The Present and Future of District Online Learning Tools

Spring CleaningHere are some things scheduled to happen in the next month:

The Annual Spring Cleaning.

Several of the district’s web platforms have great support for new content, and lousy “end of life” support for all those old Word docs, pictures of 3-year-old class activities, YouTube video downloads, and all of the other stuff that accumulates. You’ll be hearing from the folks who manage all those to lease clean your garage!

  • SharePoint: It’s easy to delete, and almost as easy to download/store stuff that’s no longer being used. Look for a notice about May 1 on this annual task.
  • Fayette’s iSchool: This system will be getting yet another major update this summer, scheduled to begin June 11. We’ll be migrating, not upgrading, this year. That means, if you have good content, it’ll be saved and moved to the new system at your request. All other content will disappear. Again, watch for a notice May 1. Don’t miss that one – if you miss it, you might lose something!
  • Email: Since your email is stored in Austin, TX (and most folks have lots of space), this is just a general workflow concern. Email remains a primary communications platform, so if your Inbox has thousands of unread or unnoticed entries, that’ll reduce your effective use of this resource. Start now to cut away the garbage. Be brutal! If it’s a 6-month-old unread message, that train has left the station – delete it! If you don’t want to delete stuff, create folders inside
    your inbox and move stuff into it to get it out of your way.
  • Edmodo. Like all other instructional tools, Edmodo gets messy if left alone. And, of course, since it’s built on a social networking design paradigm, it encourages and supports student communications, even if a teacher is no longer paying attention.
    • Archive your classroom presence. Edmodo’s “archive” status allows a classroom presence to still be accessible to everyone, but it no longer accepts contributions, so you don’t have to monitor it.
    • Remove stuff you won’t use again.
    • Your own workstation: All teacher workstations and laptops tend to, just like the ones above, accumulate garbage. In addition, teacher workstations regularly fail. Move critical stuff to network or cloud storage (more on this later) – get rid of the rest. Better for you to do that, then for a hard drive to fail. After all, there are two ways to get a tidy garage: 1) clean it yourself, or 2) wait for the whole house to burn down. Most folks prefer #1… 😉

Fayette's iSchool/Moodle 2.6<

Coming Changes and Things to Watch

  • Fayette’s iSchool. The new upgrade will bring…
    • Much simpler navigation and design,
    • Drag-and-drop file management,
    • Better small device support,
    • Greatly simplified activity creation.

    Want a sneak peek? See the PD in May, or contact me for help!

  • TurnItIn. High schools now using this tool know its power and usefulness as a writing and plagiarism tool. Fayette County is slated to do a 90-day pilot of TurnItIn, available through Fayette’s iSchool to all secondary teachers in the district. Look for an announcement and trainings in the coming months!
  • Office 365/OneDrive For Business. This cloud tool may be lacking some in ease of
    use and support, and may not have the comfort of a one-call-undoes-my-mistakes, but it does provide a variety of things out of the box.
  • Access to Word/Excel/etc. fully online. If you use the web version of these tools, they work (mostly) across device and platform (yes, your iPad too!), without installing apps. If you just have to have the new iPad Office apps, you’re probably in
    trouble – our state Office 365 contract doesn’t support them, and you can’t as yet purchase that capability either. However, we’re hoping they’ll support students’ use of these apps! Watch for a possible announcement this summer.
  • Sharing files and resources. If you know someone’s email address, you can give them access to anything you store in OneDrive. (More below.)
  • Google Drive. See Paula Setser-Kissick’s comparison of this tool vs. Office365. It’s slick and easy to use, but if you’re hoping for an integration of our network with
    Google Drive (similar to the login credentials for Office 365), well, it’s still well off, I’m afraid. But if you (and your over-13 students) have a gmail account, you have access to these tools right now.
  • SharePoint “End of Life?” If you’re thinking that OneDrive is a replacement for our district SharePoint space, well, maybe…someday…but not right now. The controls and tools are simply not there. There’s a SharePoint Online version housed under Office 365, but that isn’t a part of the state Microsoft contract…yet… Sooooo, yes we will continue to use SharePoint. Look for an upgrade in the future.

 

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