Technology can make teaching easier and more effective, but it can’t do the work for you. Many teachers implement new technology into their day-to-day routines without a clear idea of how it will benefit them or help them improve learning in the classroom.
Whether you’re a 3rd grade teacher trying to get a handle on your school management system or a 6th grade English teacher wondering how to get your students to download the reading journals you’ve assigned; it’s useful to think about what the end goal is before jumping in.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Using a School Management System
Here are some questions you can ask yourself when trying to determine how a school management software can benefit you and your students:
1) What do I want my students to be able to do with this technology?
Before purchasing a school management system for your classroom, make a list of what tasks you want it to accomplish. Do you want your students to track their own grades online? Would you like them to create digital portfolios they can share with parents and teachers? Knowing what you hope to achieve ahead of time will help you find the appropriate software and will ensure that it helps, not hinders your instruction.
2) What is my goal?
Once you’ve identified what tasks your management system should accomplish, identify the long-term goals for using technology in your classroom. Do you want to use online gradebooks to encourage more parent engagement? Do you plan on using the portfolio feature when students are applying for middle school? Think about why you want to use this tool in your classroom, then decide if that purpose is realistic.
3) What do I need my system to do?
Depending on the management system you have in place, different activities might be required daily or weekly. For example, assigning grades to digital portfolios could easily be done in Google Classroom, but if you want your students to take quizzes online every week, the system might not accommodate this activity. Knowing exactly what you need your system to do will prevent time wasted on tasks that the software can’t handle.
4) How quickly can I expect this system to work?
Every technology has its own learning curve. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of figuring out the steps to accomplish a task. However, some systems require more finesse and time than others before they start working for you and your students. If you want your management system to help streamline grading, make sure that you’ve had some time to familiarize yourself with it before students start using it.
5) How much time will this take?
Finally, it’s important to plan for the amount of time the system will require on a weekly and daily basis. If you’ve decided that your students need to use the management system daily, be sure you have ample time each week to get them set up and ready for instruction without interrupting other lessons. Also, think about the tech resources you’ll need to run smoothly. A reliable Internet connection, working computers or tablets (if applicable) and administrator support are all key elements that could make tech more effective in your classroom.
Make The Most Out of Your System With These 5 Tips
If you do decide to implement school management software, here are some tips to have a great experience while simplifying your operations and costs.
1) Take the time to get familiar with your system.
If you want your technology to work for you, it’s absolutely crucial that you put in some personal research time before students start using it. When possible, preview different features of an online gradebook or portfolio ahead of time so that when students log in, they aren’t stuck figuring out how to use the system. Many systems have training sessions, help guides, and/or tutorials to give you an idea of what your students can expect.
2) Collaborate with your students.
If you’re planning on using a management system within a specific unit of study, set up a project plan before working with students. For example, if you want to have your class create ePortfolios over a week-long mini-unit, make sure that each day has an activity or assignment. You can even scaffold activities by having students start with something simple, then give them more ambitious tasks as they grow comfortable using the system.
3) Get help when you need it.
Let’s face it—there are some management systems that just aren’t easy to use. If you run into a problem, ask your administrator for help. Having a little extra help from the people who actually know how to use this software can save your sanity when students are using it in class. You can get the help you want by making a time for a technology workshop, or by asking your administrator to schedule a professional development session for all teachers who want to learn more about the system.
4) Share feedback with technology experts.
If something is driving you crazy about the school management system, don’t be afraid to let the people who developed it know. After all, the goal of tools like this is to help you do your job better. Just be sure that before you do share feedback, you actually have some! Don’t waste other people’s time by sending generic messages about things that aren’t really problems. You can quickly send in a support ticket, and depending on the customer service of your platform, you may or may not get the issue resolved.
5) Focus on teaching and learning – not managing.
When you’re using a management system, it might be tempting to spend extra time setting up your courses with the perfect activities. But what’s the point of doing that when students have no idea how to do anything in each lesson? Remember—the point of having a management system is to help you teach and learn better. Use it as a tool, not a crutch.
Technology can be a fantastic tool to help you and your students. However, it’s important for you to take the time to learn about the technology and what it has to offer before bringing it into your classroom. If you do that, you’re sure to find technology that helps simplify things for both you and your class.
Zara Raza is the Head of Marketing at SchoolCues, the premier all-in-one school management system for small schools.