Little SIS for Google Classroom
Guest blog post by Andrew Stillman
For many of the same reasons I created Doctopus, I agree with Alice Keeler that Google Classroom — used imaginatively, #notjustforworksheets;) — has an amazing potential to change the way kids and teachers interact and learn. Simply put, Google Classroom makes it easier to manage tasks that involve rich student creation, collaboration, iteration, and timely feedback — essential ingredients for powerful learning at any age, and what school ought to be about.
Make Google Classroom Setup Easier
In this vein, one of the creations we’ve been simmering and stewing at Amplified Labs is called Little SIS for Classroom, which is built on the idea that Google Classroom can become much more widely adopted, and benefit more students with its transformative power, if it were even easier to set-up — specifically, if teachers didn’t have to build and update their Classroom rosters over time as students come and go from their official class lists.
Here’s how Little SIS makes this possible. By using data from your district’s Student Information System, Little SIS:
- Sets up new Classroom Classes for teachers who need them.
- Links onto existing Classroom classes for those who already have them.
- Keeps Google Classroom rosters synchronized with your official class rosters. No join codes or invites necessary. Kids are added and removed automatically every day.
Little SIS for Classroom offers deep insight into the way Google Classroom is currently being used by teachers across your G Suite for EDU domain, and gives IT leadership the automation superpowers they need to drive meaningful Classroom adoption at any scale, from a pilot group, to a single school, to your whole district.
An Implementation Story
To give this some real-world context, imagine Port Arthur Schools, a district of 9,000 highly diverse students in the bayou, about 1.5 hours East of Houston, Texas, and which serves a roughly 77% free and reduced lunch population. Because of the local gulf oil economy combined with high poverty, the student population in Port Arthur schools is more transient than in places without some of these challenges. That said, every school system, regardless of poverty concentration, faces challenges of student mobility — even as it impacts our most economically vulnerable students the most.
Port Arthur “went Google” with their staff 3 years ago, but struggled because they didn’t have a clean way to maintain their student accounts in sync with their student information system — a problem at the scale of 9000 considering all the student movement. Once the consulting team at Amplified IT had helped them solve their student account sync issues, they set their sights on supporting robust Google Classroom adoption across the district.
When asked why he was interested in Little SIS, Instructional Technology Supervisor Kenneth Daigre explained, “we’re a district that uses a lot of different technology programs to differentiate instruction and address student needs, and so some teachers will end up with 2 or 3 or more different intervention programs that require class rosters — so as a technology team we try to make sure these are all set up for them, otherwise it makes it too hard on the teachers, especially with all the kids coming and going.”
As a first step, Little SIS for Classroom allowed Kenneth to get the lay of the land, giving him a view onto all Classroom classes on the domain. He could see that his instincts about teacher adoption were mostly correct — fewer than 10 of the district’s 1,350 staff had set up Classes. Even fewer had Classroom rosters that were complete. This pattern of incomplete Classroom rosters — even in places with much higher overall teacher adoption — has been true across all of the 20 or so districts we’ve worked with so far.
Kenneth set the team a goal of scaling up Classroom to two whole campuses in the second semester of this year. With onboarding supports from the Amplified Labs team, and the flexibility and ease of use of Little SIS, he was able to quickly get Little SIS set up and configured in his environment. Last week, in about 30 minutes Kenneth rolled out 800 second-semester Classroom classes in the district’s two largest high schools. At the end of our call last week, Kenneth fatefully said, “I just want to say that what you guys have done for us here is the only way we could ever do Google Classroom in our district.”
While gettting classes and rosters set up is only half the battle, often it’s the details like this that grind in the gears, slowing progress towards adoption at scale. Kenneth now has an opportunity to work with teachers who understand he’s squarely on their side, willing to go the extra mile to reduce the burdens of setup, and he can walk into his PD workshops and gain an extra 30 minutes and get straight into the features of Classroom that matter most to instruction.
If you are a teacher, technology integrator or technology leader in your district and you’d like to learn more about Little SIS, request a stakeholder interest call with our team. We’d love to work with you!
In February of 2016, opportunity led me to leave a fantastic job — where I had convinced my boss to let me turn my coding hobby into a job as Director of Systems Development for 90 NYC high schools, and turned my obsession with fixing the brokenness of teacher and IT admin workflow into Doctopus, Goobric, Autocrat, formMule, ChromebookInventory, and many other wacky but useful Google Add-ons for EDU — to go work on my next big project… building a product division at Amplified IT, called Amplified Labs, where we create tools that extend G Suite to re-imagine how work gets done in schools. In other words, where I get to do my favorite thing — hacking school workflows — every waking day, with a team of skilled engineers at my side and partners who understand k-12 schools, technology and who are committed to supporting products that create extraordinary value for schools.