successful Transfusions

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Around the world, blood donation rates are at an all-time low. Britain has 40% fewer donors today than 10 years ago (according to the NHS). In the United States, only three out of every one-hundred people donate blood. The latest statistics from Executive Healthcare (EHM) shows that about 60% of the American populace is eligible to give blood, but only 5% of the people elect to give. This is a difficult problem because, despite the necessity to maintain a healthy blood supply, the Red Cross needs to find clever ways to convince donors to give.

In recent news, the Stockholm blood service may have come upon an excellent way to increase donations. If you donate blood in Sweden, you are sent an SMS text message each time your donated blood is used to save a life. The SMS texts go on to report on the impact of their donations, which can help to motivate donors as well. These “thank you” texts have created not only a way to make donors feel good about their altruism, it also is a subtle way to remind donors to come back for another donation at a later date. 

The program has been lauded as a success. Swedish citizens who participate have reported that they feel more appreciated once receiving the SMS text messages. Furthermore, donors often share the news with their peers via social media.

The outreach of the Stockholm blood service doesn’t stop there, though. Other text messages are sent to people who’ve donated before to remind them when they are eligible to donate again. In addition, the blood service has been using Facebook and email reminders to reach their potential donors as well. And it doesn’t hurt when they add light-hearted messages like “We won’t give up until you bleed.” Donors have shared that they appreciate these texts as well, since people often forget to donate amid their busy schedules.

Finally, on Stockholm blood service’s website, they have a chart giving a running total of how much blood of each type is left in stock. The idea is that if people know that the blood service is in need, then the people will be more likely to give.

There’s scientific proof that these techniques work. In a study by Johns Hopkins, researchers examined a Facebook initiative that allowed friends to share their organ donations in their status updates – the study observed a 21-fold increase of organ donor registrations in a single day! 

While this program currently only exists in Stockholm, it is likely that similar programs will be rolled-out throughout Sweden. Other countries, like Britain and the United States, are searching for similar techniques to get people to donate. The NHS Blood and Transplant service in the UK is looking to create some viral advertisements to increase donor turnout. Only time will tell how much these programs actually do to increase donor turnout but, in the meantime, we can all agree that SMS text messages and social media have proven to be excellent means to motivate the general public.

July 14, 2015

Early Education Mobile App Wins $2.2 Million in Funding

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Daycare, preschool and child development centers aren’t the first things that come to mind when browsing Apple’s App store. But even early educators need and app to make their job easier, right? Why shouldn’t they benefit from mobile technology? That’s exactly what Dave Vasen, founder and CEO of Brightwheel was thinking before he developed the first app for early education providers. 

On June 17, Brightwheel—a groundbreaking mobile platform for preschools, daycares and afterschool programs—received $2.2 million in seed funding. The funding comes as the app releases its latest version for iOS and Android, which includes the addition of new features previously unavailable to the public. 

Brightwheel is the first of its kind: a free, easy-to-use mobile SAAS platform for early childcare providers. However, Brightwheel is also proving valuable to parents and guardians who struggle to stay informed about daily activities and educational progress—something Vasen was personally familiar with. 

Vasen recognized the challenges faced by childcare providers after the birth of his first child. Not being connected with his daughter during the workday was difficult for the new father; he also observed overworked childcare providers. This scene is likely familiar to parents who need childcare programs, daycares, or after school services. Many early development providers face strict regulatory systems, long hours, and an incredible amount of paperwork to manager in addition to focusing on their real job—taking care of children.  

Brightwheel helps parents and administrators stay connected; allowing teachers and caregivers to practice cohesive programs in class or at home. With Brightwheel, teachers can track attendance in multiple classrooms, record daily observations, and share photos and notes about activities happening throughout the day. Other features include paperless billing for tuition and fees, and community settings for grandparents, nannies or friends. Brightwheel is integrated for both web based and mobile access.  

The childcare market in the United States nears $45 billion each year, so it’s surprising that few tools like Brightwheel have been made available—something Vasen says he is happy to have changed. 

PRE Ventures and Eniac Ventures raised the seed capitol with assistance from CrossLink Capitol, Golden Venture Partners, Red Swan Ventures and Sherpa Ventures. 

Brightwheel is free for parents and administrators and is now available in the Apple App Store and for Android devices.  

 

July 02, 2015

Cuba Tackles Web Connectivity Deficit

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Last week, Cuban daily Juventud Rebelde announced government plans to expand the country’s underperforming web infrastructure by adding Wi-Fi capacity to dozens of internet centers and cutting the cost of access.

A spokesman for Cuba’s state communications company said that, as of next month, 35 government computer centers would have Wi-Fi at a cost of around $2 per hour - still unaffordable for many Cubans, but a significant step in the right direction (where Wi-Fi was available previously, it cost around $4.50 per hour to access).  

Until now, the only Wi-Fi availability in the country has been at tourist hotels. While critics say the lack of connectivity is down to fear of social unrest, the Cuban government insists the problem is a result of the U.S. embargo, and has publicly stated an intention to expand internet access across the island.  

The recent move is indicative of the government at least beginning to make good on its promise.   Another positive indicator of a shift towards the open internet access enjoyed by other countries was the government-approved Wi-Fi spot provided by Cuban artist Kcho. Established at Kcho’s Havana arts center, the spot has attracted praise from open internet advocates in Cuba and around the world who hope it is the thin end of the wedge for fairer web access in one of the world’s least-connected countries.

Cubans - and especially young people living in the capital - are as au fait with computer technology as their contemporaries in other, better-connected countries. Visitors might be surprised to see iPhones and Androids in use all over Havana; hundreds of mobile-phone stores number among Cuba’s private businesses, all of them offering ways to install offline apps, as well as providing the usual repairs. 

Things look less developed outside the capital, where there are far fewer cellphones per head, and smartphones are extremely thin on the ground. But at least, with the recent slashing of prices (by more than half) for web access, Cuba is moving slowly towards the inevitable future of a fully connected citizenry.

May 27, 2015

The Mobile Marketing University

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Always wished you could go to school to learn mobile marketing tactics? Now you can. 

Mobile marketing automation powerhouse Swrve created Swrve University, a free online training program designed to teach anyone and everyone how to succeed in mobile marketing.  

 “We assembled some of the smartest people we know to join the faculty of a comprehensive online training program for mobile marketers,” Swrve CMO Steve Gershik writes on the company website. “It is the first, I believe, to focus on the complete, holistic experience of mobile marketing from acquisition to analytics.”  

A vendor-neutral course, it’s being taught by a distinct group of mobile marketing experts from a variety of companies and industries via webinars. The first session was entitled “Mobile: At the Center of Your Marketing Strategy, “ and featured tGershik, as well as Jeff Hasen, a respected mobile strategist, CMO and author of the upcoming book, The Art of Mobile Persuasion. The class covered the current status of the mobile landscape, as well as techniques for doing well with marketing campaigns. Mobile trends for 2015 were also discussed, as were “benchmarks for evaluating mobile success” and “real-world examples of mobile campaigns that work.” 

The second webinar, “Mobile Relationships: How to Build Them and Why They Matter,” featured Forrester principal analyst Julie Ask, author of The Mobile Mind Shift. Ask’s session covered why mobile businesses fail and how to avoid joining them, essential tips for mobile success, the scale of mobile opportunity, and “how successful relationships are built on mobile.” 

“Only 4% of companies today have an effective mobile marketing strategy,” Swrve writes on the sign-up page for Ask’s class, adding that you may not need the session if you’re one of them. 

Participants are encouraged to interact with their “teachers” in future sessions. 

“CMOs today know a mobile strategy is vital, but many simply don’t have the time, knowledge or the properly trained staff to be successful,” Gershik noted, adding that “..our program is designed to teach anyone how to become one of the world’s greatest mobile marketers and harness the full power of reaching customers on their portable devices. By bringing together professionals from across the industry we are providing a complete and free guide to attacking the mobile marketing world from the basics to highly technical campaigns.” 

Ideal for mobile marketing strategists looking to learn more or further train new hires, Swrve University is poised to function as a fantastic research platform for businesses and entrepreneurs alike. Accessible to anyone with an internet connection, the company says upcoming classes will be announced soon. Swrve also asks attendees to submit topics and questions to marketing@swrve.com

 

April 29, 2015

How to Protect Your Business in an Earthquake

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The thought of an earthquake sends chills down many a spine, and for good reason. Since earthquakes are capable of wrecking horrendous havoc that includes building demolition and loss of life, it’s important to know how to protect your business in the event of this natural disaster. Whether you live in California or another earthquake-centric area, it’s important to have a game plan ready should you and your employees endure a huge ‘quake.  

Let’s check out a few ideas on how to protect your business in an earthquake: 

 

Research

First things first: research earthquakes in your specific community. Look up local government policies, designated earthquake shelters, emergency routes out of the city, emergency phone numbers, etc. Create a list of all emergency contact information and send it via email to everyone you employ. Include a plan of action should an earthquake hit during work hours. 

 

Get Involved

Once you and your team have your emergency plan down, register with ShakeOut.org and join the millions of people in the U.S. and worldwide already prepared to hold a Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill. Simple and easily affordable, this event also functions as a team-building exercise. 

 

Purchase Non-Perishable Food and Bottled Water

Dedicate a closet in your office/warehouse/water” just for earthquake supplies. This should include enough perishable food and bottled water to last you and your employees for five days. Also use the closet for items such as hand-crank radios, candles and matches, medications, copies of important documents, flashlights, blankets, and other emergency preparedness items. 

 

Set Up an Emergency SMS Notification System

Set up an SMS notification system that alerts all employees about earthquake warnings. An especially helpful idea if you operate multiple business locations or frequently send employees on errands, appearances, and business trips, a notification system is an excellent option for staying in touch. It’s also an instant way to know everyone who works for you is aware of the earthquake warning, as most people look at text messages right away--far more than they do emails. The notification system can also let them know the varying degrees of emergency, where to take shelter, and so on. 

 

Learn More

Learn more about earthquake preparedness and encourage employees to do the same by suggesting a list of related apps. Think the American Red Cross app, the Ready.Gov app, and government branch apps for your specific county.

Remember, April is Earthquake Preparedness Month. Don’t wait until the big one hits--know what you and your team should do during natural disasters. 

 

April 13, 2015

Can Text Messaging Encourage Students to Apply for College?

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One thing’s for darn sure: young people love, love, love to text. Texting replaced phone calls as the main way to communicate on mobile devices some time ago, with a 2012 Pew survey finding the average teen sending 60 messages per day. And while encouraging teenagers to text is like encouraging them to eat ice cream, convincing them to apply to college is much more challenging. 

University of Pittsburgh researcher Lindsay Page has researched the college application process extensively, and came up with the “summer melt” theory, or the theory that many students, especially those in the low-income bracket, refrain from enrolling in college due to financial and logistical challenges that occur following high school graduation. Page and colleague Benjamin Castleman, a professor at the University of Virginia, tested several interventions designed to make the process easier. 

“We started out very low-tech, having counselors or college advisors basically receive a caseload of students,” Page said. “And it was the responsibility of the counselor or advisor to use all of the modes of communication at their disposal to reach out to the students. So it would be calling and emailing.”

Neither of these methods did much, so Page and Castleman decided to reach teens through their mobile devices and via one of the activities they enjoy most--texting.  

“It’s a deceptively simple idea,” Page noted.  

Page and Castleman devised an experiment in the summer of 2012, starting with groups of recent high school graduates in Texas and Massachusetts. Some students received 10 reminders over a set period suggesting they complete paperwork, fill out housing forms, and take placement tests. Other students did not receive texts.  

The overall results of the experiment, which will be published later this year in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, showed Page and Castleman that their “deceptively simple” solution could work very well in the real world.

“This is definitely something that is very promising,” Page said. 

Delaware was the first state to utilize the texting program. Each of its 8,726 high school seniors were eligible to receive text messages, which started in January as opposed to the summer. More than 4,000 students have enrolled as a result, as have 363 of their parents. 

The state’s computer program sends out 400 texts over two-hour period about three times each month. Texts are streamlined to the phase of the students’ application process, for example those who have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form would receive different notifications that those who have not. And once schools are chosen, many students receive text messages concerning their future plans. 

“Even after students apply to college there are many time-sensitive tasks they need to keep up with,” Page said. “Really the goal is to say hey, don’t forget you need to do this thing. Do you have questions about doing this?”

Will more states implement this system? It seems quite likely. 

 

March 10, 2015

SMS Helping Sierra Leonean Become 'Citizen Reporters'

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Advances in text messaging have extended to social causes, including those fighting disease and providing assistance to third-world communities. 

International development charity Christian Aid launched “SMS Voices” in January of last year, working in partnership with ENCISS, a Sierra Leone-based governance program funded by U.K. Aid and the European Union. The program is designed to help elected officials and citizens maintain an open dialogue, and was created by Radar, a U.K. communications nongovernmental organization.

SMS Voices trained 45 volunteers from Sierra Leone’s Bo and Koinadugu districts, including farmers, traders, students, and teachers, to become “citizen reporters.” Throughout 2014 they used text messaging to report issues of concern to their local councilors via anonymous micro-reports. Issues raised included the lack of teaching materials in schools, conflict among local groups, unsafe roads and bridges, clean water access, female genital mutilation, teen pregnancy, inefficient waste management, and violence against women and children.

Messages were received by nine participating elected officials, who were instructed to respond to micro-reports through text messaging and explain to reporters their plans to rectify these issues in their respective communities. Some said they would investigate, while others claimed they would bring the issues up at council meetings or alert the relevant police officer or mayor. Whatever the decision and outcome of the reports, an effective dialogue was indeed created between officials and citizens. 

Over 300 reports were sent during the 12-month period, and towards the end of the year some two-thirds concerned the Ebola crisis. Volunteers discussed how households were affected by quarantine regulations, reported regulation breaches, and shared concerns about infection.

“During the rebel war there were no mobile phones; now with Ebola, communication is possible,” remarked Martin M B Goba, deputy chairman of the Bo District Council. “During my time in quarantine, I was able to communicate with my ward development committee with an immediate response.” Goba lost several family members to the disease.

“It’s been challenging, but it’s helping me to improve on my job and to know the problems in my community, so that I can find solutions to them,” he added. “It has improved my interaction with civil society and shown me how to act immediately and promptly to community concerns.” 

The project has demonstrated the possibility of running low-cost, innovative programs in low-resource environments, such as within Sierra Leone, where less than 10 percent of the population have access to electricity, and a mere 2 percent use the Internet. 

“I have seen change,” remarks volunteer Evelyn Turay. “I have now seen council officials in the community raising awareness on issues around teenage pregnancy and early sexual activities [of young people] which I have been reporting on.” 

As the program progresses, it’s increasingly obvious that text messaging provides a powerful tool for helping third-world communities stay engaged and empowered.

 

February 05, 2015

Twitter Buys Indian Mobile Marketing Startup

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If you’re a mobile marketer, your marketing message might just be the next big thing in India, all thanks to a microblogging site’s ambitious investment abroad. Last week, Twitter purchased a startup corporation in India, called Zipdial.  

Indicative of the current ubiquitous nature of mobile phones and the decrease in their manufacturing costs, India has grown to one of the largest users of mobile phones worldwide. But the country has yet to get fully connected to the internet via mobile technology. Many people still use the mobile internet on a pay-per-site basis, with fewer than 40% of the populace having any kind of mobile internet access.

Zipdial, however, has revolutionized advertising for the burgeoning economy of the developing country. The startup allows its users to call a business’ phone number, then simply hang up. The business then registers the incoming phone number and responds with free text messages, app notifications, and even voice calls with advertisements.

This method of advertising has been dubbed “missed call” marketing. It allows users of Zipdial to receive advertisements from businesses they are interested in without having an internet connection. And best of all, there is no mobile cost to the consumer for receiving these ads. It's an effective way in, providing solutions in places many mobile marketing campaigns cannot reach.

So why is Twitter so interested in India? Because it is now one of the most rapidly growing mobile markets in the world. As cited last week in a Mobile Marketing Watch article, the Internet & Mobile Association of India and IMRB International report that the mobile internet industry of India has had unprecedented growth in 2014 – and 2015 is on par to surpass even that. Mobile internet growth increased over 25% in all of 2014, and is forecasted to grow another 23% in just the first half of 2015. Also reported in the article, rural use of mobile phones in India is expected to grow another 18%.

Zipdial boasts that its campaigns have reached nearly 60 million users, and the company is run by just over 50 employees. Mobile journalists have predicted that this technology will be effective in other countries as well, like Brazil and Indonesia. And according to reporters, these markets are key for Twitter, as 77% of Twitter’s monthly active users hail from outside the United States.

Twitter did not disclose how much they paid for the firm. But this purchase certainly exemplifies the notion that mobile technology and text marketing are proliferating immensely throughout the developing world. 

 

January 29, 2015

Behavioral Change Techniques Sorely Lacking in Most Fitness Apps

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Earlier this year, the American Journal of Preventative Medicine issued a report regarding the effectiveness of fitness applications. While their studies showed that apps provide much opportunity for social networking and feedback, most apps were seriously lacking in behavioral change techniques.

Behavioral change techniques, also known as BCTs, are techniques that directly help app users to modify their physical activity in significant ways. 

The study reviewed the 100 top-ranked physical activity apps and analyzed them for the existence of BCTs. Using a classification process according to 93 specific kinds of BCTs, the Journal reported that only 39 types of BCTs were present. On average, only six BCTs were present in any given app.

Now just about half of all American adults own a smartphone, and roughly half of those users access health information through their mobile phones. Also, about 50 percent of mobile users have at least one fitness app. These apps regularly provide certain types of BCTs: social support through online communities like Facebook, how to perform an exercise, exercise demonstrations and feedback, as well as information about others’ approval of a technique. While these are critical BCTs for self-improvement, the study found that most apps were lacking in the breadth of their BCTs.

Furthermore, the study found that app developers favored BCTs with a modest evidence base over others that had a more established effectiveness rate. David E. Conroy, PhD, the lead investigator, stated that “not all apps are created equal, and prospective users should consider their individual needs when selecting an app to increase physical activity.” In one example, he mentions that social media integration for providing social support is a very common BCT in apps, but he goes on to say that the BCT of active self-monitoring by users is much more effective in increasing activity.Perhaps the cause of the lack of self-monitoring BCTs is a result of development around mobile device capabilities. For example, accelerometers serve to passively monitor the movements of the mobile user, but they do not incite the user to participate in some form of exercise. Moreover, there is little evidence of retrospection or active self-reporting with these apps – BCTs that experts agree are most effective for changing behavioral activity.

The American Journal of Preventative Medicine didn’t suggest that Americans eschew fitness apps; the study simply showed where these apps are lacking. The potential of fitness apps in our society should, in fact, be lauded. Most apps do have many benefits, and exercise BCTs will most likely help a sedentary person to get moving. Since insufficient physical activity is the second-leading preventable cause of death in the United States, Americans should take advantage of fitness apps that can help them to increase their daily activity.

January 16, 2015

The App that Stops You From Using Apps

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Is one of your new year’s resolutions to spend more time with friends and family and less time absorbed in your mobile device? Perhaps you’re looking to limit screen time while at the family dinner table? Believe it or not, there’s actually an app for that.

Entitled Moment was originally launched as a “well-designed and practical tool” for anyone wanting to shorten time spent staring at their mobile device screen. Designed by developer Kevin Holesh, Entitled Moment makes it easy to set daily smartphone use limits, and runs in the background of your phone. It makes a noise and sends a notification when you exceed your limit for the day. 

Currently being promoted as a “family application,” Moment now allows family members to track each others’ daily phone use from their devices and create “screen-free” timed sessions that includes loud alerts should someone pick up their phone.

Holesh notes that most people underestimate how much time they spend on their smartphones by some 50%. The developer’s own mobile device “addictions” helped inspire the app, as he found time spent in the digital world was interfering with his real-world relationships.

Similar apps were released following the launch of Moment, including Checky, which tracks how often users check their phones each day. 

The app’s creator also remarked that parents wrote to him thanking him, as Entitled Moment significantly helped manage kiddie screen time. This prompted Holesh to create Moment 2.0 and make limiting screen time a family activity.

Subsequently, consumers can now view daily family member phone use patterns, and configure “family dinner time” mode—an hour-long block that encourages users to put their phones down while at the table. Should a family member break the “phone down” rule, the person will hear a loud alert until they stop using their device.

Downloaded over one million times thus far, the app’s alerts are quite humorous, and include sirens, thunder, buzzer/alarm clock, and “the most annoying sound in the world” from the comedy classic Dumb and Dumber. A free app, it currently has about 200,000 active monthly users. Moment is available on iTunes, and includes the option of paying $3.99 for three months, or $19.99 for the whole year.

Rather than punishing children with a “no phone” rule, this app makes family dinner time something any member can implement at any time. Moment serves as a highly useful tool in decreasing kids’ screen time at home, and may be used in conjunction with other parental controls for mobile devices.