Our review of SchoolJotter from Webanywhere – a great school website builder with useful e-learning and communication features.
School Jotter is an innovative tool from Webanywhere which enables schools to create personal, functional, user-friendly websites and much more including an app store for schools.
Making it simple, that’s why School Jotter works for 3000 schools
The main message of the School Jotter suite is ease of use. It enables both staff and pupils (with access control) to easily create and contribute to a website which not only represents their school’s ethos, but also facilitates learning. School Jotter is not only about ease of use when it comes to creating a website, however, it is also easy for staff to constantly update and modify their website to reflect the evolving needs of their school and its students.
School Jotter was created in 2008 and was one of the first school-specific Content Management Systems. Now School Jotter websites are mobile and tablet friendly, and are optimised to maximise search engine presence. School Jotter websites are entirely web-based, which allows changes to the websites to be made from any location, and the package is part of a website-hosting service. It currently has over 3,000 customers, most of which are Primary schools.
So what makes School Jotter unique, and why should a school choose School Jotter if they want to build a website?
Bringing Learning Apps to schools
The strength of School Jotter lies in its apps. Apps, in this context, are pre-made add-ons which can be easily plugged into any School Jotter website via the included App Store. These apps enable schools to easily add things like surveys, calendars and slideshows to their website.
Additionally, apps allow staff to do more than just insert pre-made add-ons. The thing which really stands out about School Jotter for me is the way its apps enable anybody to easily create effective e-learning – a science teacher might for example create an interactive webpage teaching students about the solar system.
Making the personalisation of e-learning easy
E-learning solutions can be created easily by using School Jotter’s Learn app. This provides templates for e-learning pages and has built-in functionality to enable the insertion of activities, such as exercises and quizzes; multimedia, such as images and videos; as well as pre-made files and documents.
The e-learning resources which are created are effective because, although they are created using default templates and functionalities, they are created on an individual school’s website by that school’s staff, and so are personalised to the student’s needs. The personalisation of learning is a hot topic in e-learning, and by allowing staff to create the e-learning resources for their students, who they know the needs and interests of, the e-learning created with School Jotter can be personalised.
The easy creation of effective e-learning makes School Jotter much more than a website-creation tool. By offering both website and e-learning creation tools, School Jotter is a holistic package which enables schools to enhance their learning offer. It’s this combination of tools that wins Jotter praise for creating good school websites and apps from Good Site Guide.
Helping teachers, engaging students
The back-end of a School Jotter website is user friendly – apps can easily be added and modified, and the options for customising the website are coherent and useful. We’ve already seen how Student Jotter enables staff to easily create and manage their website, and how School Jotter websites enhance learning, so what are they like for the people who use them: students, parents and other staff?
When I visit some of the many School Jotter websites I always find them easy to navigate, and they’re laid out in a way which is easy to understand. The websites’ appearances are not overly flashy but present an image of elegance and engagement, in keeping with their focus on ease-of-use. The end users of these websites include, importantly, the students, and as the websites seem really easy to use I’m sure that students will think so too – and the large user-base of Student Jotter attests to this.
Avatars to engage
What really makes Student Jotter stand out when it comes to user experience for students is its Merits and Avatar system. With the free Merits app installed, when a student logs in to the website for the first time they create an Avatar – a character whose appearance they can customise with a variety of colours, clothes and outfits. This Avatar represents the student when they are using the website and users can purchase more customisation options for their avatar with merits awarded by the teacher.
Merits to reward
Merits are an award system which School Jotter uses. They can be awarded to students by staff for any activity, such as the completion of an exercises or participation in an event. Merits provide an incentive for students to succeed. This mechanism is, in an e-learning context, known as ‘gamification’ – using game-like mechanics to promote learning. By using a reward-scheme, School Jotter incentivises learning by appealing to the innate desires of students for success, recognition and achievement. This feature can be further enhanced by using features such as a scoreboard, which ranks students on their number of Merits and provides competition, or, if the mechanism does not seem appropriate for the school, it can be disabled.
School Jotter’s Merit and Avatar system is another example of its customisability and innovative features. The Merit system promotes learning and works in harmony with the Learn app, and a colourful and customisable Avatar is certainly appealing to young students.
Our view: Website, plus apps, e-learning, personalisation and engagement all in one for Primary Schools – that’s clever.
The School Jotter suite of apps provide an excellent toolset for a school which is looking to build or enhance its website. It is easy to use and creates websites which are attractive to all types of users, with Apps to add engagement and interactions. The key strength of School Jotter lies in its powerful customisability: one could certainly use it to create a standard but attractive and functional website, or it can instead be used to create a website which features personalised e-learning incentivised through gamification. Or it can create anything in between!