Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Project Share Story: Ensuring a Successful Implementation #SXSWedu

Notes from SXSWedu 2011 breakout session...

Jill Galloway
Coordinator of Instructional Technology
Irving ISD
Twitter: @ajillgalloway

Irving ISD has had a very peaceful roll out of Project Share. They are sharing things they wish they had known ahead of time today.

All Irving ISD high schools are 1:1 with laptops. Middle school migrant students also have laptops.

Irving has Blackboard in their district and it is heavily used, but Galloway sees great potential for Epsilen and feels it is more of a 21st Century platform.

Questions to Ask:
  • Who will manage institution?
  • Who will pilot? Irving is a large district with 35,000 students, so they wanted to find a small group for piloting. They decided to start with T3 grant participants, instructional technology specialists, and high school math teachers who needed access for training materials. T3 teachers saw a lot of potential for students, but student accounts cannot be created without email addresses, and Irving ISD doesn't have student email addresses.

    Tipping Point: Presented Epsilen to upper administration, who started using it in ways they had not planned yet but were happy to see.

    Special Ed department began creating online professional development courses in Epsilen, which helped them leave a mark since their positions will not be funded next year.

    Grant writers are using it for grant facilitation. They can collaborate with other districts participating in the same grant.

    Principal of a new middle school is using Epsilen to network with the teachers she is hiring for her campus.
  • What about the kids? Irving wanted to use ePortfolios with their students. They created ePals email addresses for one 8th grade teacher's students so he could pilot with them.
  • What will students access? You can choose the level of access for any type of user. Irving did not change access levels at first, so they had to go back and enable some features during roll out. For example, students by default cannot search for courses. Irving enabled this to make enrollment in online courses easier than the "invite to course" method. They use access codes so just anyone cannot enroll in the courses.
  • Who can access ePortfolios? Irving has decided to keep the ePortfolios within Irving for now since they are using with 8th grade and 4th grade and are not applying to college at this time.
  • Will students be searchable? Irving did not enable this at this time.
  • Will students have profile pictures? Irving does allow this.
  • Will students blog? By default they do not have rights to blogging features. Irving turned this on because of its potential for instructional use.
Initial student roll out - Can create student role in Epsilen and give certain access rights
  • 8th grade science and 4th grade class.
  • Students are using ePortfolios and enjoy uploading their information to them.
  • Interactive notebooks
  • Students post projects for presenting to peers
  • Homebound instruction - Homebound instrutor works with a homebound student this way. Teacher back on campus uses drop box with student to look at work and give feedback.
  • Stay connected with each other. One teacher who was at a training away from campus used Epsilen chat feature to communicate with his students back in the classroom. Teacher can also hold virtual office hours in the evening.
Tips in Hindsight:
  • Have a training plan. Hands-on workshops initially, but then met one on one with teachers who were interested in using it. Also did a lot of webinars through illuminate. In the beginning overview trainings were very much in demand. Also how to work with your ePortfolio. Course creation is a popular topic. If you know these three topics you can use the rest of the system.
  • Teachers can create courses, and those must be approved by an administrator. NOTE: Administrator does not get an automatic notification when a new course is submitted in Epsilen for approval.
  • Pick a starting point for users. ePortfolios - charge teachers with creating one for themselves. One district (not Irving) required teachers to create ePortfolios.
  • Populate the system with content for your staff. Get teachers using the system so they'll see the benefits of it.
  • Course Tips:
    - Make all teachers certified faculty so they can create courses
    - Define student acess levels ahead of time
    - Simplify the course menu so as not to overwhem students. Don't have features you are not using enabled on the menu. Teachers have this control over their courses
    - Turn on drop box notifications so teacher knows when students turn in their assignments. Date and time stamp is very helpful!
    - Collaborate across classrooms with Workgroups. Can create groups with kids who aren't even in the same class. They complete group projects. Sharing files, leaving notes for each other. True 21st Century collaboration!
    - Facilitate a virtual classroom via chat (virtual office hours, interact with students when you are away from school.
    - Save often in Take Notes - especially if wireless access is an issue. This has been Irving's biggest challenge
    - Back up your course content with Resources
    - If a teacher leaves, institution admin can change the administrator or instructor of a course so it can be reused
  • Student oversight - Teachers can delete inappropriate content inside course blogs. Institutional admin can delete content from individual student blogs. Not sure if teachers can get to student email. Make sure students are signing an AUP every year and incorporate Epsilen into it.
Irving ISD's next steps: New middle school coming online is trying to be as paperless as possible. They are putting forms in a course in Epsilen. Using embedded Google forms inside Epsilen pages. A course gives them more tools to use than a group.

Galloway is a Google certified teacher and had Google Apps for Edu at her previous district. She feels Epsilen and Google Apps are excellent compliments to one another.

This was offered up from a member of the audience: Join 6tech group in Epsilen. Region 6 has developed a trainer of trainers document that you can get for free!