There has been a major change in the software platform that ASL uses for teaching and learning purposes this year. The old software learning program, PowerSchool, is gone, replaced with a new digital learning program called Schoology. Starting last year and continuing over the summer, a team of head and assistant principals, technology directors, and the Office of Teaching and Learning helped conduct this switch.
Director of Technology Mr. Nadjib Aktouf explained how the decision was finalized. The previous Learning management system (LMS), PowerSchool, was not meeting all the criteria that the committee had identified as essential for ASL’s needs. The school also conducted various surveys and focus groups that helped collect feedback from students and parents, as well as teachers.
From the data, the committee identified the main areas in which PowerSchool was lacking. One problem was that students were often confused about where to go, and parents had difficulty accessing the multiple platforms in order to follow up on their child’s work. This was because in addition to PowerSchool, teachers also used another program called Google Classroom to post assignments, so it wasn’t always clear what work was posted on which site.
“There was a lack of consistency in how materials and homework was posted,” eighth grader Ella Rowe said. “It just wasn’t organized very well.”
Mainly though, the real problem with PowerSchool was its philosophy for the future. According to Mr. Aktouf, PowerSchool was simply “not going in the right direction” for ASL.
He said, “Their plans for the future, including getting a mobile app, integrating more with Google, and supporting the switch to standards based grading, simply weren’t going in that direction.”
Even though PowerSchool might have been lacking in this vision, not all learning platforms were. Schoology, for example, was on track to fully supporting the standards based grading system, as well as unifying all its platforms in one, easily accessible mobile app.
“One of the big reasons (ASL) decided to go with a program like Schoology, was so our students, teachers, and parents could have a unified experience,” Mr. Aktouf said.
Yet, even Mr. Aktouf has admitted that the Schoology has had a bit of a “rocky start” this semester in terms of its transition to use in the classroom. “We were disappointed with some of the glitches and problems that we found in Schoology,” Mr. Aktouf said, “and they’re not being as quick as we’d like in resolving some of these bugs and issues.”
As with any adjustment, the transition to Schoology will take time, as well as patience. “The hardest part about Schoology right now is the unknown,” said eighth grade social studies teacher Mr. Ryan Steege, “changing things over when you don’t know how it’s going to play out is the challenging part.”
Already though, there are some students and teachers who have adapted to the new system and are finding the switch to be very beneficial for work both in and out of the classroom.
Eighth grader Sara Kim said, “Schoology is more organized and less complicated to use compared to PowerSchool and Google Classroom.”
Despite its rocky start, Mr. Aktouf sees Schoology as the long-term LMS to support ASL in the future. “We now have an LMS that everybody K-12 is using, and we are looking to set a consistent kind of work flow for teachers and students. I hope it will be a while before we have to review the LMS platform again.”