With the battle cry of “Achieve digitalization on the first day!”, each school district launches a back-to-school program around this time each year. However, the road to the successful start of the new school year is full of technical landmines. And they are not new issues-they happen every year.
Fortunately, a new dialogue focused on reimagining back to school is emerging. If educational technology touches your job, you will want to talk, listen, and participate.
In the spirit of change and growth (and to break the endless frustrations that make us want to pull out our hair in July, August and September every year), a group of school technology leaders and educational technology suppliers gather together ClassLink The first back-to-school summit in May. The goal is to start a conversation around improving the back-to-school process from a technical perspective. We talk openly (and very enthusiastically) about determining the elusive perfect moment of the student information system (SIS) rollover, annoying scheduling barriers, problematic technical PDs, and so on.
Did we solve all the problems? Do not. But we took a critical first step forward, listing common problems, thinking about how to solve them, and planning ways to continue the conversation.
Now, it is time to expand the dialogue.We will first share the main content of Classlink Back to school summit. Then we invite you to join.
Be part of the change. Use the #rethinkbacktoschool hashtag to add your voice to this conversation.Don’t forget to mark @ClassLink So we can see all your good ideas and help keep the conversation going.
The 5 biggest back-to-school blockers
1. Round the clock for your SIS
This is a big one. Some of the other issues listed here are entangled in SIS flips, especially communication issues.
You need to roll the SIS data to the next year, but this means that all data from the previous school year must be updated and verified in the SIS first. And the rotation takes time-depending on the SIS used by your school district and the efficiency of your process, this may slow down the process or make your SIS inaccessible until the rotation is complete. If your transfer occurs in a summer school or your time window is limited, that will be a problem.
IT staff also need to enter all new data into the SIS in time for the next school year to handle key functions, such as placing students in the correct grade, class, applications, and even planning bus routes and food services.
To complicate matters, some state-level reports are tedious, and there are legal reporting requirements for state funds. Generally, this slows down the process because of the need to check and balance to ensure that the SIS data is 100% accurate.
- Chris Odom, an instructional technology expert at Rock Hill Schools in South Carolina, said that in the past four years, his school district has chosen to recruit summer school students outside of SIS. They switched to spreadsheets. At the end of the summer school, any changes will be imported into last year’s SIS data capture, and then applied to the next school year when grades are assigned. “It’s not as elegant as I hope, but it’s something we will continue to work hard on,” Odom explained.
- Continuous centralized communication is another step to alleviate the pain of the rollover problem. Odom said that starting in May, a group of school district administrators, school administrators, school district SIS coordinators, and IT staff will meet weekly to discuss every step of the back-to-school and summer school process to ensure everyone goes On the same road.
2. Schedule shifts in a million different ways
Okay, this is a bit exaggerated, but many BTS summit attendees complained how frustrating it is that some vendors still don’t support open roster standards. Finding employees to adapt to manual scheduling is not only tricky; it is also less accurate and more time-consuming than using automated scheduling solutions that follow standards.
- Many technology leaders have begun to require that all new applications accept OneRoster files. These leaders stated that they also have regular conversations with existing suppliers about whether and when they plan to accept OneRoster documents.
- Odom said his school district uses ClassLink’s Roster Server tool (certified by IMS Global) to list most of its nearly 50 applications and programs. “I can’t do it without ClassLink. I will never reach the scale where I use Python scripts. I could do 10 to 15 applications, but I can’t do 40.”
3. Training issues
Teacher training has a huge impact on the successful use of technology in the new school year. When teachers walk into the classroom, it is vital that they are prepared and confident in their skills. Getting there is complicated.
Carrying out teacher training too early, teachers will fall into the predicament of using false data-this is not ideal. If there is too much time between training in the classroom and using technology, you may lose some of the knowledge the teacher has learned.
Then, you need to choose the best type of training. Is it online, face-to-face, on-demand? One participant said that teachers in her area requested online training, but after a little investigation, they found that they actually meant on-demand training that could adapt to their daily work.
- Grace Magley, director of digital learning at Natick Public Schools in Massachusetts, learned that teachers in her area like video training, so she made technical training videos for teachers in the summer. Others liked the idea, emphasizing that it creates accessible on-demand training that teachers can even use for troubleshooting and reduce calls to the technical team.
4. Communication issues
Communication problems range from teams working in isolation (in terms of suppliers and schools) to helping teachers be more self-sufficient in problem solving.
When the course and the IT team do not communicate or collaborate to improve efficiency and understanding, major stumbling blocks can arise. Everyone—from teachers to course leaders—needs a clear direction as to whom to contact when they encounter access problems.
- The IT team and the course team should meet with the supplier, not individually, so that everyone is on the same page from the beginning.
- Schools can outline a clear workflow that includes who to turn to for specific technical issues—when should teachers contact the course leader instead of IT or vendors—and then make it public and share frequently!
- Both the school and the supplier stated that it is also important to have an updated contact list to know who the appropriate contact person is and who can resolve the issue quickly. The supplier needs the school contact list and vice versa.
- The school can also create a file or section on its website where teachers, students, parents and staff can check the supplier’s power outages. Rock Hill is super easy to use this Status page. Others use Uptime robot.
5. Outdated methods
The recurring comment throughout the summit was to make every effort to start the process of returning to school as soon as possible. Some people even say that the “back-to-school process” is a bit misnomer, because school districts need to pay attention to these issues throughout the year to avoid bottlenecks in the summer and early fall.
- Look at every part of the back-to-school process and do things in advance if possible. For example, consider adding internal planning meetings and meeting with suppliers.
- If you are a supplier, please arrange a meeting with the region in advance.
And this is just the beginning of the conversation. Let us think about these issues as much as possible. This will lead to better, faster and more innovative solutions.