FirstClass was First Class
by Sarah Ford on Friday, June 5th, 2015
I miss FirstClass. There. I said it. I might be one of the first to admit this nostalgia for the school’s former communication system, but I certainly won’t be the last. Although this year’s freshmen entered Milton with only the knowledge of Schoology and Gmail, older students will remember FirstClass as the media hub for all things Milton. With the capabilities of both Gmail and Schoology combined into one database, FirstClass was, simply put, first class. Why, then, did Milton choose to replace First Class with Schoology and Gmail this year?
The downfall of FirstClass is comparable with the fall of the wireless equipment company BlackBerry. Although BlackBerry operating systems were much more efficient for practical use, when touchscreen mobile phones emerged, their superficial and aesthetic appeals won out. Similarly, students asking for aesthetic renovations of the school communication system received a solution that sacrificed many of the practical advantages that FirstClass offered. FirstClass may have seemed visually outdated with its outdated layout, graphics, and icons, but its software offered efficiency, organization, and several other bonus benefits.
Even though Schoology and Gmail do satisfy students’ basic communication needs, I miss the convenience of having everything located on one database, and I’m certainly not alone in this sentiment. Gabrielle Bower (II) “liked how everything was in the same place” when FirstClass was the official school system. Schoology and Gmail, by contrast, often force students to toggle between sites. The layout of the two, though more visually appealing than that of FirstClass, is disorganized and frustrating to manage.
First Class, ever the organizational aid, offered a home screen with an array of icons, each of which contained a larger portfolio within. From the homepage, I could access my inbox, my class conference, email groups for any of my clubs, and class groups. Notification flags would appear over different icons so that I would know what type of message I was receiving. Molly Emmons (Class II) noted: “I liked FirstClass because everything was extremely easy to access. You just had a few different conferences for each of your classes, and everything you needed to have for homework and projects would be there.”
Now, in order to access anything, I must first go to the proper site, then sort through a wall of past posts and emails. Inconveniently, I have no way of separating emails that come from my advisor from emails that come from club heads from emails that come from teachers. New students do not even understand when older students and teachers refer to class conferences, as the systems are completely changed on Gmail.
As a result, students have a harder time effectively communicating with the groups or individuals that they are targeting. Elise Atkinson (Class II) commented: “With FirstClass, you were able to talk more with other people in a discussion sort of way, whereas on Schoology it’s harder to ask questions to the class.” Even communicating with teachers has become more difficult since the switch to Gmail and Schoology. In addition to offering convenience and organization, FirstClass offered a plethora of more trivial advantages. For example, after sending an email, a student could check the history of their sent message to check who had read it. When teachers opened emails, they would know that students could access the reading history of the message. Thus, teachers were much more likely to respond to student emails that they might otherwise avoid or ignore.
Overall, Schoology and Gmail do meet students’ needs and satisfy students’ requests. Gabriella Etoniru (Class II) conceded, “I love Google—the drive is awesome—and Schoology is really helpful for homework.” We asked for the modernization of our official school communication system, and we received it. We can now access Gmail and Schoology on our phones and ogle at the pretty graphics. Little do we realize what we’ve given up, though. Maybe this kind of modernization is the future of school communication systems, but I, for one, will continue to miss the superior benefits of First Class.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=7150