School Information System (SIS) Checklist

In the Technology Department at Saint Maur, we’re currently meeting with school information system (SIS) vendors who are demonstrating their products to us. We’re meeting with vendors because the system we’re currently using to manage student and other information, Blackbaud’s Education Edge, falls short in a number of areas that are important to us. These areas include: parent portal; admissions portal; and medical, alumni, human resource and asset information management. (I won’t go into details about where exactly Education Edge falls short in these areas as this is implied in the checklist below.) Anyway, after spending several hours meeting with vendors I realised that rather than them showing me what their systems are capable of, it would be far more time effective to, well, flip things and have them complete a checklist of what their systems can and can’t do. Below you’ll find this checklist. Please feel free to copy it and make adjustments where need be.

COETAIL Project Reflection Part III

First, before I begin the third and final reflection of my final project for COETAIL, let me provide you with links to my first and second reflections, and with links to the UbD planner and assessment rubric for my project.

Enduring Understanding
I won’t repeat here the enduring understandings for the unit, so if you would like to read them, please go to the UbD planner.

Do I feel progress was made towards these enduring understandings? Yes. Because every student experienced planning and delivering a lesson. They experienced the difficulties that sometimes arise when teaching something, in conjunction with, the rewarding nature of teaching. They experienced that teaching reaffirms one’s own understanding. They experienced what can make a good lesson: clear delivery, engaging content, occasional humour and so on.

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NETS
Again, I won’t repeat here the NETS that I assessed in this unit, instead I will just provide a link to the assessment rubric.

To publish the video tutorials, the teams employed a variety of digital environments. ShowMe, Vimeo and WordPress are digital environments that each team used in the publishing of their video. So, in terms of publishing, the first standard (NETS 2A) was done quite well. However, the standard also specifies that students use a digital environment or digital environments to collaborate, and as far as I know, this wasn’t done by any of the teams.

The second NETS that I assessed (NETS 2B), was a tough one to measure but I think was done quite well by all of the teams. Was the information effectively communicated in each of the video tutorials? Yes. Was it effectively communicated to multiple audiences? Yes. All audiences of these video tutorials have the ability to pause, replay and skip.

Student Feedback
Student feedback was largely positive. A group of students enjoyed the unit because it gave them the chance to revise material in a different way (compared to traditional methods.) This same group commented that the unit enabled them to reaffirm the concepts they had learnt earlier in the year.

One student thought the unit made no impact on their understanding. Another group of students thought the unit had little impact on their understanding as they chose the topic that they were most familiar with. Should I suggest to students next time that they choose a topic that is somewhat challenging to them? That’s something I will have to think about.

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The Need for Digital Citizenship Education

This week, we began rolling out our one-to-one pilot project at Saint Maur International School. Every student in Grades 6 and 7 now has a school-owned iPad that must be brought to school everyday fully charged. To my surprise, the project took off rather smoothly. I didn’t have half the number of student visits to the Systems Room as I had expected. However, as with anything that is new and largely unknown, a couple of problems did arise. First, a concern was voiced by a parent that potentially there could be times when student use of the Internet goes unsupervised. And this is true. Secondly, on the first or second day of the pilot, a student emailed another student under the guise of another student. I haven’t had the time yet to work out how exactly the student was able to do this, but my first thought is that they discovered the Settings tab in the email client. These events led me to the realisation that for the continued success of a one-to-one program in a school, three things are paramount: policies, digital citizenship education for students and digital citizenship education for teachers.

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Digital Citizenship Education for Students
I’m not going to delve into why there is a need for policies (I’m also referring to usage agreements when I say policies) in a one-to-one program as I think the reasons are fairly obvious.

I realised this week that not enough was being done in terms of digital citizenship education for the students at my school. Nowadays, regardless of whether the school is one-to-one or not, all students should be learning about Internet safety, privacy and security, cyberbullying, and digital footprint and reputation (to name a few of the issues that fall under digital citizenship.) Let’s take digital footprint for example. We are simply not preparing our students for the future if we are not teaching them about digital footprint management now.

If I were a parent, I would feel a whole lot more at ease with a one-to-one program knowing that not only are there policies in place but there is student education on how to responsibly use technology too.

(While searching for more information about digital citizenship this week, I came across a ready-to-go free K-12 curriculum that specifically deals with digital citizenship.)

Digital Citizenship Education for Teachers
Digital citizenship education needs to be a faculty effort, that way the setting of double standards is avoided. Also, if it’s a faculty effort, a clear message is sent to the students about the importance of digital citizenship. For these reasons, it is important that not only students but teachers too are educated about digital citizenship.

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COETAIL Project Reflection Part II

The Positives
Deeper learning. I’m not referring to Wiggins and McTighe’s Six Facets of Understanding when I say this, I’m simply saying that deeper learning in the students happened as a result of this project. How do I know this? Because I observed it.

In one particular case, a student was teaching how to prime factorise a given number using the tree method. He was near the end of the procedure when, instead of multiplying all of the end nodes (i.e. prime numbers) together to show this equals the top node (i.e the given number), he incorrectly adds together all of the end nodes. As you can presume, it didn’t work out – the end nodes when added together didn’t equal the given number. It was a “aha!” moment for the student.

Maybe I’m using the wrong term. Maybe I should be saying “aha!” moments instead of deeper learning. Anyway, making video tutorials elicit “aha!” moments in students. (This idea could be what I base my thesis around. Or perhaps simply the effects of video tutorial making on student learning.)

Engaged students. This was another positive. I don’t think I’ve ever seen students as “into” math as I did during this project. The following tweet fairly accurately sums up the student interest level through out the project.

The Negatives
The “tail” of the project was to centralise the videos, now that they had been recorded. I suppose it could be argued that the videos were already centralised as they were all up on ShowMe, but I wanted them more centralised – I wanted to create our own Khan Academy (or, at the very least, the beginnings of.) We centralised the videos by creating a blog (which we named tinytutes) and embedded the videos there. The negative is that WordPress and ShowMe don’t play together nicely. ShowMe embed codes simply don’t work in WordPress. The workaround was to manually download the videos from ShowMe and then upload them to WordPress. This works but takes much more time than copying and pasting an embed code. The other downside is that all WordPress blogs come with limited storage – tinytutes is a free WordPress blog and therefore it came with 3 GB of storage. At some point in the future, as more videos are added to the blog, we’re going to need to upgrade to the 10 GB account or hope that WordPress and ShowMe settle their differences.

There may still be a Part III to this reflection. I’m not sure yet.

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