During the summer break, we transitioned from Education Edge to Veracross. There is a long list of reasons why we decided to do this, but I won’t go into that in this post. Veracross provides more support than Education Edge to a number of roles across the school, from the receptionist to the registrar to the admissions team to the faculty. But with this additional support comes additional responsibilities. As a result, some roles have had to take on extra responsibilities. The following document details the current SIS roles and responsibilities at my school. We are only two months into the implementation of Veracross and I expect this document to go through a few versions before the end of the academic year.
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.
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.
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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Last year at Saint Maur, the Technology Department decided that, starting in the 2012 – 2013 school year, we would offer the IGCSE Computer Studies course to grades 9 and 10 instead of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) course – the course we were offering at the time.
In the ICT course, students learn to manipulate a typical office suite (i.e. word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, web design and database software.) We were finding, however, that students taking the course at Saint Maur already possessed half, if not all of these skills. We needed to find a more challenging technology curriculum for grades 9 and 10.
In addition to this, we’ve noticed a real interest in computer programming from the students who frequent the Mac Lab everyday and computer programming simply can’t be learnt through the ICT course.
The Computer Studies course is quite different to ICT in that it doesn’t prescribe a particular type of software that needs to be mastered. Rather, it places emphasis on the Systems Design Cycle (some times referred to as simply the Design Cycle) and leaves it up to the individual classrooms to decide the software or programming languages they will learn.
This year, we will be teaching Computer Studies through a number of software development projects using the Java-based Greenfoot development environment. (If you are interested in finding out more about Greenfoot, start by visiting the official website at www.greenfoot.org.) We are all very excited here in the Technology Department at the prospect of students developing their own games and simulations.
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