Explanation of Process and Conclusions

In the search for a new SIS, I consulted many sources in order to narrow down a final choice: Alma.

Source: Alma

I selected Alma after reading reviews on EdTech, listening to an interview with their CEO, and examining their compatibility with current technology in Regina Public, namely Google Apps for EducationFurther research on other tech-related websites shows that Alma is emerging as a competitor in the field of SIS.

I believe that Alma provides a genuine alternative for PowerSchool in terms of corporate responsibility, support, and potentially cost. I contacted both PowerSchool and Alma for an estimate, stating I was writing a paper comparing Student Information Systems. I sent both emails on July 11. I received a reply from Alma with an approximate cost, as indicated in the “letter” to the Minister. I have yet to receive a reply from PowerSchool, despite follow up emails on July 20, and 23.

If this were a real life scenario, I would collaborate with many levels of education: teachers, parents, administrators, guidance counselors, students, superintendents, and the Ministry.

Source: Presentation Process

Teachers need to include input as they are the ones that will be utilizing the system the most. Teachers use SIS every day, multiple times a day. The new system should be accessible and have minimal downtime.

Parents need to be consulted as this will directly impact how they access their children’s attendance and progress in school. The new system chosen should be easy to navigate with a minimal learning curve so that parents are not frustrated by the system.

Administrators have a unique perspective when accessing a student information system. They use it to access marks and attendance, similar to a teacher, but they also use it in order to build schedules, track student movement across the division, and to interface with the Ministry.

Guidance counselors use the system in a similar manner to administrators in that they track a student’s progress toward graduation and also need access to personal data in order to help a student.

Students should be polled to find out how and why they use an SIS. The SIS is, at the end of the day, designed for students so their thoughts should be included in the process. Elementary school students’ use is very different from high school students’ use, so the new system should be responsive to a wide variety of student needs.

Superintendents should be consulted, not because they necessarily use it, but because they are aware of the costs of integration and of breaking contracts. Superintendents have the most wide view of usage of a system and may have a more historical view on a change of this magnitude.

Finally, the Ministry of Education needs to be consulted, as at the end of the day, the Ministry is who employs everyone. The Ministry is ultimately in charge of all students and all final, legal reporting involving transcripts and student data. Any new system needs to be able to work with current software so that a changeover would be seamless.

Source: BBC

For this change, I believe that all stakeholders will benefit, in the long term. By removing any association with such a problematic company can only help with the sense of community and aid in the cause of social justice within Regina Public. It is an opportunity to become a provincial leader in a sense by rejecting what is considered the norm and embracing a more “leftist” position.

I feel that by stating this as the objective in the change, there will be many, many people who will see this change as necessary for the cause of public education. The majority of supporters will already have an explicit understanding of Critical Theory, though many will have an implicit understanding: they know what constitutes good, equal teaching, though they may not have the vocabulary of Critical Theory to express it. It is from here that I would derive the base of support for the change. I believe that they would be champions for the change and would help campaign to assist the transition with detractors.


Reflection on Process

Source: John Dewey Quotes

When I began this project I was really unsure of the direction I wanted to take. This project seemed so vast and hard to pin down because it was so open. I thought about utilizing tools like Twitter in my teaching, but it seemed so inauthentic because it is just one aspect of my teaching, and to be honest, I really don’t like Twitter all that much.

So, I started thinking about what I do during the day. As I was running through my daily routine, I stopped. There was one thing that had been coming up over and over again: the way I input data. So, I began reflecting on PowerSchool and our division’s relationship with it. I started to do some digging. I discovered that although PowerSchool had started as a Pearson subsidiary, Pearson began selling off assets and PowerSchool was one of them. I was surprised to learn that even though PowerSchool had become ostensibly its own company, it still had a parent. This parent worried me, as its key drive is acquiring data management software and not just educational software.

From there, I examined potential alternatives. I sent out exploratory emails requesting information about pricing, indicating I was writing a paper about alternative platforms. The company that got back to me that fastest and was entire honest about their ability to provide information was Alma. The one company that never did respond was PowerSchool, despite repeated attempts. That to me solidified my project as finding a new SIS.

I knew, from experience, the massive project it is to implement a new SIS and the amount of groundwork that needs to be laid in order to make the transition as smooth as possible. Because I was a brand new teacher when PowerSchool came to my division, I was easily able to switch over because I didn’t have much experience with SIRS. However, I witnessed the frustration and anger with which my colleagues met this change. Teachers with one or two years left before retirement were resentful of having to learn a brand new system for a year or two. This system was also entirely online and that made several teachers unfamiliar with cloud computing uncomfortable. The learning process for this roll out was huge.

Because of this experience, I knew that if Regina Public ever went into a new SIS that major consultation should take place. Fortunately, the change would only be in a software, not an entire sea change in how we manage student information.

I am fully aware of my position within the leadership environment and in this economic climate. I know that a change like this is entirely unfeasible at this time as we struggle just to pay enough teachers. However, it is my hope one day that I can propose a change such as this to people who do have power to implement this. I believe I have a strong reason for this change, as impractical in the short term it seems.

This project has opened my eyes to alternative ways of looking at student data and knowing that PowerSchool does not have a monopoly, that there are several companies out there that offer just as good, if not a better solution.

So long, farewell…

Source: Giphy

And now that you’ve got the song stuck in your head for the rest of the day, here’s a summary of the module creation process.

Below is a link to my course profile. I’d paste it all here, but it ended up being around five pages, so I’ll save you the scrolling. Here it is.

As well, here are the links to the creation process of the Hamlet unit:

And goes and goes

You get what you pay for

I admit it. I’m biased.

Creating “Hamlet”

Full Tilt

And so it went.

Each of the blog posts details different aspects of the creation process that I went through to get to the final product. I go more in depth about what decisions I had to make as well as the rationale behind the choices I made in my summary of learning (coming soon!)

Onto the feedback.

As a whole, the feedback was positive. I received comments about how engaging the content could potentially be, as well as positive feedback on the structure/shell of the course.

One comment about splitting the video into “episodes” was really smart and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner.

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Source: Giphy

It would solve a few accessibility issues: watching shorter videos means that it won’t take as long to load on slower internet, students could watch only what they needed without having to rewind and fast forward constantly, and it would give more time to digest the information by allowing students to break in between episodes. While I don’t have time to do this currently, I will be re-recording the video in the future to make it shorter.

As well, there were a couple questions about feedback and assessment and I totally get where they’re coming from. I guess, as a teacher, sometimes I think that people can read my mind because I have everything set out in my head exactly as I want it to be. Sometimes it doesn’t translate exactly from my head to paper when trying to explain what I want to accomplish with a unit or a task. In the future, when reviewing this module, I’ll definitely be adding more information about assessment.

One thing that seemed to get rave reviews was my Hamlet Bingo. It’s also one of my favourite assignments to give because it creates a sense of collaboration and competition. I usually give out a small reward to the person who comes to me by the end of Act 5 with a complete, properly noted bingo sheet.

Onto my soapbox.

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Source: Giphy

One further aspect of the feedback I’d like to address is the part of my video where I mention Hamlet dies. The reviewer mentioned that it may spoil the play for students. My rationales for indicating Hamlet dies are plenty. First and foremost, Hamlet,as a play, is over 400 years old and an integral part of English language. Hamlet’s death is a part of our shared cultural knowledge. As well, letting students know what to read for helps them empathize with the characters and their decisions. I find it heightens the sense of dramatic irony. Finally, students have been exposed to potentially two other Shakespearean tragedies (Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth). In order to teach Shakespearean tragedies, the student must understand that Shakespeare has created a society that is disordered and imperiled. For the society to become whole again, a sacrifice must be made and the tragic hero makes it.

And off my soapbox.

The feedback was appreciated, though I wish the reviewers had somehow maintained their anonymity. It is kind of awkward to be getting the code for the class and see classmates’ names.

I enjoyed the process of examining classmates’ hard work and their modules and I appreciated the feedback I received because it really informs my teaching for the future of my blended classrooms!

And so it went.

This semester has flown by unbelievably fast. I can’t believe it’s almost April, though where I am, spring seems to have forgotten us.


I’ve completed my course prototype and I think it was absolutely worth it. When Katia and Alec first described what the course prototype would be, I was excited for the final project.

via Giphy

Finally, something that I could use beyond the class ending.  This was infinitely a better final assignment than a long-winded essay on something I wouldn’t care about two days from the class ending.

Figuring out what I wanted to do and how took much less time than I feared. Because I have access to GAFE, I knew I wanted to use Google Classroom. I felt this would have the greatest impact on my future teaching because I would actually be building something I could use and reuse.

via UConn

Once I had established how, I needed to focus on the what. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work on perfecting a class I’ve taught a million times (I’m looking at you, ELA 9) or work on a class I’ve only taught a handful of times (ELA B30 and ELA 20).

I decided that while I have time and patience (well, some of each), that I should work on a course that I don’t have as many resources for. So, my unit introduction on Hamlet began.

I used elements of the unit I’ve taught previously, but wanted to challenge myself to make it more accessible and less dependent on being in class, so I experimented with iMovie.

via Dribble

I have zero — and I mean ZERO — experience video making or editing beyond my Summary of Learning for EC&I 830. I’ve always thought video editing was too picky and time-consuming for my taste.

I started by experimenting with the trailer function of iMovie and found it ridiculously easy to use. So, I started putting together my video for the Hamlet introduction by creating a presentation with all of the information, screenshot (screenshotted?) all the slides and put my video together.

I really learned a lot about the editing power of iMovie as I had to make sure my voiceover matched the length I had chosen for my pictures and how to make them equal.

I think I’ve found a new love in iMovie.

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via Giphy

This process has really made me think about how I’m presenting content in my class: how easily is what I’ve asked my students to do translatable to other mediums? Can a word doc become something more? Can a lecture become something else? How hands on is my content? Are there opportunities for revision?

All in all, I’ve enjoyed this final project more than any other one I’ve encountered in my grad studies because I’m able to use it right away and it is something I created for myself for my practice rather than for a professor and their practice (sorry, Alec and Katia). A highly selfish project, but also the best project.

Full Tilt

It’s most definitely nearing the end of the semester.My blood pressure is always an accurate measure.

via Giphy

Working on blog posts, summary of learning, and the module is definitely keeping me hopping.

Last week in class, we had the breakout sessions to discuss potential criteria for our final project. One of the comments from Bill Cook really got me thinking.

How is authenticity affected by the degree of openness? Is it possible to support “authentic” learning in a closed forum or discussion space? Is authenticity guaranteed if we open the conversations to the online world?

Bill wondered about identity and how we, as educators, can guarantee that who we’re teaching is who we’re supposed to teach, specifically related to assessment.

How do we know that what we’re getting is actually from the student whose name is on it? In a strictly face-to-face class we can assign in-class assessments that we can monitor. With online classes, there’s a greater degree of trust on the part of the educator. Teachers, notorious control-freaks, must relinquish power and control.

However, it is concerning  just how can we tell if what a student has done is actually their and  not a sibling or a former student? This is an honest question. I don’t know. Maybe that’s an argument for blended learning rather than strictly online?

This is a puzzle that I hadn’t considered but I’d like to hear what others think. I don’t know why this hasn’t occurred to me previously.

I think this is going to change how I proceed with assessment in my final project as well.

What do you think? How can assessment in a strictly online class be monitored for authenticity?

Creating “Hamlet”

Today’s blog post will attempt to answer the questions posed by Alec and Katia about the authenticity of interaction in my course prototype.

As I discussed before, my prototype will be about Hamlet. Shakespeare is unique in that the curriculum mandates a Shakespeare play be taught in ELA B10 and ELA B30:

TGS: Teacher Guided Study, IS: Independent Study

b30 Therefore, a student in ELA B30 will study Shakespeare as a teacher-guided text, but it is up to the individual teacher as to which of the four plays to study.

Before I discuss interaction between students/instructors, I want to elaborate on my hypothetical student body.

My “class” would comprise of many students with many needs: high absenteeism (due to whatever reason: home life, vacations, sports etc.), a significant EAL population, students with diagnosed and undiagnosed LD for which they may or may not be receiving extra support, and a “middle of the road” population. These categories may overlap (an EAL student who is absent and has an LD). To me, this is a typical classroom at the school I teach at.

My course prototype/module is an introduction to Hamlet, which is the context for the play, a character overview, and a plot overview through a video, which will be posted on a Google Classroom (when I actually teach the class. For the purposes of this class, it will posted to my blog)

For the interaction portion of this module, I want to start with a Flipgrid set, which scenarios related to the play for students to pique interest in the play and themes (for the specific questions, you’ll have to wait for the module!)


Furthermore, students will split into groups for a theme presentation project, for which they’ll use Google docs/slides to collaborate.

If I were creating the entire unit on Hamlet, there would be integration of quick Kahoots for comprehension, various selections from hereHamlet bingo (if you’re interested in what this is, let me know and I’ll send you the doc), and the culminating assignment of a comparative essay.

Because this will be on a Google Classroom, students will have the opportunity to interact on assignments with both myself and others through forums. There will be reflection questions based on the current portion of the play. Students will not have to discuss every prompt; they will be numbered and assigned a specific set of prompts and are required to interact on their prompts only. For the purpose of the assignment, prompts/discussion will take place on my blog for accessibility.

Because my hypothetical class would have in-class time as well as components online, there’s a mix of in person and online interactions.

Using Schwier’s chart, there are elements of mutuality in the group assignments and using technology that’s generally available or can be shared (i.e., school laptops, cellphones).

As for assessing student interactions, on the Classroom will be formative assessments (comprehension of the question and the thoroughness of their response). The summative assessment is the culminating essay, which students will be able to use ideas developed in their responses. Essentially, the questions/responses on the Google Classroom will act as pre-writing.

As well, students will be assessed on their thematic presentation, which should be completed in a collaborative space, such as Google docs/slides.

I really didn’t mean to write so much and I hope this is understandable and not as stream-of-consciousness as I fear.

Any suggestions for further formative assessments would be greatly appreciated! I’m looking for ones that show a general comprehension level (such as the Kahoot or Menti) and ones that show individual comprehension (like exit slips)