The First 100 Days

Since the Roosevelt Administration (Franklin, not Teddy), presidents have been have been judged on their actions during their first 100 days in office. One only needs to do a Google search for “first 100 days” to find articles tracing the history of this phrase, projections for a potential Romney presidency, and an article from the Harvard Business Review identifying five myths about a CEO’s first 100 days, “when new top executives are under intense scrutiny to prove that they are worthy of the job.”

It is with that last lens that I feel compelled to step back and reflect on my first quarter at Quest Academy. What have I been able to accomplish in this short time at the school. Have I proved that I have been worthy of the job?

In the first three months, here are a smattering of projects which I have undertaken:

Rollout of MyBackPack to Faculty and Parent Communities

In the first 100 days, I have had to learn not only the intricacies of MyBackPack, the web-based front end Quest’s Student Information System, Senior Systems, but I had to come up to speed with how to navigate Senior Systems and quickly determine how Quest had configured its community. In addition, I had a crash-course on the flow and pacing of the summer and the first part of the school year.

During late July through early September, I began training teachers on how to access and use MyBackPack to communicate with parents, set up grade books, and how to create assignments. Once that was completed, I had to set up the parent community and communicate to parents what features were available to them and how to access their materials.

We are now through the first mid-term grades and will be soon adding access to the billing information for families. Thus far, the rollout has proceeded with few major problems.

Created Collaborative Learning Environments

After testing throughout the month of July, the decision to “go Google” was made the first week of August. Originally, we planned to roll-out the core suite of tools to our faculty, our 6th through 8th grade students, and then introduce the 5th Grade students in December. However, the smooth transition and the desire to utilize the collaborative tools caused us to accelerate our plans. Currently, our 4th grade students have access to Google Maps and Drive, and our 5th through 8th grade students have access to the core suite of tools, email, Drive, Calendars, and Sites.

However, we have not stopped their. In addition to rolling out our Google Apps, we have also begun implementing the Haiku Learning Management System (LMS) in our Language Arts/Social Studies (LASS) classes in the middle school and are set to roll it out in our Visual Arts and French classes.

Additionally, after some initial planning, we are implementing Hapara’s Teacher Dashboard so that our teachers can get a glimpse into the student’s workflow in Google Apps.

What has been fun to watch is how teachers are exploring the new possibilities and really pushing the capabilities of these new tools to enable collaboration between the students. One of the teachers noted earlier,

Last week’s session with Google docs went so well that we pushed onward today.  I shared a scanned copy of a book for students to read and a worksheet in pdf.  Students helped each other access the documents and figured out how to open the pdf as a spreadsheet, which allowed them to complete the worksheet online.  Another student realized that each student needed to rename his/her own worksheet document.  We also played around with comments, which was very exciting.  All in all, students are PUMPED to use this technology!

Comments in Google Docs, online annotations in Haiku, and sharing artwork and research in Google Maps has quickly become staples in the classroom. The students are also using these collaborative tools as they work through their history fair projects, sharing their work with their teacher and the librarian.

Introduced iPads into our Pre-K 3 year old through 1st Grade classrooms

Prior to my arrival, each of our classrooms in our three year old classroom through 1st grade had desktop computers. They were systems which were at the end of their life cycle and we used this opportunity to replace these devices with iPads. Having the iPads in these classrooms have enabled teachers to regain classroom real estate to use for other purposes and enabling the creations of a center-based approach to computing with the mobile devices. Teachers are using them to provide differentiated instruction. They are also using them to document classroom work, using the camera and video capabilities of the iPad.

The teachers are beginning to use Evernote Premium accounts to create student portfolios which will be able to travel with the students as they continue their journey through these classrooms.

Added iPads and Macbooks into the  Lower School and Middle School Visual classrooms

The Lower School and Middle School art classrooms received  a group of Macbooks and a pool of iPads. Students are using the cameras, apps like Sketchbook Pro, and have been using the iPads to create stop-motion videos in the classroom. Having these new tools has unleashed the imagination and innovation not only of the students, but of the teachers as well. We are all learning and exploring how these tools can unleash creativity for those using them.

All in all, it has been a very busy and exciting time and I am only just beginning. I have just gotten my Makey Makey kit and I have a group of students who are building Scratch projects for the younger students in them. We have also kicked off the beginning of our technology and learning plan as well which I am very excited about. Each of these projects is focused to allow the technology to amplify the great teaching and learning at Quest Academy.

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