BuzzMob initially launched as a location-based social networking platform that targeted people attending events like baseball games, conferences, political rallies, and concerts to create a real-time, live community. It was mainly used as a fan-engagement app, but has since been retooled to serve educational communities and facilitate connections among administrators, teachers, parents, and students. As an educational tool, it was pilot tested at a school in Orange County, CA for the 2013-14 academic year and later expanded into 26 states.
Foursquare users will find BuzzMob’s infrastructure familiar. The GPS functionality makes it fairly easy to find your school right away without having to search, as the app provides a list of nearby schools. Still, though you can see them in a list, most schools are private: you can request access, but you can’t join the GPS-defined "ring" without approval from the school’s ringleader. This fact will probably please most teachers and parents, but it could become a slight drawback if the "pending approval" wait time drags on. Overall, though, the localized social networking makes it easy for parents and teachers to connect privately, and it helps them avoid all the noise of a network like Twitter. Plus, since the social network app is GPS-aware, notifications can be triggered by a parent’s arrival to the school campus, allowing for just-in-time information—particularly helpful for last minute schedule changes.
The app is a little slow and a bit buggy—it seems prone to crashing. It’s also a battery killer (the Android version, at least). Additionally, there are two versions in the app store—it’s unclear which one to choose, but downloading one prompts you to download the other anyway, which is annoying and feels both unnecessary and invasive. Further, it’s hard to know just how useful the tool really is: the closed rings might be very lively within the group, but many of the open groups (mostly colleges) are totally inactive.
Unlike one-way forms of communication (e.g., fliers, take-home notes), BuzzMob allows schools and parents to connect in conversation, and the closed rings allow for a secure channel for teachers and administrators to deliver school and classroom information. The app is available for Android and iOS, and mobile communication is generally fairly reliable for many parents. BuzzMob has the potential to strengthen communication between schools and parents, and enhance each side’s engagement within the school community, but ultimately it’s just one tool.Image: via BuzzMob