SSCS's 'Schoology' adds parent access


By Patsy Nicosia

When Sharon Springs Central School's 7th-12th graders head back to the classroom Tuesday, they'll have a new tool for success.
And so will their parents.
Schoology-think Facebook for learning-the district's year-old digital platform for tracking things like assignments and projects and even sharing algebra tutorials-has been expanded.
Now, not only will teachers be posting grades on the site, but parents will be able to access it too.
A workshop and training session for parents explaining how Schoology works will be held in the SSCS auditorium Thursday, September 8, at 7pm.
"It's a real step forward," said Superintendent Pat Green. "It's a way for parents to keep involved in what's going on in the district and the classroom, and it lets them stay on top of their child's performance."
Tom Yorke, a SSCS English teacher and now, part-time director of Education Technology and Curriculum Technology, said he sees Schoology as a hub for organizing a student's school life; features include a calendar, class-by-class updates and discussions, an email exchange, assignments, and grades.
"And now, we're opening the parent portal," he said. "We're taking what we have and making it better."
Schoology replaced My Big Campus, which is no longer available.
Students and parents will be able to access it from computers and iPads and there's also a smart phone app for it.
Mr. Yorke is also developing a website that takes parents through Schoology and what it can do for them and their student that should be up and running by the first day of school, Tuesday.
Mr. Yorke said the parent portal on Schoology is the next, logical step in the district's iPad project and it's something that wouldn't be possible without them.
"It's all about engaging parents. This is just one more way to do that," he said.
"We'll still all be available for face-to-face meetings, but now, parents will be able to check in on how their student is doing, say, during their lunch break. It won't have to wait till the end of the day..."
Another benefit of Schoology, he said, is that it lets students who are home sick stay in touch with their classroom and assignments-and it lets teachers do the same.
"I know when I was home sick last year, it was easy to plug something into the program and it was easier to work with the sub too," he said.
Laura Jackson, SSCS school board president, pointed out that some students are afraid to ask their teacher how they're doing in a class, but with Schoology, they can check their grades on their own.
"I like that it gives them that opportunity and responsibility," she said.
In addition to the training for parents, Mr. Yorke has been working with new teachers and will be available daily, from 3-4pm, for all teachers.
"It's really the next step in what we've all been doing," he said. "It introduces tools our students need to be nimble with. The sky's really the limit."