Upgrades are Uberfun!

In a single moth we have made improvements to and are close to unveiling 3 sets of site improvements over at IL Virtual.  Our info site, our primary LMS and our helpdesk have all gotten upgrades.

Now many people believe its magic, you simply select a feature and boom it upgrades.  This is the upgrade fairy logic.

In reality what happens is that behind that button push there are a few people like me, earning grey hairs, testing everything we can think of, and then trying to think of how a user might use it, then trying the break it.  At the end we hope that if we can’t find a way to break it, you won’t either.

It turns out though that all the end-users are incredibly innovative in their totality and inevitably they think of a view or click combination which never occurred to us.  Our prescience is limited, our prognostication flawed, and then the inevitable happens.  Things get broken.

The next phase of grey hairs begins as we scramble to unscramble the dilemna caused by the intrepid user before it becomes an issue.

At long last it all comes together, and we can breathe a sigh of relief.  Then we have to get in gear for the next one…


Parenting today’s learner – advice from the teacher

Dear Parents,

The landscape of learning today looks a lot different than in did just a few years ago.  My oldest son went to a school without email and my youngest just had me sign off on his “Smart board rules and permissions” form. Regardless of how technically minded you are, there are some things which every parent should know and do to help their student be successful in school.

1) Check student progress.  In the age of web 2.0, you no longer have to rely solely on the note in the backpack to know how your student is doing.  The web has helped us work through the kinks in communication (aka my middle son who’s notes from the teacher never managed to make it to my hands).  Most schools now have an online progress monitoring Student Information System (Maestro, STI, Edline, or whatever your school portal is) there for you.  In addition these same schools have guidelines for how often these should be updated by teachers.  Schools encourage and expect parents to check these sites and in many cases no longer send a paper progress report.

Parent Homework #1: Find the web address and login information you will need to log into your school’s system. Ask the school for help in using it. Set up a plan of how often and when you will check it.

2) Communicate with the teacher(s) by email.   Most school websites list the teacher email, but if not you should ask for it.  Begin the year by sending a positive message to the teacher.  Tell them about your concerns and your child’s strengths.  This serves two purposes: its starts a positive relationship with the teacher, and it verifies that you have each other’s contact info handy.

Parent Homework #2: Send your student’s teacher(s) an email.

3) Do a tech check.  I just found out my middle high school aged son is no longer asked to bring a calculator to school.  They have a class set to use.  But, he is required to have a google account to complete all of his work and store it so that he can access it from home or school (or phone or tablet…).  So before you go to a lot of trouble and expense buying the latest tech, check with the school about what they will be required to use and what will be provided.  

Parent Homework #3: Get a list of what tech the school plans to provide and what they suggest*

*Suggest does not always mean you have to buy it. Be sure to check for free and low-cost solutions.

Parent Homework #4: Create a plan for how your student will access tech outside of school hours, do you have it? will they need to use the public library? will they need to stay at school to complete some work? will you need to purchase some?

4) Have your child show you.  So here I am a “tech expert” and there are times when I too have to ask my children to give me a tour of the way their school does things.  I don’t know everything, nor should you.  So ask your child to show you what they are accessing for class.  It’s a great conversation starter and it helps you to spot trouble spots to discuss with them and their teacher.  For example if the tour begins with them having forgotten their username and password THIS IS HUGE CONTACT THE TEACHER ASAP!!! (aren’t you glad you have their email handy?) Get involved and make sure to follow up until your child can log in and successfully show you.  

Parent Homework #5: By week 3 of class have your student give you a tech tour (sooner if it’s an online class). Follow up with the teacher to troubleshoot any tech or computer skill concerns you note during the tour.

5) Your child is responsible.  Just as my son was responsible for his magically missing teacher notes, he is also now responsible for his google docs.  It is my job to monitor, get involved as needed, and encourage my son to work within the guidelines his teacher sets.  It is not my job to do it for him, even if I can (sometimes I can’t…what is the new math today?).  So mentor them and by all means encourage great student habits, but be sure they know that they in the end are accountable for meeting the requirements of the class.

Parent Homework #6: You be the parent, let your student be the student. When in doubt, consult the teacher.

I hope that you find this information helpful as we begin a new school year.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me for any reason.