Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Teacher Dashboard - Another piece to our 1:1 puzzle

We have had just an amazing and historic school year so far.  This is our first year being fully 1:1 with almost all of our 3,500 students having been issued Google Chromebooks.  Personally, I think we have far surpassed where I thought we'd be after a little over one semester in our new technology supercharged learning environment.  I have both witnessed and heard about some remarkable transformations of curriculum, lesson plans, the way we communicate, the way we collaborate, and more all because we've eliminated the "access" obstacle for our students.  Now, I know this has been a monumental undertaking for our teachers and most of them have compared this year to being a first year teacher again, but they have certainly risen to the challenge.

So far, there have been two primary tools (in addition to the Chromebooks) that have had the biggest impact on our year.  At the top of the list is Google Apps for Education (GAFE).  In my 18 years in the district, I have not seen any technology have more positive returns than the Google Apps suite.  In fact, 20 years from now, we may look back and say that adopting GAFE was one of the most important decisions ever made in this district.  Yep, even slightly ahead of choosing to go 1:1.  The second tool that has really changed the way we play the game of school at Leyden is OpenClass.  This is the free content/learning management system we're using for all classes.  We have chosen to set up one OpenClass course per prep (teaching assignment) for each teacher and their students are automatically loaded into the appropriate courses.  This system has provided a consistent framework for teachers to take their classes "to the Web" and design and develop digital curriculum and resources.  Our classes are no longer contained to the 48-minute periods in our school days.  Students have access to content, notes, resources, support, and anything and everything our teachers wish to include in their courses.  As an added bonus, we don't hear our students ask "What I'd miss yesterday?" anymore.  Beyond these two primary tools, most of our teachers have found numerous other Web tools and resources that they've been integrating into their classes.

With all this said, there were two reoccurring concerns throughout our first semester that were shared by both teachers and students.  First, there seemed to be a lot of different ways to manage documents at play.  From an administrative perspective, we allowed our teachers to try out a number of different options without scripting or mandating any one method.  Some teachers like this and others don't, but it's the path we chose to follow and we've learned a great deal about what we should and should not be doing.  Second, very few of our teachers were versed in the methods of managing a "lab" class.  With every student having a device in front of them, most of our teachers are continually working to learn how to manage such an environment.  For example, just knowing how and when to ask their students to have lids up or lids down is a simple but new classroom management technique that our teachers have needed to add to their toolkit.

Starting with the first day of second semester on January 8, 2013, we rolled out a new application in hopes of helping our teachers both manage their students' documents better and manage their classroom environment better.  That tool is Teacher Dashboard by Hapara.  In a recent survey of our teachers, we've learned that the majority of them are using these new tools and find them extremely beneficial.
  • 80% of our teachers reported that they use Teacher Dashboard.
  • 56% of our teachers reported that they use the Smart Copy tool to push out and share documents with their students.
  • 65% of our teachers reported that they use Teacher Dashboard to manage and view their students' documents.
  • 12% of our teachers reported that they use Teacher Dashboard to manage and view their student's blog posts and comments.
  • 73% of our teachers reported that they use the Chromebook remote control/management tools.
  • Comments included:
    • "Love the Teacher Dashboard!"
    • "Please keep Teacher Dashboard around.  It is the best thing since sliced bread.  I don't ever want to live without it."
    • "Teacher Dashboard has been a great addition this semester!"
    • "The dashboard has saved so much time and made using docs so much more manageable."
Overall, Teacher Dashboard has been well received by our teachers and I'd expect the usage to increase as the semester rolls on.  This has certainly been a key piece to our new 1:1 puzzle.

Below is a slide deck that was used to help introduce our teachers to Teacher Dashboard and may help you get a better understanding of what it has to offer.

SORRY - SlideRocket was bought by another company and no longer has educational accounts.  The presentation below is no longer available.  I'll try to convert it to another format.