The Transition from FirstClass
by Shira Golub on Friday, February 21st, 2014
This semester, the Academy Technology Services Department at Milton is working to find more effective ways to implement technology into the Milton classroom. ATS will move the school’s email service from FirstClass to Google’s Gmail at the start of the next year and is also looking into the possibility of a universal online learning management system.
Bryan Price, the Chief Information Officer at ATS, is leading this charge. Milton’s initiative to switch to Gmail is one that excites many students, as FirstClass is not always the most effective email server. “I never have any available space on my FirstClass; it’s so frustrating,” said Michael Davis (I).
Davis’ annoyance is one of many, noted Mr. Price. “One of the main reasons [to switch] is that FirstClass is basically incompatible with devices like [the iPhone]… the FirstClass app is just clunky and not okay.”
The elimination of FirstClass as an email server is not the only technology reform that is happening under the radar. “When we think about moving Milton off of FirstClass for email, we have the whole conference environment to deal with, and that’s where learning management systems come in,” said Mr. Price. Milton students have seen this model in forms such as Schoology in the language department and Moodle in the science department.
Individual teachers first began the implementation of these systems. “There was a point in time… where FirstClass was the institutional system. I think some Milton teachers started to realize that they wanted more out of that type of system that FirstClass couldn’t offer so they started to go off and look at other tools.” However, ATS recognized that this “À la carte approach amongst the upper school faculty” has not been the most effective for the student body.
Peter Broderick’s (I) Spanish 5: Inside Latin America class with Mr. Caraballo used Schoology. “I only went on Schoology about eight times all year, because it was inconvenient and a pain,” Peter explained. Because I only had to use the website for one class, I forgot about it.” Now, Milton is trying to combat the problem that Peter, among many other students, experiences.
Currently, Milton is in its trial stages of evaluating different learning management systems. Some of the possibilities that are being investigated are programs such as Canvas, Haiku, the previously used Schoology, as well as Google applications that would supplement the Gmail system. These are all systems that could not only replace FirstClass conferences but also help students engage in an interactive learning experience, by posting all homework, having online discussions, and turning in tests, all in one place.
“Part of what they do is provide a logical web, an Internet companion, to the traditional classroom,” said Mr. Price. However, ATS must first try to understand the current classroom experience at Milton to accomplish this goal. “We are trying to identify systems that will meet the needs of a variety of teachers and learners,” he explained. “We don’t want a system that would be overly burdensome to adapt, but we do want a system that for those who want to make sophisticated use of it, the system can support that.”
Price noted that ATS has assembled “a cross section of Milton teachers that have already used various systems in their classrooms…to provide insight into how they feel these systems benefit their students.” These teachers include Mr. Caraballo, Mr. Moriarty, Mr. Mills, and Ms. Artacho, who are all trialing the new program, Canvas, in their second semester classes. “The idea of Canvas is new to me and was kind of hard to navigate at first, but I’m getting used to it,” Ellie Minot (I), who is using Canvas with Mr. Mills for her AP Government and Politics class. “It’s nice having everything in one place though,” she added.
Mr. Price encourages the Milton community to continue to discuss and help improve upon the technology at Milton, saying, “We value feedback whether it is positive or negative, because it helps give us insight into what students are thinking and how things are working for them or not working.”
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=5759