Provost English & Technology Blog

My P.E.T Project

Monitoring My GAME Plan Progress – Week 4

Posted by mprovost on November 23, 2010

Since my last posting, I have made some progress toward my goal of establishing a parent communication network. Both of the options I am currently investigating and practicing with are exciting and engaging for both my students and me. The first platform is called Schoology; you can set up an entire school network and within that network your classroom, your courses, your contacts, etc. This site claims it combines “social networking with learning management” (Schoology, Inc., 2010). The platform itself is modeled after Facebook with the look, feel, updates, etc. Additionally, Schoology incorporates calendar options for setting assignments, grading assignments, sending/posting messages and even a dropbox for students to pass in work. I love the concept! That being said, the drawback is getting parents to join the network, use the site, AND let their children sign on as well. As I’m still in the investigation stage and do not want to overwhelm my parents, I have yet to send any information out to them.
Another platform that I came across during my research was Greenboard. What I find purposeful with this site is that it’s being marketed toward the iPad/iTouch community; as I make more use of my iPad for teaching, investigating viable apps is a large part of the learning. Unfortunately, after further research, Greenboard appears to be a relatively new platform with very few schools involved. In fact, in order to sign up, I have to sign my school up and I’m not comfortable putting my classroom online with very little evidence to support the site’s authenticity. I will, however, keep an eye on the growth of Greenboard.
After my continued learning, it occurs to me that learning Moodle and finding a appropriate platform for parent communication might result in the same “answer”. Though the paths to get there might be different, perhaps what is best is one interface that works well for both parents AND students. In the end, I am trying to create ease and efficiency for my parents, students and me; I want for everyone involved to find our online presence enriching and informative, not frustrating and cumbersome. Overall, this is going to take more focused research and testing on my part before I jump in and roll out a site to my parents.

I have a few new questions; If my colleagues could take a look at Schoology and give me their initial feedback/impressions, it would be of great value in my decision making. I worry it is so Facebook-ish that parents might actually shy away from it; maybe it’s too narrow-focused in its target audience? Conversely, maybe it’s a comfortable way to introduce people to social networking if they are inexperienced. What are you thoughts!?

Thanks in advance,
Melissa

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4 Responses to “Monitoring My GAME Plan Progress – Week 4”

  1. Missy,

    Okay, I am over my envy of your iPad. And believe me, it wasn’t easy. But, I won’t get into all of that. Meanwhile, I have looked at the Schoology site. I think it looks great. In fact, I am very interested in trying something like that myself. You stated that you are concerned about it appearing too similar to facebook. I don’t think that is a problem. Personally, I know many of my students parents use facebook, as well as most of the teachers I work with. I think that would give a familiarity and comfort to the parents. I know with the system my district uses, it can seem a bit foreign to the parents and the difference form the sites such as facebook they are used to navigating I believe makes them less likely to use it. I think with the look and feel of Schoology, the parents and students alike would be more likely to participate finding a comfortable and friendly feel.

    I really got quite excited looking at the site. You know how it is when you come across something that you think you could use. So many ideas and visions start racing through your head. This happened to me as I viewed the site. Not only do I see it having so much potential as a method to communicate with parents, but I also see it as a platform that could be used in an assignment I have tried to get going in which I have my students create a “facebook” type page for characters in a novel. I think I could possibly use this site for such an assignment. What I need to know is if I can set up with Schoology as an individual teacher. The way you described Schoology, the school can set up a network that my class would be a part of. Do you know if I have to have the entire school set up as such a network or can I just use it for my own classes?

    Anyway, I think what you have gotten going is great and I hope you will find success with it. I have to believe you will.

    Wesley Rogers
    HS English

    • mprovost said

      Hi Wesley,

      I love (LOVE) the idea of trying to use Schoology for a character Facebook project. I do a Facebook on paper project for Romeo and Juliet, but you are absolutely right about tapping into its potential as a platform for a creative assignment! Thank you for your feedback and opinion on its use – I had the same reaction you did and am getting closer to launching it for a test run with parents. Maybe I’ll just start with one class or even a select group within one class. It would actually be fun to launch two different sites (Schoology, Edmodo, etc.) and then have a few parents/students check them out and give feedback. If I go that route, I’ll make sure to not only enlist the help of the tech-literate, but those parents that may feel less comfortable and especially the resistors …they are always the best ones to flush out any problems!

      Thanks again!
      Melissa
      PS. Regarding the iPad – one of the large staff development training centers offers a workshop for $800ish and it includes the iPad. Many educators in my district are using this as their one major PD opportunity for the year. Maybe they offer something like that in your area?

      • Thanks, Melissa, for the response. I am really interested in Schoology. I am going to get with my department head Tuesday afternoon during a colaboration time to have her look at the site with me. I like the plan about setting up two different sites and having a class of parents give your their feedback/input on the two. I think I might just try that out myself. Thanks for the idea. You know, you could set up a survey for the parents to take to give you response on the two. I know we have used Survey Monkey several times to get feedback from parents and students. (http://www.surveymonkey.com/)

        I’m going to look at the site again this week and play around with it more. Did you happen to know an answer to my question about the site needing to be set up for the entire school or district network? I am just wondering if I can use it on my own or do I have to get my school to set up a network. I’m going to see what I can figure out in the mean time.

        Thanks again, Melissa.

        Wesley

  2. Keegan Norwood said

    I looked into shoolology because the premise was so intriguing. I have to admit that my curiousity is peaked, but the short demo provided by the site wasn’t quite enough to answer all my questions. For example, how can a teacher avoid liability if students abuse the site’s social networking elements? What regulations, if any, are available for keeping students from sexting, slanderizing, bullying, etc.?
    Also, I didn’t think I would utilize the gradebook or attendance features since they would be redundant to my required school versions and entering everything twice just isn’t practical for me.

    Still, I can’t help but think that this format could be very powerful and could certainly be convenient for updates on class activities and upcoming tests, etc. Also, it would be great to be able to post directly to a “wall” as a way of keeping parents updated. What do you think, do the benefits outweight the possible liabilities?

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