#SeachangeK12: Why eSchoolPLUS 4.0 Represents a Sea Change for K-12 Education

June 28, 2015

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#SeachangeK12: Creating the Optimal User Experience by Embracing “And”

June 23, 2015

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#SeachangeK12: Four Tools for Putting the “Inform” Back in Student Information

June 19, 2015

For today’s schools, the quantity of data is not the issue. Schools collect a seemingly unending volume of information to support student achievement. That data, though, can’t positively affect the success of our students when it’s trapped in repository. And when the process of extracting it is limited to state reporting, it does little to impact what occurs every day in the classroom.

To put the “inform” back in student information, K-12 administrative systems must create a new paradigm for student information by relieving our educators and administrators of the burden of digging through the sea of data for insights. These systems can do this by offering:

  1. Automatic Notifications. By actively mining the database, a notification system can automatically alert end users to an event that requires their attention. Has a new student enrolled at a school? Exceeded a particular number of absences? Had a change in their at-risk status? By defining those alerts that would be valuable to school district personnel and then allowing educators and administrators to choose those notifications that would be meaningful to their work, administrative systems can put the data to work and eliminate an administrative nightmare that plagues K-12 education. Such a system would create the foundation of an automated workflow that would positively impact a district’s efficiency. And marrying that system to mobile apps can create a robust notification system that reaches educators and administrators anytime, anywhere.
  2. Customizable Homepage. By allowing end users to create their own portal, administrative systems can allow educators and administrators to see exactly what they want to see and how they want to see it in real time every time they access the solution.
  3. Smarting up the Search. By creating powerful search functionality within the software, administrative systems put ad hoc reporting capabilities at the fingertips of each and every end user. Imagine the efficiencies that will be created by smartening up a solution’s search. What if, in addition to remembering your last search, the system allows you to save all the searches that you routinely perform? What if you could share searches with other educators and administrators? Or if you could subscribe to a search that a colleague has developed? Now that would be powerful search functionality that could make a difference for educators looking for insights to support student achievement.
  4. Individual Student Summaries. Administrative systems should be able to offer at-a-glance insights about individual students by allowing users to create a personalized portrait that prioritizes the data that’s relevant to their work every time they access a student’s records.

A system that combines these four tools creates a data environment that redefines at-a-glance information and helps drive quality decision making that positively affects student achievement. It also produces efficiencies that create time in the day of educators and administrators, allowing them to focus less on administrative tasks and more on their students.

A sea change is coming in student information management. Are you ready to ride the wave? Learn more at THIS LINK.

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#SeachangeK12: Three Features that Support Navigation without the Nuisance

June 16, 2015

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#SeachangeK12: Why Responsive Design Makes Sense for Education

June 10, 2015

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#SeachangeK12: The Tools That K-12 Leaders Use Must Be Just as Mobile as They Are—and Here’s Why

June 4, 2015

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#SeachangeK12: The Evolution of the User Interface

June 2, 2015

It once took a computer hours or even days to complete a simple task. Now, computer software can predict what you want to type from just the first letter. And the way we interact with today’s version of this tool—which has become integral to the way we do business, support education, and communicate with others—is both oddly similar and very different from the way we interacted with its earliest predecessors.

Our technological world has developed rapidly over the past century. The ancestor of the computer keyboard, the typewriter, was invented in the 1860s and quickly became an invaluable office tool for data recording and professional communication.

By the 1980s, word processors and personal computers began to displace typewriters in the Western world and were utilized for personal communication as well as professional. Through vast modern technological advances, the keyboard remains a vital tool for facilitating interactions between humans and computers.

Today, even the most cutting-edge smartphones and tablets feature adapted keyboard options for data entry and communication.

From the Click of a Mouse to Tap of a Screen
The first pointing device prototypes began popping up in the 1960s and were dubbed “the mouse” because the cord resembled the tail of a small rodent. Early models with rolling balls often required the use of a mouse pad to create enough friction for optimal performance.

Most subsequent optical and laser models have advanced beyond the need for a pad, and cordless or wireless versions now connect to computers via Bluetooth, WiFi, or USB port technology, further streamlining the point-and-click process.

The mouse is still used with many of today’s desktop and laptop computer models. However, the invention and commercialization of multi-touch technology, which dates back to 1982 but wasn’t commercialized until much later, made it possible for users to interact directly with the display screen on certain devices. The first-generation iPhone, released in 2007, was built and designed around this multi-touch technology and virtual keyboard. Today, a variety of game consoles, personal computers, tablet computers, and smartphones utilize these features.

Like external devices, visual space in which humans and computers interact has also drastically changed—evolving from rudimentary to intuitive over the lifetime of the computer.

From the 1940s through the 1960s, computing power was scarce and expensive and, as a result, no emphasis was placed on building extravagant user interfaces. In fact, humans didn’t truly interact in real time with these early model machines because tasks could take hours or days to complete. The process of inputting data into these machines often was tedious and error prone.

By the late 1960s, computers were gaining speed and could now complete requests in drastically reduced time, allowing users to explore and interact with the machines more than ever before. The burden was still on the user, though, to invest time in learning to communicate with the computer to get the desired results.

That changed when graphical user interfaces were popularized by the Apple Macintosh in 1984 and by Microsoft Windows 1.0 in 1985 and basic design standards, such as pull-down menus at the top of the screen, were developed. These interfaces were easier to understand and more intuitive to use, creating familiarity and consistency for users who switched from one computer’s interface to another.

Many of the most recent advances in computer technology center around creating additional opportunities for giving the user the simplest, easiest, and most fulfilling experience possible. In some ways, our computers, tablets, and smartphones are trying to read our minds by suggesting and correcting our communications in real time. First came spell check, alerting the user to potential misspellings within files or emails. Later, autocorrect began to instantly correct these spelling mistakes, as well as other formatting errors, such as capitalization. The user also can personalize the replacement list, making it possible for a person to type in an individualized shorthand.

Next, autocomplete, or word completion, began predicting the rest of a word a user is typing based on universally common words or searches, as well as the learned patterns or words an individual uses frequently. Many of these algorithms even learn new words after a user has written them a few times.

Because people read faster than they type, autocomplete can save users time. Web browsers use autocomplete to suggest websites a user regularly visits. Email programs use it to fill in the intended recipient’s address. Search engines can almost instantly autocomplete a user’s query with one or more suggested popular searches.

Similarly, data validation featured in certain computer software programs helps guide the user to input data, such as phone numbers or birth dates, cleanly and correctly. For example, they might allow only certain characters to be used in a given section or they might check for consistency among various inputs. In these ways, the computer has become nearly as active as its users.

As the Internet and access to it have grown, so has the desire to access its information on a variety of devices. However, until recently, computing power and broadband access were limited on mobile devices. This led designers to craft mobile sites designed specifically to meet the needs of mobile users.

Perhaps one of the most exciting elements of the modern user’s experience is the recent push toward responsive design, which aims to craft sites with optimal viewing from a wide range of devices. A site designed responsively adapts the layout to a variety of computer, tablet, or smartphone screens using fluid, proportional grids and flexible images. Responsive design has the potential to replace the need for separate mobile versions of websites or site-specific apps.

More Technology of Tomorrow
In the future, computers might not just try to predict or correct our technological experience; it’s possible they also will help augment the world around us.

Virtual reality and 3D technology have the potential to immerse us in vibrant, lifelike environments for work and play. Military trainees use head-mounted displays to practice and prepare for a variety of potential combat scenarios. Doctors and nurses can utilize the technology to practice a wide range of treatment techniques. And of course, virtual reality technology can change the way we play video games or watch movies and television.

In addition, augmented reality technology has the potential to add computer-generated sensory images, graphics, sounds, or GPS data over our field of vision. It’s possible that further advances in this technology will enable information about the world around us to become interactive and digitally manipulated.

And, in the same way, touch-screen technology allowed us greater, more direct control over our digital lives, motion control has the potential to take us even one step further. Companies like Leap Motion are laying the groundwork now to create products that users can manipulate with simple motions of our own hands.

The wave of the technological future could see us creating, exploring, playing, and communicating without ever touching a thing.

Want to learn more about the sea change coming to student information management? Visit our website at THIS LINK.

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#SeachangeK12: Hilliard City Schools Develops Authentic Resources to Personalize Learning

May 28, 2015

At OETC 2015, a team from Hilliard City Schools—including Mark Tremayne, secondary 6–12 instructional leader; Jacob Grantier, high school instructional coach–science; and Jay Smith, technology expert—presented an innovation that might herald a coming sea change for education.

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