Managing workflow with Teacher Dashboard by Hapara

In this E-Learning Conversation with Lenva of Hapara, we talk about about how she is helping teachers and schools all over the world better manage student workflow and content with Teacher Dashboard.

We have a special offer for schools that would like to trial Teacher Dashboard.  Sign up for a year’s subscription for 200 students or more and we will give your school 1 hour of free PD on any topic of your choice.

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Below you will find the recording of the video and the show notes.

Listen to the audio version through iTunes

Hapara Conversation Video Recording:

Hapara Video Highlights:

0:03:37: Some of the trends that Lenva is seeing from a global perspective

0:05:29 What is Hapara (teacher dashboard)

0:06:52 We talk about the announcement of Google Classroom

0:10:18 Hapara’s perspective on Google Classroom and changes

0:11:18 What is coming in the June update release for Hapara

0:12:39 What is the number one reason teachers use Hapara

0:15:18 A demonstration of teacher dashboard, main features and why it was created

0:20:08 Integration of Hapara with school administration systems to automate student enrolment

0:24:36 A great discussion about using Google Sites as ePortfolios

0:26:50 How introducing ePortfolios at school transformed it/change in culture

0:30:12 Difference between Sites and Blogger

0:31:33 A nice way to remove student names from Site URL’s

0:31:54 Why commenting in Google Sites is so powerful and how to set this up

0:33:30 Parent portal on teacher dashboard

0:34:40 Further explanation about the difference between Google Sites and Blogger

0:36:42 Do secondary schools have issues with using Hapara compared to primary schools

0:40:22 How to access a free trial of Teacher Dashboard

If you would like to receive an email invite to our next E-Learning conversation click HERE.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Mike: Hi everyone.  Welcome to today’s E-Learning Conversation.  It’s great to have Lenva Shearing with us from Hapara and as usual we’ve got Blake from McKinnon and myself.  Sorry we’re starting about 5 minutes late.  We’ve had a few issues getting Blake onto the call.  We love technology and we love it even more when it works best time to say.  It’s great to have you guys here.  Blake, how is things going for you?

Blake: Good.  Just actually came from a curriculum committee meeting here at McKinnon and it’s just really impressive to see just how integrated our Chromebooks have been across all the curriculums and we’re just looking into digital textbooks and the book list for next year and all that sort of stuff.  I know we’re seeing a real big uptake with the Chromebooks and it has been really exciting to teachers.  I think they’re getting to do things with them that they have been trying to do with their class for a long time or some of them maybe hadn’t thought of before.  It has been a good experience.

Mike: Excellent.  That’s great.  That’s amazing how fast technology can change things.  I’m just always amazed.  Lenva, it’s great to have you here.  I can say that Lenva are really good friends.  We catch up quite often and bump into each other at conferences and so on.  Always super helpful and super resourceful so it’s great to have you on the call, Lenva.  How about you introduce yourself then and just let people know who you are.

Lenva: Right, sure.  Hi, everyone.  My name is Lenva Shearing and I actually work for Hapara.  Well I work for Hapara in New Zealand, in our New Zealand office but, of course, Hapara is a global company.  Up until June last year I was a deputy principal at a large Middle School so I’ve got quite a long career in teaching and learning and being in the management and of course being a teacher in the past.  This being out of the classroom is new to me and being out of a school is completely new to me.  But anyway, I am loving what I am doing.

Mike: That’s great.  A real big transition from I guess deputy principal and pushing change and seeing what’s happening across schools and districts and countries and so on.  So it has been a great transition.

Lenva: Yeah, really exciting.

Mike: To Lenva’s testimony when she was worked in New Zealand when you were just saying you were about to retire and the school board was refusing to accept your resignation.  It’s kind of like you’re on loan.  Are you still on loan to Hapara?

Lenva: No, no I am not on loan anymore.  I made them cut the tie.

Mike: They let you go.  Excellent.  That’s cool.  I guess it would be really good just to dig in a little bit and just see what you are seeing from a global perspective otherwise just hearing stories about what people are seeing about trends coming down the line, maybe exciting things that you’re getting to experience and so on.  Obviously getting to work with so many schools from around the world it would be great to hear your perspective on that.

Lenva: Yeah, sure.  This is a real exciting time to be in education.  I think this is probably the most exciting time that I can ever remember.  This is a time where change is just happening and happening and pockets of enthusiasm and engagement and it’s so exciting to see it happening.  I think probably the big global push at the moment is student empowerment so students really taking control of what they are doing: students setting their own goals; students planning their own learning pathways; students directing their own learning and I think that is a huge change from what we’re used to and it’s something that I am seeing all over the world and taking off now.  So that’s something that really in Hapara that we are excited about and really that we are looking to build tools around.

Mike: Excellent.  That’s really good.  I think that’s so true about that whole students taking control and learning which is fantastic.  Now we should mention that there is a Q&A app running in this hangout, so if you have any questions or you would like to ping through live, then by all means just certainly click on that chat section and we’ll see those questions come up and be able to answer them as we get going today.  Blake, have you got any questions you want to ask Lenva before we dive too far into this?

Blake: Yeah, absolutely.  I think we just moved to Hapara at McKinnon recently and just on the start I think it’s a little bit confusing and overwhelming as to what exactly it is so maybe if Lenva could just run through the basics of what teacher dashboard does and how it is sort of reaching those goals of that student driven link and talking about those type of things.

Lenva:  Yeah, sure but I am going to say Hapara.   Yeah, exactly because it is a merry word and it is a Maori word that means dawn or daybreak so it’s good to have that little New Zealand, you know, aside from New Zealand still in their products, so yes I am going to say Hapara but you’re welcome to say Hapara.

Mike:  That’s the Aussie drawl, right?

Lenva: Okay so what it is it’s a tool whereby teachers can manage their Google Apps.  So Google Apps and the Google suite of tools is a fantastic tool for the classroom.  We love it.  It’s great.  It does everything we want it to do and collaboration and feedback and student communication but to manage it as a classroom teacher is a nightmare.  So just being able to manage what the students are doing, seeing the app to see easily their activity on any doc in the drive, being able to see that they’re actually on task, being able to give them instant feedback, being able to access their work with a single click anywhere in the tool and this is something that makes life so much easier for teachers.  Really it’s an intuitive tool and it’s quite easy to use it.  It was actually designed by teachers so it’s a very easy tool to pick up and to learn how to use.  The fact that it just makes life easier for teachers makes it very easy.  I mean we don’t have to try to sell it to people.  It just makes it easier and adoptable because teachers can just see quite clearly that it is going to give them more hours in a day and make life easier for them.

Mike: For sure.  Before we dive too far into Hapara and teacher dashboard and so on, I think let’s address the release of Google Classroom that was just released last week so I don’t know if it was good luck or good fortune or something that we have managed to have you on the call today.  Obviously we’ve had this organized for a while.  I’ve been amazed to see the buzz on Google Class on Twitter and around different communities about classroom and so on.  I guess there are a few questions out there.  I know you’re under NDA for a lot of things and so you can just answer questions as you are able to.  I think one of the big questions that’s been around on Google Plus that I’ve seen and I’ve had two emails about it.  People were asking has your company been bought out by Google and acquired by Google?

Lenva: No, the answer is no.  No it hasn’t. Not in any way whatsoever.  No, we certainly are an independent company.  We are still running in exactly the same way as we have and nothing has changed now in our relationship with Google.

Blake: And Classroom it looks like a really interesting tool and a lot of teachers here are getting very excited about it and it’s interesting to look at.  I think it does stand quite separately to Hapara from what I can see.  I mean they haven’t released a lot of information out there but it looks like you will be sort of dropping assessments into groups and setting up that sort of thing so you can quickly mark off assignments and send out to groups of files to kids but it certainly doesn’t have the perspective that Hapara does across all the Google Apps from science to Gmail to everything else.  It’s an interesting product.  I mean Google have been tight-lipped about it.  We had Adam from Google out at our school recently talking to us just about how things are going and he wasn’t working too much off the chain either.  So it will be interesting to see what actually happens with the product and how it goes.  But it looks good.  Teachers are definitely excited about it.

Mike: Yeah, for sure.  I was just looking at a question that Patrick has just put through on Q&A.   He says he is a large private school in Southeast Asia and recently signed up for Google Apps and so they are considering it as an LMS and want to know about the differences between the two.  We’ll certainly talk about that as we go on today.

It has been interesting just watching some of the results.  I kind of have been torn in two different ways.  One I am just amazed at the buzz that’s created, which is just such a good testamony into how Google do things.  You would have thought that someone has just found flight for the first time the way people are talking about it.  It’s like this revolutionary new product, which is fantastic.

Blake: Which there are no details.

Mike: That’s right.  But I am loving the buzz.  People are when can we get our hands on it and people going nuts especially Google certified teacher and training communities are all saying we want to get our hands on this before our teachers do and they’re just begging for it, which is fantastic.  But it is also interesting to see some of the – I guess some of the concerns people have had so companies like Hapara and Schoolology and so on.  Hapara is saying things are changing.  Lenva are you able to talk a little bit about that at all?

Lenva:Well I am under NDA, as you all know.  What I can say is limited.  I can actually talk to you about Hapara’s perspective on here and the announcement about it was not surprise to us actually.  We’ve known about it for months and we’ve had dialogue with Google about this previous so nothing was a surprise to us.

They haven’t actually brought it out yet, which is why they can’t share anything and we’re under NDA and we can’t talk about it either.  We do have an instance of it running on our server so we are familiar with it.  It was given to us by Google so it’s not a secret instance or anything.  I think there may be some overlap but what you see – the thing about Hapara has always been about deep personal interactions between teachers and students and we also. We got lots more to release in this and this is actually perfect timing for us.  So the end of the story is that really Hapara isn’t going away.  We’ve got a lot of deep tools that are geared for education and personalized for students and you are going to hear some of the bustle and buzz really soon.

Mike: For sure, that sounds great.  You guys are looking at, what you were saying before we started the call, a June release for the next update?

Lenva: Yeah, we’ve got a June release coming up, yes.

Mike: Are you able to talk about what’s coming up in that June release?

Lenva: Yeah, sure.  In that June release, I don’t think it’s any secret.  I think we’ve been quite open about it.  We’re looking at the assignment manager part of it.  That’s probably the biggest focus as we want to actually go deeper though into the learning outcomes of students and allow for personalized learning.  There will be lots of elements of choice for teachers to create assignments and models of learning to allow students to show their mastery in ways that make the students shine.  So lots and lots of student choice and student voice involved in that.  There will be elements of information that sort of allow a teacher or a parent or a student to collaborate and sort of build on their knowledge in a daily way so they can track their progress through that.  Yes, a roundabout in the assignment manager and where there’s sort of a whole new look and feel attached to it.

Mike: Okay, great.  I mean that’s something that Blake and I always talk about is the learning analytics.  I think that’s huge.

Blake: It’s really interesting.  Just to sort of move on more broadly about your product and where it is now with teacher dashboard, what’s sort of the number one thing that you think teachers really get onboard with, with your product?  What’s the thing that you guys are doing that’s your real killer app so to speak?

Lenva: I think it’s just the easy way in which teachers can easily just see student activity.  So you know at a glance what your students are doing, where they are, what they’re up to, what they need.  It’s just a very, very easy way of seeing that so a teacher can instantly spot where there might be sort of pockets of students who don’t understand what they’re doing, where the needs are and can see the ones who are sort of flying off on their own and where they’re going.

Blake: So more about the monitoring I guess, being able to see where kids are at and where they’re not as well, which is just as important.

Lenva: Yeah, yeah.  Monitoring is not a word I like to use because it kind of suggests a big brother type of thing but it’s about teachers knowing what these students want and need for their next learning strategies.

Blake: Because there is an element about that sort of big brother type of thing in your product, isn’t there?  I mean a lot of teachers have said to us, “Well hang on, should we be looking into email boxes?  Should we be looking into their drive? Should we be seeing their screens on Chromebooks?”  What do you say to that?

Lenva: Yeah and I guess it’s true there is.  But all of those are optional things.  If the school don’t want to go there, in that direction, they don’t have to take that part of it.  All of the modules are completely optional but, you know, this is a market and there is an 80 percent market out there that might want something different.

We like to just think that we’re catering for the schools who want to be going ahead and sort of 21st Century learning and student-driven learning that we can cater for them plus we can cater for that other market where they do want to sort of actually monitor their students and see what is going on.  It’s not something that we encourage.  We’re about using excellent models of teaching practice and it’s not something we encourage and when we demonstrate our tools we always demonstrate them in a positive proactive way.  We never ever demonstrate that monitoring side of it but I do know it goes on.  Yes, it does and it’s just how schools use it.  Unfortunately, we have no control about what schools do with the tool when they get it.

Blake: Absolutely.  I think it’s important that when you’re looking at a tool like this to really think about how is it going to impact the classroom.  How can we use it in a positive manner and not sort of a reactive manner.

Lenva: Absolutely right.

Mike: That’s for sure.  There’s a lot of people watching who haven’t necessarily seen the teacher dashboard yet.  Are you able to maybe just share your screen and just show us some of the main features and maybe just talk around why was teacher dashboard created?  What sort of problems was it designed to solve and so on?

Lenva: Okay, sure.  Well I’ll tell you why first of – well I sort of eluded to it first.  It was designed by a group of teachers so the teachers in the Manaiakalani group sat around a table first of all and said that we were using Google Apps.  We love Google Apps, but we really struggle with knowing, you know, planning out students work, being able to see what they’re doing in Google Apps.  So they sort of talked about what they would like in a perfect world and that’s where teacher dashboard got born.

Let me share my screen with you and I’ll take you into what it might look like.  Just one minute.

All right, so what you’re looking at here is a demo school inside teacher dashboard.  So I have come in as a teacher.  I’m teacher George in the school and these are the classes that I teach.  What the basics of teacher dashboard does is allow me to see my student activity.  So if I’ve got students who are creating docs in their drive and for those schools who are using Google Apps we know students create docs in their drive, they need to either share them with you or they need to put them in a shared folder that you have previously set up for them or they’ve set up as well.

That doesn’t need to be done anymore.  Teacher dashboard takes care of all of that for the schools.  Teacher dashboard sets up folders in the student’s drive all ready to go.  They are done automatically.  They just appear instantly.  All students need to do is put their docs into folders.  They don’t need to share with them with the teacher and once they’re in the folders then the teacher can see them.

If I go into Room 12 here, where I am the teacher and you can see here that this was my class.  Here are the folders that I was talking about.  Every student from my class has got a reading and writing and math and an inquiry folder and this sits in their drive.  Now if I show you what that looks like for a student, so here is a student’s view here.  Here is a student’s drive and in the student’s drive they are the same reading, math, reading, writing and inquiry folders there.  So those folders that sit in the student’s drive have been created by teacher dashboard, not created by the student or the teacher.

It is created by teacher dashboard and all the students need to do is to put their documents into these folders or create these documents in the folders.  When they do that, the documents are going to be visible here for the teacher.

What this does for the teacher is the teacher can see an overview of their whole class.  So if their whole class was working on a document and writing a story or doing a piece of writing, the teacher can easily see that the student is working away without issue so they don’t have any problems because Google docs have auto update so the teacher can just see every time it’s updated. The teacher refreshes the screen and can just see how long ago it was updated.

If it was updated one minute or two minutes ago, I know that the student is working away and doesn’t have an issue.  If it was updated 15 minutes ago, then the student has been sitting there looking at that document for 15 minutes without doing anything.  That’s an alert to me, as a teacher, that I might need to go and give the student a hand. They either don’t understand what to do, they’re struggling with what to get done or there is somebody, you know, distracting them, poking them in the back or something so I need to go and find out what is stopping the student from working and help them get back on track.

I think that’s the basic of teacher dashboard is that visibility into the students activity inside the Google suite of tools.  I am showing you docs but it’s not only docs that this is available for.  It’s any Google App.  So whether they are using Docs, Sites, Blogs, Picasa Albums, Google Plus, any of the Google suite of tools, the teacher has got that visibility and what they’re doing and can keep making sure that they’re getting the feedback that they need and that they’re on task and they’re learning is progressing as it should be.

Blake: That’s great.  That’s a really great overview and I think that’s just the jumping off point.  There’s so much more to it as well.  You’ve got to of interest to you as a teacher.  I definitely like what else they’ve got in terms of the Gmail stuff and the sites stuff as well.

Just touching on that, I noticed you were speaking about those folders are created not by the teacher or by the student but by the application itself, how is that done?  I mean does that integrate with certain school administration systems or timetable systems?  How does that work?

Lenva: What it could well do and so the folders are determined by the teachers so every class can have a different set of folders.  It is up to the teacher what they have.  However, if you are in a big school of 120 classes, that might be a difficult thing to do so it just depends on the school.

Some schools make a generic set of folders and say that all the classes will have these folders.  So they just send out a generic set and in my old school that’s exactly what we did so they can do that.  Some schools let the teachers choose what they want and they feedback to the management and in some schools, especially a lot of high schools it just is straight from the SMS or the SIS.  It’s done straight from the management system where they draw out the class names so the class name might be French Year 9 and then the folder just becomes French.

Blake: And that’s what we’ve done here at McKinnon.  That was one of our issues being quite a large school.  We have hundreds of variations of classes and things.  Pulling all those out into a CSV was a little cumbersome for us.  We use Edval and for anyone who is interested actually we have written an automatic script tool to push Edval into Hapara – so if you are using Edval just let me know on Google Plus and we can help you out with that.

Lenva: And there are several ways of doing this.  I mean if you are living in America it’s a lot easier because you’ve got some third party applications that can do that for you.  We have full integration with Powerschool, which is the big American student information system.  But there is a third party called clever.com that we use and Clever will take your data and will assemble it in the way that it is needed for teacher dashboard as well.  But there is a fee attached to that, of course, for that service.  But there are third party applications that can do that.

Most schools, however, just do what you – well I know you’ve written your own but most schools just sort of extract it as raw data into a CSV and then use formulas and filters to just format that data into the way it’s needed for teacher dashboard.

Blake: Yeah, we did that initially and one thing to sort of note about that is there’s a lot in enrollments.  Things are always evolving and to keep up with those.  Just wanting to bear in mind if you are a school looking to go this way you probably want to get on top of that, if you’re a big school.  If you’re a small school, it’s probably more manageable to change it as you –

Lenva: Exactly.  We can also put a call script onto the CSV so we can use what’s called a CURL script and the CURL script would automate the update of that.  So if you wanted that information to be updated every night at midnight we can use a call script that will do that and you don’t have to manually do that at night.

Mike: Patrick has just asked a question about integration with the VLE and Froglearn.  Have you heard any review about Froglearn?

Lenva: No.

Blake: No, I can’t say that I have.  I will look it up.

Mike: Yes, so I guess that’s about integration.  I know that in the admin section you’ve got SIS integration and I know you got people who can answer questions on that.  We got another question that’s coming from Primm saying do the students need their own email address to be able to access the Google drive?  So we would certainly say that you would need to deploy Google as a school and then as part of that each student would have their own account.  You don’t have to have email to enroll for those students.  You can give them drive without email but you would certainly may need students to have their own individual account.

Lenva: You need Google Apps for Education.

Mike: By the way, one of the things we did for a school just recently was got and as part of that they created the Google Apps accounts at the same time.  So that was pretty easy.  All in one go created their accounts and set up teacher dashboard for them.  That was quite handy.

Excellent.  In terms of Google I know when we were first introduced to people we were introducing you to me as like Mrs. Sites because you had been using Google, one of the first people to use it.  I would be interested to hear your perspective on Sites and why they’re such helpful tools.

Lenva: Okay and I am just going to stop sharing my screen here at the moment while I talk because I might just actually go into my own school or my ex school during this.  I am probably not so much known as Mrs. Sites but I am known as Mrs. ePortfolio.  ePortfolio is my baby and ePortfolios for learning is something I am absolutely passionate about and in my old school every student had their ePortfolio and every teacher had their ePortfolio and I they were learning in ePortfolios.

We use Google Sites for them so that’s where my introduction to Sites came.  Sites I find are very, very easy to use.  I find it easy to embed anything into sites so if you wanted to use all of the great things that make websites great, so you got to have media.  You can’t just have text.

If you want video and audio and animation and all those things, it’s very, very easy to put those into Sites.  There’s lots of scripts written that let you do that.  There’s lots of Google tools that are just built into it as well.  If you are sticking within the Google suite, everything is done with a click of a button.  If you want to put am image in, you just click.  If you want to put a movie from YouTube in it’s just a click.

As well as using things like iFrames that’s very easy with a single line of code just to bring in your blogs, to bring in other sites within sites and to have everything in the one place and that was something that I was quite key on was having everything in the one place so the students learning progress and the process and progress of learning was all in one place and didn’t have to go off a dozen different places to try to get a handle on what was going on.

Mike: Yeah, certainly powerful.  I know Blake’s school uses ePortfolios quite a bit.  It’s certainly one of the things that a lot of schools – I just don’t thing they’ve still caught on to the power of having ePortfolios and the ease of using Google Sites.  It still seems like it’s a little bit too – I feel like it’s too hard still to get their around or something.

Blake: Yeah, I think there is an element of that but maybe could you speak to how introducing ePortfolios at your school sort of transformed it?  I mean can you talk about the change in the culture?

Lenva: Yeah, it certainly does.  Actually the ePortfolio drives the learning in our school because our ePortfolios are not those showcase ePortfolios or the final product ePortfolios.  They’re actually ePortfolios that show appropriation of learning.

Everything in it is a work in progress.  It’s just sort of snapshots of a learning pathway so a student might be doing a big inquiry but just at different checkpoints along that pathway.  They’re just little snapshots of what they’re doing, what they’re learning, little reflections, little interviews, little peer reflections, self reflections, feedback from different people and so that builds up to be a bigger picture.

By the student doing this, it makes it really easy for them to sort out in their mind what is important about learning and what they need to do next.  They can see where come from.  They can see where they are at.  They can see where they need to go.  They find it then very, very easy to accept their own learning pathway and what they need to be able to succeed.

A lot of visitors to my ex school would say, “Oh you’re lucky your students are very articulate” but it’s not that they are articulate but it wasn’t an accident.  It was a planned thing that they were articulate.  They were articulate because they fully understood what they were doing to make themselves succeed while learning.

Blake: Yeah, I think they are really powerful and we see that here at McKinnon with a similar thing that the self reflection I think that goes into when kids are creating, they have to start planning things out and looking at how they will take control of their learning.

Yes, it’s really important from that point of view I think that the kids sort of given almost rights into it.  A lot of teachers would heavily structure and things like that but I think when you allow them to create their own pages and to make their own interaction sites, that’s what I can tell you.

Lenva: I mean we start off with a template and I think it’s a good thing because when you start off day 1 minute 1, you know, the student doesn’t know what to do and they sort of sit there and it doesn’t mean anything.  So we start off with a template.  Right about the end of week 2 nothing looks the same as each other.  They’ve all gone off on their own page and structured their one.

Blake: How do you get those templates out?  Do you push that with Hapara?

Lenva: Yep, yep, yep we do.  So we start off with a template designed by the teachers so the teachers can have a consensus of what they want this ePortfolio template to look like and then we’ll use Hapara to push that out so that someone – because we are a middle school and in New Zealand these are only two – we only have students for two years so every day is precious, every minute is precious.  On minute 1 of day 1, the students copy of there template was there waiting in the sites ready to start right off bat.

Mike: That’s great.  Just looking at the Q&A just went nuts over Sites.  People are asking can you comment on Sites?  People have already answered that and said, “Yes, you can.”  You can certainly comment down to the page.  One of the things I love about Sites is you have that page level permissions too so some students can say see things and other students can’t.  I think that’s a really good option.  Andrew is just asking what’s the difference between Sites and Blogger.  Can you speak to that?

Lenva: Yes, so a blog is like a journal.  So a blog is in time formatted.  So the most recent event is at the top and the oldest event is at the bottom.  So it’s something over time whereas a site could be all over the place.  It’s just hyperlinks.  It’s not in any sort of time order.  It could be an important sort or it could be in theme order or inquiry order.  It doesn’t matter, you can choose the order of that.  Whereas a blog to me is some – and a blog can be part of a site.  That’s absolutely fine.  But a blog is something that happens over time; so here is the starting part, here is the next thing and the next thing and the next thing and the next thing.

Blake: I think you got to make a decision about what you want to do with your class.  I think with the portfolio it’s more suited to creating a site with a page that’s sort of static but then you know that page is always there.  People can go back to it and they can edit it, they can comment on the page and do things but yeah one is very snapshot in time.  It’s very chronological sort of set up.

Lenva: That’s right.

Mike: One of the issues a couple schools have is when you’re creating a site for your students generally it has their name in the URL.  Do you have any hacks or tricks around how get that name out?

Lenva: Yeah, absolutely.   So teacher dashboard has that hack in there so there’s just a little tick box that you check that will make that URL anonymous.

Blake: One thing to notice I’m sorry to mention just about commenting, we are getting a few other comments coming through, yes you can comment on Sites but the people who can comment have to be owner of the site.  We had this issue with a site we created here, one of the staff members created here to send home to parents and they wanted parents to comment.  They can’t really do that unless they have permissions into the site so you can’t just sort of have anyone commenting on any page or sites and that can cause a little bit of confusion when they say yes there is commenting but.

Lenva: It’s different commenting to blog commenting. So blog commenting you get comments from any random person anywhere in the world where Sites comment is more and we would always ask for parent comments as well.  Tell us you – share it with your parents.  Give your parents permission; let them come and make the comments.

Blake: What would be the thinking behind that, Lenva?  Is that just about getting more of an authentic audience?

Lenva: Yeah, it’s getting everyone involved, everyone who is interested in this child involved in their learning and that’s a powerful thing.  If parents are really involved, that’s so empowering for the student to think here is all these people who are worried about my learning who are going to help me and make sure that I get there.  It’s very, very empowering for them.

Mike: It’s good for parents to get involved.  I like that parent portal concept that’s built into the teacher dashboard as well because students go home and the parents say, “What have you learned?”  Standard answer is nothing.  I like the fact that a parent can, at any time, go in and see the student’s folder and so on.  Do you want to just speak a little bit about that and how that works?

Lenva: Yes, so there is a parent portal inside teacher dashboard.  It is very limited because it’s outside of Google so the problem with Google is that parent have to have a Gmail address to be able to log in.  So this one sits outside of Google and it’s just a parent portal that the parents would have a login ID which is their own child’s Google ID plus a password to get in and the access that they see is visibility into those teacher dashboard created folders.  So the same folders I showed you, the parents can go into those folders, they can actually see docs in those folders and they can read them but it is in a read-only format.

So it is used as an iFrame to bring them through because the parents are not shared into these docs in any way in Google so it’s only read only and that’s the only sort of access we can get through enabling Google with APIs to do that.

I would like there to be further access so I have been pushing for more access into blogs and sites as well through the parent portal but at the moment it’s restricted to docs so that’s something for the future.

Blake: I’d like to just clarify a couple of these questions.  We’ve got one from Andrew Davis saying, “So Google offer both Sites and Blogger for different uses?”  Google Sites is part of Google Apps, part of itscourse suite whereas Blogger is sort of – it’s not managed under Google Apps.  It’s sort of separated so there’s no way to search your domain for Blogger unless you have something like Hapara.

Just bear that in mind.  Blogger is sort of a separated service.  It doesn’t actually get as much use as Sites really.  I think Sites is far more heavily used and far more flexible.  You can have a page with a file attached to it.  You can have kids attaching files themselves if they want to.  You can have a page that works like a blog with announcements and posts so just something to bear in mind.  Sites I think are a bit more flexible for the school environment and if you tune into our last hangout, Suan did allude to Sites getting a bigger overhaul.  I’m interested to see what happens there.

Lenva: Yah!

Mike: That’s well and truly broken news now so they are saying they want Sites to be able to compete with other blogging platforms so that will be a huge update, if they can make that happen.

Blake: Yeah, Sites hasn’t had much happen to it lately so a new coat of paint would be good.

Mike: That’d be great.  I’m thinking Blogger I’ve seen used quite effectively in a primary school setting where the students blog quite a big.  I think in high schools it’s generally they seem to flip either to the Google Site model as well.  So there’s no clear approach.  There’s all sorts of courses.

Lenva: And there are a lot of schools who do ePortfolios and use Blogger just as part of their platform and that is highly successful.  I have quite a few schools that do that.

Blake: Absolutely.

Mike: That’s great.  So I have a question coming through that Google Form a couple of days ago from Lee just saying, “Do secondary schools have any issues with using Hapara compared to primary schools?”  I am not exactly sure what that question – maybe the things or maybe just primary classes.  I am not sure.

Lenva: The only issues they would have is that usually they’re bigger so it’s a little bit harder to manage the data as Blake was saying.  But no, secondary schools can look exactly like primary schools.  In fact, it’s probably easier for the secondary school because it’s more tailored.  So as I said, instead of having Room 5, Room 23, Room 6, you would have French Year 9, Social Studies Year 10.

You would have it by subject and then the subject folders would just be the name of whatever that subject is and usually they just say one subject folder so French just has a French subject folder, etc.  Because the student goes to maybe eight different classes, they’ve got to have a subject folder for those eight different classes in their drive.  So you wouldn’t want each of those subjects to have five folders because that would be nonsense, the students would end up with 40 or 50 folders in their drive.

Blake: Yeah, absolutely.  It’s interesting on that there’s a size issue I can probably speak to that as well.  We just have it set up by class and that works really well.  The kids just get a list of all their classes and they just drag the files into those classes.  The main issues that we’re having have been around size, you know, trying to get the timetable in with all the changes in enrollments we get, you know, people coming in and out every day.

Lenva: Yeah, and the first five weeks of school where students change their classes every week.

Blake: Exactly.  You know, change their forum groups, their classes, everything.

Lenva: That’s hard if you are a secondary school.  A primary school usually has the class is sorted by the end of the year so Day 1 the students are more or less in the class they are going to stay in for the whole year whereas secondary schools, you know, students can take electives and they can start the class and no that’s not for me and next week change and next week change again.  So, for the first few weeks, until the timetable settle down, it can be really difficult testing for them.

Mike: I think, Blake, you have got – well how many classes would you have?  You’ve got close to a 1,000 classes running across your school?

Blake: I think we have actually a little bit more than that.  I think it’s somewhere around 1 300.  It’s ridiculous.  We have all sorts of instrumental music classes and things across curriculum as well.  For us to manage that by hand would be impossible.

We need an automated solution and that’s why we sort of built our own but sync to Hapara, but Hapara do integrate with certain student information systems, Compass, which is what we use is one of those but I believe there are a few there so definitely check that out or reach out to Hapara.  They are really good at sort of getting back to you and sorting out your issues.

Mike: Yeah, their support has been really good.  That’s excellent.  Lenva, is there anything else you want to share around what you guys are doing, what’s coming up?  Maybe what’s on the product pathway?  Any other questions?

Lenva: No, I think I covered that earlier.

Blake: Yeah, you don’t want to break that NDA and just let us know what the classroom is like?  You sure?

Lenva: No, no, I only just got a new job!

Blake: They will never find you in New Zealand, you’ll be alright.

Mike: That’s great.  Excellent.  I mean if people are interested in getting teacher dashboard going at their school they can certainly contact Lenva and we’ll put your email in there and people can reach out to you and ask their questions and so on.

One of the things that our company does too is do some setups for schools and get them going with teacher dashboard so you could certainly reach out to us.  One of the things that we’re doing with schools just personally is if schools order teacher dashboard then we just give them an hour’s free PD as well.  We are just trying to find ways to always add value into what schools are doing.

So if you guys want that there’s certainly a form you can fill out and we’ll put that into the email that we send out.

By the way, if you are not getting our emails it’s just because you haven’t registered.  On this Google Plus page that you’re watching the hangout through, you’ll notice that there is a description for the hangout and there’s a registration link in there.

When you register, they always send an email, a transcription show notes, all the links to different products and things that we talk about and so if you haven’t done that register and then we can send that email out.

There will be a form that you could just put your contact details in and one of the team will be contacting you to get you going with teacher dashboard or you can check it out with that.

One of the things we always like to do as we start to wrap up is just mention where we are going to be in the next couple weeks so that people can connect with us.  It’s great to connect online but we always love to connect in person as well.

In the next couple weeks I’ll kick it off.  I am going to be in Adelaide next week so fly down on Sunday.  If anyone is watching in Adelaide and would like to catch up, shoot me an email and we can catch up for a coffee or something and have a chat.  That’d be great to meet you there.

Then the week after that just in Sydney for a couple of days trying to help a school just roll out a deployment plan for Google and get going from scratch. So really looking into that, BYOD model and just trying to put the step-by-step approach together so pretty keen to that.

Also, I probably should mention too, we’ve got so many people from New Zealand on this call.  Obviously with Lenva being from there and you guys are just so active but we are looking at our next speaking tour we’ve locked in some dates for Queenstown for Christchurch and I think Hamilton and we’re looking at maybe and Auckland as well [Note: here is the Link to the day in Wellington.

But if you’re watching this and you’d like to host a class with me where we just get together for one day and we talk about Google Apps and some of the new feature releases, link it all back to pedagogy and student engagement, certainly shoot me an email and we’ll talk about how we can maybe come to your area and run on one of those days.

So we’re looking at the end of June, so the last two weeks in June, being over in New Zealand again and certainly connecting with teachers and students over there.  That would be great if you want to catch up in person while I am over there as well.

Blake, what are you up to?

Blake: Well, I am just bogged down here at McKinnon.  At the moment we have a lot of initiatives happening in classrooms and we’re just really trying to support the teaching and learning as much as we can.  There is a bit of stuff on 3D printing happening.  Ben, one of the technicians in our office, he’s an evangelist of that.  There’s some interesting stuff going on there but certainly not flying around the world like Mike does with his enviable schedule.

We’re just trying to negotiate or source of next year’s Chromebooks looking at all the announcements from Intel.  All these new Chromebooks coming, a lot of touch interface stuff and trying to weigh out, as I mentioned earlier, about textbooks, digital textbooks.  If anyone has got any kind of help or information on that I definitely would love to hear from you because at the moment it is bit of a minefield.  All the publishers are doing their own thing and it’s a bit tricky; definitely reach out to me for any of those things and a part from that, I’ll just be in Melbourne basically.

I am always here to catch up with anyone who is in town.

Mike: That’s cool.  I bumped into a company at the Australian Independent Schools Conference that try and bring all the publishers together and make things available through Apps.  I’ll shoot you a link for that after the hangout.

Blake: That’d be great, yeah.

Mike: Lenva, where are you at?  Where can people bump into you?

Lenva: Well if you are in New Zealand you just missed me so we just had the EDTECH team Google summit in New Zealand so I probably met a lot of you during that one.

But the next one for me is Queensland so I’ll be up at Matthew Flinder’s in Buderim in Queensland, which is quite a long way from any civilization on a Google Map but I guess I’ll find it all right.

Mike: That’s in July, isn’t it?

Lenva: Yeah, yeah in July.  [Crosstalk]

Mike: I’ll be at that too possibly I think.  Let me look and it and figure whether or not we’ll be there.  That will be good.  I always love catching up with people.  I know a few of the guys who are already putting together some presentations.

I was in Townsville, when was I in Townsville?  This week! and some of the primary teachers are doing just amazing stuff.  They are going to be presenting and showing what they’re doing in primary classrooms.  If you are going, certainly catch up with that primary state.

Even as high school teachers, you just learn so much from these ladies.  They are just incredible.  The work they are getting out of their students is just great.

Lenva: Fantastic.

Mike: I look forward to bumping you up in Queensland where it’s nice and warm.

Lenva: Yeah.

Blake: Yeah, you know nothing about that, Mike.  Come on man.

Mike: Nothing at all.

Blake: It’s freezing down here at the moment.

Mike: Well that’s all right.  Life goes on, huh?

Excellent.  All right, great, guys if you’ve got any other questions what I’d love you to do is just reply to the email that we send out.

There is a couple questions that have just come in on the app so if you go back to that email that we sent you that said if you’ve got any questions fill out the form, certainly do that.  We’re keeping our eye on the Google form and we’ll go back and make sure we answer any questions that are coming since that.

I really appreciate Lenva.  Thank you for giving up the time.  You’re always really busy but it’s great just to hear you and how things are going for you guys especially around that Sites and Blogger.  Maybe, Blake, we need to run a whole session just on that and get a few people in.

Blake: Yeah, I’d love to.

Mike: Put up some examples of some Sites and some examples of some blogs and so on.  Maybe we can do a how-to session around that and put some good examples up.

Blake: Yeah, absolutely and Lenva was certainly sparked some interest there and just hearing about what she has done at her previous school and everything is great.  I just loved hearing about those stories so thank you Lenva so much.  It was really good.

Mike: Yeah, that’s great.  I was just looking at this thing now.  People are just answering each other’s questions.  Patrick is saying when are you coming to Malaysia?

Lenva: Ah yes.

Mike: Send us an email Patrick and we can make that sort of a thing happen.  Honestly, we’d be more than happy to help try and get that stuff going.

Blake: Mike will fly anywhere won’t he?

Mike: I’ll fly anywhere.  Not with anyone but I’ll fly anywhere.  That’s great.  Let’s wrap this up and go and see our families but thanks once again for watching.  Thanks for giving us your time and your attention today.  We really do appreciate it.

We love the international community that’s building around these conversations so keep the communication coming.  We love to hear from you.

We’ll see you in a fortnight’s time for our next E-Learning Conversation.

Blake: Bye.

Lenva: Bye.

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