One-Click Access for All
A technology integration specialist recounts how her district tamed the chaos of a digital learning environment serving thousands of students, teachers, and administrators.
By Jennifer Cleven
Like many districts, Central Kitsap School District (CKSD) began to adopt a number of digital curricula (and supplements) around 2010. We had access to approximately 10 digital resources that required rostering, and most of these were not in regular use. Teachers did not have time to update their class rosters as new students came and went, were often overwhelmed by the multiple steps required for student access, and often found that most of computer lab time was spent trying to sign in rather than use the resource.
Over the next few years, we began to adopt more robust digital resources—not just optional supplements, but ones that required daily use by both staff and students in order to implement the adoptions with fidelity. Our challenges included:
- Managing access, handling password reset requests, creation/maintenance of multiple.csv files: The daily needs of 11,000 students, 750 teachers, and 1,800 staff across 19 schools had become more than we could manage efficiently. We were moving towards a K–12 1:1 Chromebook and blended-learning environment, so we needed a single product to help us manage and roster the hundreds of apps and websites that were in use across the district.
- Providing equitable access to resources: We needed to make sure that all students were able to access their resources easily and efficiently. It didn’t matter how “techy” someone’s teacher was, or whether a school spent more time developing its website. We wanted every student to have the same opportunity for access to digital resources, regardless of grade level or school.
- Maximizing time available for teaching and learning: We did not want teachers to lose instruction time troubleshooting tech and remembering which credentials to use with which curricula, so we had to find a way to get our students and staff connected to their online resources reliably and efficiently.
- Mirroring an online environment that our students and staff were already comfortable using: With the understanding that our students are digital natives, we needed to present resources in a user-interface that was intuitive and took advantage of the users’ current understanding of apps and file management. Even our more tech-challenged staff members were growing comfortable with smartphones and tablets, so we theorized that using an app-based platform might bridge the gap.
- Ease of access outside of the district: We were also hearing from parents that we had so many resources in different places that they couldn’t keep track of where to go to support their children with schoolwork. It was especially difficult for parents with children in multiple grades in multiple schools—each school and teacher was doing things a little differently, and this translated to frustration at home.
To address these challenges, our IT/Curriculum team searched for a simpler way to deploy and manage our growing number of applications while providing 24/7 access for students and teachers. We tried School Messenger Passport, and found that we needed a more streamlined single sign-on solution that would provide easy access for staff and students, while also leveraging the use of open data standards for rostering. We ultimately selected ClassLink for its use of IMS Global OneRoster® LTI for single sign-on and OneRoster® standard for Roster Server.
Getting Technology (and People) Talking to Each Other
Since we launched our new portal in June 2017, everyone at CKSD has had one-click access to all of their resources. Whether it’s a PD calendar for staff, a list of closed days, surveys, or app notifications, we host all of our digital resources in one place. Although every grade level uses the portal, the younger students see the most significant impact. They can log in to their resources independently, giving teachers more time to focus on teaching.
Being able to put a single link to ClassLink on our district website has enabled parents to quickly find our district-specific landing page, and have their child sign in with them. The students see the same thing at home that they see at school, and parents know that they only need to go to one place to help their child. We’ve created video tutorials and hosted Family Tech Nights to continue to spread the word about the portal.
The IT team now gets fewer questions about lost logins or requests to help users hunt for resources. Our rostering process is now only a handful of steps, rather than dozens, saving our engineers considerable time. And maybe most importantly, all of our systems now “talk” to each other—and so do our people.
As a technology integration specialist in our district’s Curriculum department, my position includes being a liaison between the Curriculum and IT departments. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is this: if a district wants any digital adoption to be successful, it is critical that their Curriculum and IT departments work together.
We continue to work on our communication, because it is essential that our staff and registrars understand the concept of “good data in, good data out,” and how heavily we rely on information in our SIS. At the same time, my own personal communication has been streamlined. When I used to send email updates about the availability of resources at the start of the year, I’d get 500 replies. Now I can post updates, be intentional with who those are visible to, and include links to instructions, videos, and other resources that answer the questions that used to come in those 500 emails.
How the Digital Resource Portal Protects Student Privacy
Our most recent launch, the CKSD Digital Resource Portal, has helped us to become more pro-active in protecting student data and privacy. With 15,000 Chromebooks now deployed as part of our K–12 1:1 environment, more administrators, teachers, parents, and community members are asking questions about the digital resources that our students are accessing on a daily basis. As a district, we realized it was critical to develop a digital resources approval process and provide teachers with a single portal where they could:
- search for district-approved digital resources;
- browse resources by collection;
- view parental consent requirements;
- read privacy/data/terms policies;
- view pending or not approved apps; and
- submit their own digital resource requests.
The Digital Resource Portal has generated invaluable conversations with staff regarding the importance of protecting student data and privacy. As with any new process, we are continuing to iterate and streamline.
These days, our IT and Curriculum departments are managing access to more than 40 digital resources and 260 apps with ease. To continue building this interconnected digital learning environment, we’re doing what we can to convince more digital curriculum publishers to accept open data standards. As they expand their adoptions of OneRoster and IMS Global standards, we will be able to update those resources in the CKSD OneRoster console.
Our Digital Resource Portal will also always be a “work in progress” as privacy policies, data agreements, and terms of service are updated throughout the year. We hope to next explore the Parent Portal resource to see what features our families may find helpful as they support their children’s digital learning.
Jennifer Cleven is a technology integration specialist at Central Kitsap School District in Washington. She can be reached at [email protected]