New SharePoint 2010 features for education. SharePoint School Reward System.

In the last series I looked at Twynham School’s first new product for SharePoint 2010- the Online School Calendar. If you missed these posts you can find the first part here and the second part here. Our second product launch this summer was the SharePoint School Reward system which has been live at Twynham School for 5 weeks now. The idea for an online reward system was developed within out Student Council and I have written about their part in our SharePoint development in previous posts which you can see here. With every development we ask that whether you are a student or a member of staff you create a ‘mock up’ or storyboard to make sure your ideas are clear and the original ideas of the students can be seen in the image below.

From this point we then set to work building the solution in SharePoint. One of our newest SharePoint developers, Rob Brown built out the original teacher view which I will show in this post. The main criteria was to give staff instant access to the classes they teach and their tutor group to give a reward point or as we call it an AA (Academic Achievement). As well as this it quickly became clear that staff would need the ability to give any student an AA regardless of whether they teach them or not. The interface for staff can be seen below:

Using the left hand side teachers can quickly and easily award AAs to students they teach or tutees. They simply select a class from the drop down and all students are shown as you can see below (student surnames have been removed):

From here a teacher can select any student and award an AA from the drop down up to a maximum of 3 AAs. Two things which were removed from the specification were the ability to give more than 3AAs and the ability to batch select an entire group and give them all an AA. In both cases students felt these actions would devalue the curency of the AA and wanted fewer reward points given for better achievements. The final aspect you will notice on the image above is a running total of AAs you as a teacher have awarded to each student so you can see how they are doing in your subject during the year.

You can see the full gateway page with the AA system built in below to give some context:

Tomorrow I will cover the system for awarding AAs to students that you do not teach.

New SharePoint 2010 features for education. SharePoint School Calender part 1

One of the most irritating uses of SharePoint I have seen in education has happened at my very own school for the last 4 years. Each summer we start to put a calendar together in a word document for all the key events and activities in the school year. When this is compiled we put it in a document library which is not what SharePoint was meant for! As a result every time somebody wanted to check a date they would go to the staff home page, click through to shared documents and open the word document. The main reason this happened was the out of the box SharePoint calendar did not meet the complex needs of the school. That is at least until now!

Our development team have been busy treading one of the most important lines in SharePoint development: building something that is customised so that it is fit for purpose whilst at the same time utilising and maintaining the out of the box features so that the solution is transferable to other schools. The result can be seen in our homepage below.

Zooming in you can see our school ‘week to view’ calendar which contains columns showing all the key information which is part of making a busy 1600 school run smoothly. Although this may all look like madness from outside of the school it gives a simple and instant way to view key information directly from the home page. The beauty of the solution is the view shown below can be easily altered for another school whilst maintaining the back end SharePoint functionality.

What if you want to see beyond the next week to look at future dates and events? Simply click on the calendar icon in the icon bar and you instantly see full school year.

The image above shows the whole school year view with an option to select individual months. We launched the calendar at the start of September and it has already proved to be one of those solutions which is not flashy but at the same time has a big impact on an institution.

Tomorrow I will cover how you create, edit and ammend the calendar using basic SharePoint functionality.

SharePoint 2010 all new features for Education. Whats new at Twynham School

September 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: SharePoint, SharePoint 2010, Twynham School 

As schools across the country are starting to settle down into a new year I thought it would be good to share the new features we have added to our SharePoint 2010 Learning Platform. Many of the new SharePoint solutions which I will be showing over the next fortnight have been developed at Twynham School for up to a year . Although all five new features have been made live over the summer for the return to work all our developments follow a tried and trusted methodology. We have always focused on a long cycle of testing and trialing with our end users to rapidly improve our SharePoint educational developments. By the time we go live with new SharePoint features we can be sure that they are fully working and meet the needs of our staff and students. A number of the features can be seen below in our updated gateway which is fully SharePoint 2010. 

The new SharePoint 2010 educational features I will be covering over the next few weeks are:

  1. SharePoint School Calender
  2. SharePoint Rewards System
  3. SharePoint Room Booking System
  4. SharePoint Home Drive Web Part
  5. SharePoint CPD (Continuous Proffesional Development) System

To start this session tomorrow I will be looking at why we rejected the standard SharePoint 2010 calender and how we approached producing a bespoke solution to support the day to day running of the school.

SharePoint 2010 RTM Day. Take a sneak peek at 10 awesome end user features for SharePoint 2010.

As many of you will know today is the RTM (release to manufacture) of SharePoint 2010 and the starting point for many schools to consider migrating from SharePoint 2007 or moving from non-SharePoint Learning Platforms. For our team at Twynham School it is a special day as we have actually been working with SharePoint 2010 since December 2008 on Microsoft’s TAP (Technical Access Preview). This means we have helped been able to help shape and develop the latest platform through Alpha, Beta, Beta 2 and RC- it has been a long but enjoyable journey!

I thought it might be useful to share some of the major developments in SharePoint 2010 as we are now running this fully within the school with our 3,000 users. These are just a taster with screenshots and headings but I will be putting out much more detail over the next few months. Here are some key changes and improvements you should look out for.

1. The Ribbon which we hve got to know (and love?) in Office 2007 now appears in SharePoint 2010.

2. Uploading images is now simple and as easy as the rest of Office

3. Changes take place within the page

4. Media can be instantly uploaded into the page.

5. Cross Browser Support

6. Web Apps bring real cloud computing to SharePoint.

7.  Social Media improvements (e.g. rating and tagging)

8. Improved My Sites and Social Integration.

9. Improved social features in blogging.

10. Powerpoint broadcasting from SharePoint

Creating school websites with SharePoint part 5. Using the power of SharePoint lists.

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: SharePoint, Twynham School 

In this final session on SharePoint websites I have used an extract from a paper I did with Chris Mckinley, one of our developers. This looks at how SharePoint lists are used to create Prospectus and Open Morning bookin and the 6th Form Application process.

The request prospectus page and the book an open morning page are custom SharePoint lists. The prospectus request form sends the data to then list then takes them to the pdf download. The page itself was created using the site actions menu. A layout was select with a content region on the left and a webpart zone on the right. This allows the text to me modified quickly from the browser. The form the end user fills out was created as an xslt data view in sharepoint designer and then exported as a webpart. Unlike the latest news where the whole page was created in sharepoint designer and rendered one list the approach of creating a form webpart was used to enable easy editing of the text on the left of the page.  

The book an open morning page is very similar to the prospectus request page. One extra feature is the inclusion of a lookup column in the custom list. The field looks up date values from another list. This allows easy management of the dates as more can be added by admin staff simply by adding items to a list. The other way to do this would be to use a choice data type for the list but this approach would require the lists column settings to be modified each time a new data is added, editing the lists setting is something we wanted admin staff to avoid. Adding an item to a second list is a much easier and safer way of managing things.

We also use the SharePoint Alerts feature on the lists to notify the 6th form office staff that someone has expressed an interest in the 6th Form. This integration with Exchange 2007 means that the information is presented quickly to the relevant people without the need to constantly check another admin page for new content. By emailing out the alerts rather than relying on one member of staff to check an admin page gives us some human fault tolerance. If prospectus requests were only added to a list and the staff member dealing with the list was long term absent then data could be added to the list and not auctioned. With email alerts, an absent staff member would usually have mail redirected to a colleague, instantly bring the colleagues attention to the data in the list enabling it to be dealt with immediately.

Open morning back end

The application form opens in a new window. The application form is a custom SharePoint list containing many of the useful column types such as rich text areas for personal statements as well as date formatting to ensure reliability of data. There are also lookup fields with other lists such as the ‘Current School’, again allowing for admin staff to maintain the lookup data. The ‘Ethnic Origin’ column reads data directly from our MIS, this enables the dropdown list to be dynamic and contain only valid data. The application form was built in sharepoint designer and many of the fields could be simply dropped in. The ethnic origin field, as mentioned above, reads directly from our MIS. This is done by an SQL connection on the field to our MIS server where the data is pulled across. The data is pulled across using a stored procedure running as a specific user with very low privileges, just enough to read the required data, this ensures that the database connection cannot be used for malicious traffic.

We chose the approach of reading this data from another database because the MIS system automatically keeps the list of ethnic origins and the identifier codes up-to-data, something that would be impossible to manage with other sharepoint lists or lookup values. If the person filling out the form is a current Twynham student then we ask for their computer login number. This will then allow us to tie the person into our existing systems for viewing pupil data, this is done during the interview process.

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Creating school websites with SharePoint part 4. Creating subject portfolios and student rich media.

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: SharePoint, Twynham School 

Click here to see the first part in this series on creating SharePoint websites

Click here to see the second part in this series on creating SharePoint websites

Click here to see the third part in this series on creating SharePoint websites


 In the last session we finished with a shot of the courses carousel which is shown below and can be seen live here

When students select a subject from the carousel they are taken to the subject home page which consists of a brief introduction, more detailed course information and a video which are all shown below. These videos were taken for every subject showing a year 13 student giving an overview of the course and explanation the Twynham 6th Form experience.

This post and the rest of our work at Twynham School is available in an E-book called

Twynham School Learning Gateway 2007-10 which can be downloaded here

The subject home page

The subject course information page


The subject student feedback page

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