Snow days and the effective Learning Platform. What happens when you further engage students?

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: SharePoint, Twynham School, User Adoption 

What happens when you further engage students in aspects of the Learning Gateway?

One interesting thing about the timing of the snow day is the fact that it followed a major launch the day before. On Wednesday 6thJanuary we launched our new Online Options system to the whole of year 9 in assembly. We have had an Online Options system for three years at TwynhamSchool but a new build aimed at further engaging students with a face lift and new videos was quietly made live on Monday 4th January. After the launch on Wednesday morning we would expect a surge in numbers as students can independently look at all possible GCSE subjects from both within school and at home. The statistics for the first week of spring term are below.

Statistics for the launch week of Online Options and the new site

The statistics show that students started to find the site on Monday and Tuesday when returning to school. On Wednesday and Friday when the launch plus PSHE lessons being in the IT rooms to allow students to look at the site saw 247 and 269 students visiting. What is astonishing is the highest day for visitors during the week was Thursday when 271 students visited the Online Options site even though the school was closed. The feedback on the new site has been overwhelming positive and the evidence shows that when something is both well created and seen as valuable by students they will use it heavily. With just 250 students in year 9 the vast majority visited the site on the snow day with some students from other year groups taking an inquisitive look. Looking at the number of pages viewed some students viewed as many as 280+ pages on the new site.

Student comment video on the French Options page

Uploading a video to SharePoint 2007 in seconds

February 3, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: SharePoint 

A quick post to show you my favourite feature on some of our new SharePoint solutions. The video below shows a system we have built which allows you to upload a video to a SharePoint page in seconds.

Try and Download SharePoint Add-ons

Snow days and the effective Learning Platform. Students connecting with the Learning Gateway

February 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: SharePoint, Twynham School, User Adoption 

Closure day 7th January 2010. How did students connect with the Learning Gateway

On Thursday 7th January when the school closed the notice on the website reminded parents and students that the Learning Gateway was available to support students with their study during the closure day. Whilst we do not expect students to use just the Learning Gateway as they had homework and textbooks available the Learning Gateway hosts a rich range of learning resources to support students. With A-level and GCSE students completing modular exams the following week having both GCSE and A-level Revision Gateways well resourced should be a fantastic resource.

Twynham Learning Gateway Student visitor numbers

The statistics above again show the last 5 days of autumn term and first 5 days of spring term. On 7 of the 9 days when the school was open around 900 students logged into the Learning Gateways, mainly from within the school. On the last day of term before Christmas student logins are below 500 as the school closed before lunchtime. The highest day of logins was Wednesday 6thJanuary when a large amount of training on the Online Options system was taking place. The overall trend is 900 logins per day. On the snow day (second bar from the right) when no school computers were available 774 students logged into the Learning Gateways from home. This is an astonishing 86% of the average logins on a normal school day. What is clear is that students see the Learning Gateway as an integral part of their learning.

Maths Revision Gateway helps students to prepare for the GCSE exams in January

Snow days and the effective Learning Platform. Using your website as a communication tool.

February 3, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: SharePoint, Twynham School, User Adoption 

The following series of posts on our recent snow day will cover:

Part 1 The use of Twynham School’s SharePoint website during a snow day

Part 2 Does the Gateway support students with their learning during a snow day?

Part 3 What happens when we further engage students with the Learning Gateway?

Part 4 Does the Gateway support staff and allow them to work during a snow day?

The use of Twynham School’s SharePoint website during a snow day

January 2010 saw a turbulent start to the year in terms of the huge disruption to education during the extreme weather in the UK. The largest snowfall for 50 years and cold weather not seen since 1981 has forced schools across the country to close. With nearly 50% of schools in the UK closed on Wednesday 6th January and large numbers remaining closed for the remainder of the week one key question is, what was the impact be on learning with such widespread closures? Since 2008 all schools have been required to have a Learning Platform in place and whilst most have achieved this goal the extent to which these systems support learning beyond the classroom is questionable. During this disruptive period have students throughout the UK had access to high quality learning resources which they can use from home when schools are forced to close.

At Twynham School we managed to keep the school open throughout the first week in January except on Thursday 7th when ice throughout the site and surrounding road network forced a closure. Given the absence on Thursday we have taken the opportunity to look at the impact Twynham School’s Learning Platform had on the ability of students to learn during the forced closure.

Twynham School Website- how well did we handle the closure?

On Tuesday 5th January a notice was sent to all students during tutor time and the last lesson of the day when it became clear poor weather was likely. The message was a simple reminder, all confirmation of school closure would come through the school website. We do of course use other communication tools including radio but our commitment was to make a decision and post a notice by 7 am on the website. The figures below show on an average day we would expect around 3.000 hits to our website. I have taken analysis from the last week of the autumn term and the first week of the spring term to give a clear trend of 10 consecutive school days with the second last bar being the snow day.

Twynham School website visitors

Clearly the website was well used both on Wednesday 6th and Friday 8th January when a closure was possible but avoided. On the actual snow day we experienced over 21,000 hits which is 7 times the usual demand. Although our text message system and use of radio are other supporting ways to communicate with parents they are not without their pitfalls. Local radio took over an hour to mention each school closed on Thursday and is not a good medium with this volume of school closures. Text messaging can be effective but is reliant on having every parent’s mobile number and these remaining accurate throughout up to 5 years. Our analysis of household availability of broadband shows that it is near 100% and the statistical evidence shows that our parents and students use the website as an effective broadcast medium.

‘Apologies for the blanket email’ and staff briefing. Will SharePoint 2007 notices bring them to an end.

January 31, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Digital Era, SharePoint, Twynham School 

A fairly simple post and perhaps only interesting for education people. Like many schools we have a staff briefing system where all the teachers get together 3 times a week at 8.35 for 5 minutes to give out any notices. All three schools I have worked at have done this on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week. Alongside this method of communication and unlike my other two schools Twynham uses email voraciously and my inbox will typically get between 40 and 100 emails per day depending on day of week and time in the half term.

Both ways of communicating have positively impacted on the running of the school but both also potentially have their downfall. Every colleague will know what I mean in particular with email and the dreaded ‘Apologies for this blanket email’. This is the email which is often written about a particular child which has 10-14 teachers but is sent to the entire teaching staff of 120 because the sender does not want to undertake the simple task of checking on the gateway who the relevant teachers are. My frustration as I read this sentence in my inbox is perhaps greater than the Angry Technician’s when someone tells him the Internet is broken! Don’t get me wrong I am a huge fan of email for the way it helps me keep efficient with communication as well as the lack of paper in my tray each day is bliss.

Staff briefing is far more defendable as it brings humans together and you can catch someone you want a face to face with which cannot be done on email. You can even simply say hello to people who otherwise you would rarely see in a 1600 comprehensive. At the same time everyone gathering in a central place minutes before the school day starts can be counterproductive when the following happens. Over the last few months I have turned up at staff briefing and something remarkable has happened- no one has had a notice to give. I haven’t really thought about it at the time and indeed the frequency of notices seems to be declining (more than a dozen times this year there has been just 1-2 notices where typically there can be half a dozen or more). This morning when I logged on to the staff gateway I think I have found the answer to the decline in both- staff notices.

At Twynham we have been using staff notices for three years but often the area would get one or two notices every week or two. During the current year this has increased steadily to the point that it is becoming one of the key communication tools for staff with each other. The screen shot above is evidence of this and looking back to September we have had over 140 notices in 20 weeks. It seems that staff notices has become the primary communication tool which will continue to impact on staff briefing and the dreaded email.

8 Basic SharePoint Features for end users. Part 8

January 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: SharePoint, User Adoption 

In the final part of our video series on the 8 basic SharePoint features for end users we look at Dave Coleman’s favourite feature- search.

Searching for a document on a SharePoint site

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