Thursday, March 8, 2012

In It Together: Student Led Program Implementation #SXSWedu

Notes from SXSWedu 2012 Concurrent Session


Note from Sandy: This was a powerful presentation! I am now full of ideas!!!!


Ranona Riggs & Thurman Nassoiy, Region 4

Joshua McDonald, Teacher, Channelview ISD

Holly R, 9th Grade Student

Amy Martinez, Teacher, Katy ISD

Today's presentation is on student led implementation of the Project Share platform.

Backchannel: www.epsilen.com/rriggs - click on Blog in left navigation panel

A Trainer's Perspective - Thurman Nassoiy

Teachers go to PD all the time. Then they go back to school and may or may not use it. Students have no idea this is happening. Thurman thought, "What if we train students and teachers together as equals?"

Did two Saturday sessions of training in Project Share including teachers and students. Experiences were built around them being equals, team building, platform training, etc. Made it ok for students to help teachers and do some of the training. What if students could help teachers make instruction more interesting?

They did role plays because they knew students might run into brick walls. Also did follow up afterwards.

Students started assisting fellow students in creating ePortfolios in Project Share. They went into classrooms and trained their peers. Students also presented at faculty meetings. (Snipit of faculty meeting training at 9th grade campus shown.) Students were coached very little and demonstrated great knowledge of the platform. Students got to pick the aspects of the platform that were meaningful to them to share.

At the end of the meeting, the principal announced students could bring their own devices to use Project Share. One student asked his Geometry teacher if he could take notes with his own device in Project Share so he would always have them if he left his notebook at school. Another student talked to a teacher about letting students store their documents in Project Share instead of using flash drives. After seeing the benefits, he asked the student to help him implement with all students.

Advice: Start Small & Choose Folks Wisely (people who will run with it). If it is successful with a couple of teachers and groups of students, it becomes a model to follow.

Make sure there is administrator buy in to make sure it moves forward when Region Trainers aren't there once a month.


Picked students who were model students who would benefit from leadership experience. They were hand picked. Biggest problem with having sessions on Saturday were band and sports. Once the students saw the platform, they were eager to come back again.

Joshua McDonald - Teacher's Perspective


Was approached by principal at start of year to participate in pilot program. Admits he was nervous at first because had never done PD with students. Wasn't sure what his role would be.

All teachers were asked to nominate two model students for the experience. After initial trainings, here were monthly meetings to follow up. McDonald checked up on students in between meetings.

Process was a little slow in the beginning. What really kick-started it was the student presentations to the faculty. These presentations just happened a month ago and the momentum since then has been incredible.

McDonald himself feels like he just jumped in feet first in the past two months. His own work on an online masters degree made a connection for him. He realizes he needs to get his students used to this online learning platform. He wants to be 100% online in his classroom by the end of the semester.

Student Perspective


Like being able to do online projects and send them to ePortfolio. Much easier to have resources in Project Share that they can access on iPads instead of just hearing lectures from their teachers.

Holly R. - Went into the AVID classroom to teach other students to use Project Share. Showed them how to put finest work in showcase for others to see and how to access courses.

Holly thinks Project Share is very beneficial. Students are more interested in using technology than working out of textbooks. She likes communicating with teachers, accessing notes, and making up work. She was able to not fall behind in her classes when she missed a week of school due to a death in the family.

Holly feels it is beneficial for students to help implement technology in the classroom. It helps everyone out in the long run. Increasing tech in the classroom will motivate students to learn.

After the faculty meeting, her world geography teacher came and asked Holly to teach her how to use Project Share and use it in the classroom. (Note from me: I got a little misty eyed hearing Holly say this!)


As students transition from the 9th grade campus to high school next year, they hope to continue the use of Project Share.

Amy Martinez - A Teacher's Perspective

Likes that it is easy to shift and move things around and tweak.

Feels Epsilen looks a lot more like what students are going to see in college than another system they were previously using.  At first students did not like it because it wasn't as "cute" as the old system, but they worked to help students understand it was more beneficial for them.

Students are asking non-using teachers to begin posting course content in Project Share. They like having one place to go to find their grades or make-up work. Teachers are now asking for help in taking next steps in Project Share based on student requests.

Project Share has helped organize at-risk students and gives them a common place to look and find resources. They are less likely to give up.

Student Testimonials via Video: Student would not change ONE THING about Project Share. Loves accessing work and turning it in on the same website. Uses it from home. Uses drop boxes, forums, and groups.

2nd Student Testimonial: Worked together in workgroup in Project Share to complete a project. Also would not change anything about Project Share. Likes that it is hands on because it makes it easier for him to learn. Doesn't always listen to everything in class but gets more out of Project Share.

McDonald: Teachers might resist at first because they see it as "one more thing" but if they see a teacher using it they will become interested. Students also need email accounts so they can be notified of what is going on in Project Share.

Nassoiy: Keep the kids at the forefront. It's all about impacting students and teachers. Trainers also need to have patience with districts and teachers. It takes time for change to occur.

Questions from Audience:


Concerns about abusing blogs, chat rooms, ect. Martinez said they used it as teaching opportunity and covered digital citizenship. Students are excited to practice something that college students do. Used Know the Rules Before You Use the Tools book from Project Share website with students when they trained them.

Can Epsilen notices be sent to text message instead of email? Yes they can! Each individual must set this in their account.

Where should you begin implementation? Wherever you have someone who is passionate and will use the platform. Subject, grade level do not matter as much as passion.

How can ESC trainers use this? Riggs says she sets up groups for her in person PD sessions and uses chats, drop boxes, etc to expose teachers to the platform. Also suggests administrators use this so teachers within a district to communicate with each other.

Let teachers know they don't have to create lessons in courses, they can just use forums, blogs, etc. Start with one tool.


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