Teachers to pilot centralized Schoology online classroom organizational system

by | March 28, 2017 | in News | No Comments

Schoology, an online organizational system for teachers, students, and parents, will be piloted by four teachers during fourth quarter. If the pilot goes well, Schoology will be implemented next school year, potentially district wide, from sixth to twelfth grade, technology coordinator Jana Branisa said.

“The impetus for this system was that many different teachers use Google Classroom, or online folders, or such, or they all use different calendar systems to tell students what the assignments are,” World Cultures teacher Janine Sohn said. “And I think one of the reasons people are thinking this might be a good tool is so that there could just be one central location that students and parents can go to to get the information.”

Every teacher has their own way of distributing information, organizing, and updating their calendars. But more variety, in this case, is not better, Branisa said.

“Many systems do lots of things, but the challenge with that is that there are many systems,” Sohn said. “Schoology would be one of those systems that would essentially keep us from having too many different systems.”

Schoology is a Learning Management System (LMS) which deals with the helping to organize the day to day assignments of classes and teachers, versus Infinite Campus, a Student Information System (SIS), Branisa said.

“Infinite Campus has student information data, name, address, testing results, and it tracks you from K to 12,” Branisa said. “Many Student Information Systems also try to be learning management systems and many learning management systems try to be student information systems.”

Infinite Campus will still be used for tracking GPAs, quarter and semester grades. But, Schoology could potentially will be used as the grade book for everyday assignments, tests and quizzes, said tech learning coach and English teacher Debbi Hill.

“What this LMS is trying to do is reign us in,” Branisa said. “One place with homework, tasks, calendars. Where teachers can share assignments, and lessons, and quizzes. Right now [teachers] can’t talk to each other. That is a one-to-many environment. One teacher to many students. [Schoology] is more of a web. It’s more of a matrix. It’s more of a grid. That’s what many-to-many is.”

Students will be able to see all of their assignments for all of their classes on one calendar and teachers will see all of the assignments that their students have due on what days and how many students have that particular assignment. Schoology also has quiz features, a discussion forum feature, messaging, announcements, and turnitin.com, Hill said.

“It is supposed to be a central location where people can get information,” Sohn said.

Like Infinite Campus, teachers, students and parents can have an account and a login to Schoology, but, they have different viewing access. The teacher can see everything, the student can see only what the teacher wants them to see and the parent can see most, but not all of the student’s work, giving the student some privacy, Branisa said.

“It’s still not going to solve every single problem and it’s not going to be our only technology in the foreseeable future,” Sohn said. “But some people believe that this could be a nice central location for parents to get information, for students to get information, for teachers to distribute work and such.”

Teachers are still beginning to hear and learn about Schoology, since the investigative group for it consisted of only a few teachers and administrators. Because she is  the tech learning coach, Hill keeps a blog for teachers with various informative videos about new technology, Hill said.

“Some of the teachers still need their arms twisted, or some still needed to be persuaded that this is going to benefit them and their students,” Hill said. “Some teachers are feeling ‘this is a huge change and I have to let go of everything I have done before and start from scratch.’. Some feel like ‘ugh, it’s another technology I have to learn.’”

Junior Maddy Levine used Schoology at Julia Morgan School, where she went for middle school, but said that she they did not use it much since it was implemented during her eighth grade year.

“We used it for a more general updates on sports games,” Levine said. “We actually had every single student’s birthday on the calendar.”

Despite not having much experience with Schoology, Levine still said she thinks it could have a good impact if everyone joins in on it.

“In a way, it is similar to Infinite Campus because teachers can update it as needed and plug in what’s necessary so they can use it for homework,” Levine said. “I think it might help with organization so people can just have their classes on there and be able to see what they have.”

In fall of 2016, the search for a better system to distribute information started in fall of 2016. Former principal Brent Daniels began the search since he was worried about students’ organizational skills and the overload of information presented to them. Schoology was then chosen over other LMS options, as an attempt to help the students and teachers communicate better, Branisa said.

“Mr. Daniels was really concerned [during his tenure] with the social wellbeing of teenagers and in a high performing school like this, it is often pushed aside,” Branisa said. “It’s about making things consistent and organized for you [the student].”