CARLSBAD — Carlsbad residents Gene Shi and his wife Lala Zhang were new parents with a natural curiosity about what their daughter, Audrey, was up to at preschool.
Some of the parents of children in Audrey’s class asked their preschool teacher to send photos during the school day but many preschools have restrictions about teacher’s personal cell phone use.
Out of this need came Learning Genie, a smart-phone application that connects preschool teachers with their students’ parents.
Shi said thousands of parents, teachers and preschool owners have downloaded the app, which debuted in 2013.
The app allows teachers to upload links to content they’re using during class time, like books and songs.
Parents can then be on the same page as the teacher and continue the lesson plans at home by downloading the books and songs used in class.
This helps children with their comprehension and understanding of the books and songs during a crucial phase of brain development.
The feature will be available towards the end of the month.
The app also lets teachers send pictures and write short updates on each child
Shi said that while the app was born out of a way to include parents, it has evolved into an organization tool for teachers.
He said the app helps teachers cut the workload and the amount of daily paperwork.
“If they need to write a paper report, most of the time they need to do that for 12 or 24 kids every day, and that’s a lot of work,” said Shi.
With the Learning Genie, teachers are able to take a photo and write a short paragraph describing the child’s behavior, activities and even types of snacks. Since it’s all in one place, the reports are also easier to keep track of, Shi said.
Most preschool centers use a dedicated tablet or iPad for the application.
Shi said the application gives parents a tool to interact with their child more, which in turn, helps with the child’s development.
It also enhances the relationship between the parent and the teacher because, Shi said, parents thank the teacher more often for sending photos of their child.
“Our end goal is that it’s going to be a teacher’s friend,” Shi said.
Teachers can also post reminders on the app, instead of sending the child home with a note.
Shi said that some preschool owners are hesitant to adopt new technology because they see it as an added expense and hassle.
In order to ease the transition of adopting the app, Shi offers free training to preschool teachers and said there are lots of online resources and tutorials to help teachers adopt the app.
The application is free for preschools with less than 15 children and ranges between about $10 a month to $50 a month, depending on the preschool size.
Some of the content available for download, like ebooks and YouTube music videos, is free. Shi said that most ebooks that aren’t free cost about $2 or $3.
Shi and his wife have lived in Carlsbad since 2010 and are from China, which is where the app’s engineering team is.