Technology can transform a classroom. As new ideas come to light, teachers have the ability to adapt different practices and engage their students' learning using tools such as iPads and online communication portals.
Several District 211 One-to-One Program teachers had an opportunity to conference with officials from Schoology, a popular online communication and classroom portal used in the classroom. District 211 was the only school district invited to speak with Schoology on April 8 with suggestions on how to improve workflow in the classroom.
"Schoology is becoming more and more valuable to our teachers and how their students' communicate in the classroom," said Keith Sorensen, director of educational technology at District 211. "After speaking with several of our teachers, I approached the company with ideas about how our staff could better utilize their product, and they were on board to directly conference with those teachers to hear suggestions."
Teachers participated in a conference with Ryan Hwang, founder and chief product officer of Schoology, and Brad Baird, chief finance officer, so the company could hear their suggestions and District 211 could see the future road map for Schoology. The group was connected through a conference video call at Palatine High School while other teachers were connected through online chat forums. Overall, more than 20 One-to-One teachers participated in the conference.
District 211 One-to-One teachers expressed that although the communication portal has been instrumental in speeding up classroom workflow, they still had areas they could improve. One of those areas was finding a place to annotate directly on students' assignments that were uploaded to Schoology. Hwang said this will be incorporated during the summer, and teachers should be able to use this feature during next school year. He also informed the teachers of what they can expect from the portal in the near future.
Another area where teachers will see improvement is connection with their students' assignments and the way they are graded. Currently the district allows the use of a point-based grading system. Schoology will adopt these grading scales so teachers can directly use the technology for grading and providing quick feedback to their students. Additionally, there will be ways to track learning outcomes and how assignments fit in with the district's critical learning standards, which define what students should know and be able to demonstrate after the completion of their course.
"This conference was a great opportunity to not only provide feedback directly to Schoology officials, but to also discuss how this tool can better serve our teachers and students," Sorensen said. "It really speaks volumes to our progress as a district and of our One-to-One Program knowing that the creators of Schoology care what we have to say."