Teachers: We're adding a Gradebook to My Big Campus. And, I'm certain you will love it.
We've had the Gradebook in a small-scale beta test for a few weeks. Now, it's time to move Gradebook beta testing to a larger scale. Teachers and responsible staff, we need your help. If you're interested in giving us a hand testing, tweaking, and otherwise refining Gradebook functionality, sign up here. You'll be given Gradebook access for groups you own and asked to record your findings in feedback discussions.
Meanwhile, here's a sneak peek.
Gradebook Prep Work: District Administrator Settings
(NOTE: Administrator preparation steps are not a pre-requisite for participating in the Gradebook beta test.)
District administrators have a few backstage activities to complete before teacher Gradebooks will reflect your actual school terms. An administrator must create a School Year, define Terms (grading periods), and then assign those variables to a school or schools. Teacher Gradebooks will then be auto-populated with those school terms. Highlights of the quick process are documented here.Want to look for yourself? See the video below.
Gradebook Prep Work: Teacher Settings
Once you've signed up for beta access to the Gradebook and received some instructions from our staff, you'll access your Gradebook from the Schoolwork tab on the left-navigation bar. From there, you'll enable a Gradebook for any individual Groups you own. (Gradebooks are visible only to the Group creator). From there, you'll define a few key settings such as Final Grade Display and assignment Categories (weighted or unweighted). Existing Schoolwork will auto-populate the Gradebook for the date range or school term selected.
In the Gradebook, educators can change/override all grades manually – allowing teachers to assign a numeric grade value or mark student work as Missing or Excused. Teachers can also Revert to a previous score. Outside assignments (those not originating from My Big Campus) can be added to the Gradebook. And, teachers can move between grade entries using the Tab or arrow keys on their machines – real time savers.
Steer your cursor to the video below for a look at the teacher interface.
Watch for More
Our development team is hard at work, so be watchful. In the coming weeks, expect to see more site updates, including some heavily requested, whiz-bang features fashioned at the LightspeedConnect Hack-a-thon.
Update: September 24: At this time, YouTube is not forcing HTTPS (encrypted) connections. Therefore, schools using the Lightspeed Systems Rocket web filter may update their appliances to release candidates 2.7.10rc4 and 2.8.0rc8. In those updates, network staff will find a toggle to the Support Tools section – allowing a root administrator to switch between the old method of handling My Big Campus YouTube requests and the newer method that forces My Big Campus YouTube requests to Youtube EDU. We anticipate YouTube could begin forcing encryption again at any time, and these releases will allow your local administrators to respond quickly. Thank you for your patience as we work to adapt to changes outside our direct control.
Update: September 12: Per below, we added all My Big Campus videos to the Lightspeed Systems YouTube for Schools Admin playlist, and in doing so detected an undocumented limit to the number of videos allowed. Today we learned that only the 2,000 most-recently added videos will play. We are talking with Google/YouTube again to reach a resolution.
As you are probably aware, YouTube recently introduced a change in the way it streams videos to sites such as My Big Campus. For customers allowing YouTube access only through MBC (by virtue of integration with the Lightspeed Systems web filter), the YouTube change has kept many videos from playing in the library and bundles.
In technical terms, YouTube is now forcing HTTPS (encrypted) connections. The encryption sort of “cloaks” the video request and prevents the web filter from recognizing the video and allowing it to play. This move by YouTube is part of Google’s larger initiative to actively promote secure connections everywhere. See “Google to Give Priority Ranking to SSL-Enabled Sites” and the “HTTPS Everywhere” presentation at this year’s IO conference.
Working directly with our contacts at Google, we’ve developed a solution that will once again make it possible to play YouTube videos inside MBC, while still blocking users from accessing YouTube directly. There are three parts to this solution:
An update to the Lightspeed Systems web filter software to enable us to unblock the videos.
Adding every YouTube video in the MBC Library to Lightspeed’s “YouTube for Schools” playlist.
Redirecting YouTube video requests in MBC to Lightspeed’s “YouTube for Schools” account.
The web filter update is available now, and we recommend installing that update as soon as possible.
With more than 300,000 videos in the MBC Library, the playlist update will take a little longer to complete. We estimate that about two-thirds of those videos have already been added, and we are working to add the remaining ones as quickly as YouTube will allow. In addition, as you navigate to videos in the library, we will automatically add those to our playlist.
We appreciate your patience as we work on resolving the YouTube issue for our customers.
You may remember that hilarious TV commercial from one of the big box office supply stores, promoting their "Back to School" sale. It went something like this:
Back to School time is coming up fast for a lot of our customers, and in today's blog I'd like to encourage district administrators to start adding and updating users, groups, group rosters, and parents right away, rather than waiting until the new school term is about to start.
So, here are the Top 10 Reasons to start your SIS Imports now
You'll beat the rush. Over the past few years, we've observed that there's a huge spike in SIS Import activity right at the beginning of each new school term. While we continue to add capacity and bandwith for situations like these, the sudden influx of requests can cause backlogs ranging from hours to days, depending on how many other imports are in the queue.
You'll have time to validate and fine tune the process. Have you recently updated or replaced your SIS software? Are you a new administrator replacing someone who has moved on to another role? Is your district considering SIS Imports for the first time? Are you deploying Mobile Manager even if you're not planning to use My Big Campus? This is the time to work out the kinks and get one-on-one support from Lightspeed staff.
You don't have to wait until classes and schedules are finalized. Import the data you have now, and update it as needed -- the bulk of the import work will already be done by the time things settle down.
You'll avoid THE most common support question from your students: Why does it say I'm in grade/year n when I'm now in grade/year n+1? For students who are advancing a grade or year at the start of the term, it's easy to update their user accounts in My Big Campus to reflect their progress. If you're filtering the MBC Library by grade level, this is an essential update.
You'll have more time for the rest of your tasks. We recognize that My Big Campus is not your only job. You'll also be wrangling devices, schedules, enrollments, training and professional development, and all the other start-of-term tasks, in addition to what you already do to keep your IT infrastructure running smoothly. Take some of the pressure off by getting this one necessary task out of the way.
Your teachers will have extra time to prepare for the new term. With classroom groups already created, teachers will be able to organize resources, discussion prompts, assignments, and other activities -- just as they already do in their physical classrooms. If they're new to MBC and/or Mobile Manager, they'll also have some time for self-paced or guided training. And, they'll be able to reach out to the entire MBC community of professional educators to share tips and ideas.
Our support team is fresh, well rested, and ready to help. If the beginning of the school term is a hectic, intense time for all of us. And like you, we want to do our best to help every customer in a timely manner. That’s harder to do the closer we get to the first days of school.
There are so many new and exciting things to show you. We've been working hard to bring you the features and content you've been asking for. Updated training resources are coming online now, so with your SIS imports running smoothly, you and your teachers will be able to explore and use the great new tools we've added to both My Big Campus and Mobile Manager.
You can make SIS integration easier by signing up with Clever. We've partnered with Clever.com to provide dynamic integration between many popular Student Information Systems and MBC/MDM. We're providing this integration at no cost to our customers, because we believe it saves time and troubleshooting, and gives admins one less thing to worry about. Sign up here to get started, and we'll be in touch promptly.
You'll be a superhero to your staff and students. When things are running smoothly, people feel more confident about exploring new tools and technology. Be the confident, well organized leader your staff and students look up to, and measure your success with each breakthrough, each achievement you've made possible for them with My Big Campus and MDM.
Ready to get started?
Do-It-Yourselfers can follow the instructions in this Tech Note.
From time to time, I like to invite other educators to share their blogs with the larger My Big Campus community. Today, I'd like to turn the blog over to Jennifer Scott, a teacher at Compton Junior High School right here in Bakersfield, California.
Ying and Yang: The Power of Positive and Negative
Everyone wants to know they are valued and valuable.
This is true with children and adults. This is true with teachers and administrators. No one wants to be blamed for failure, and everyone wants their voices heard.
Sometimes, however, the negative voices are the loudest and most boisterous while the positive voices stay silent. I argue that both voices must be heard and honored.
Sometimes people, including teachers, just want to vent. The voices sound angry, but once they vent, they return to their true love - our precious children. Other times people, including teachers, become tired of venting and want change.
I am one of those people.
As a positive person I choose to work with the system instead of against it. I also choose not to remain silent.
I have been fortunate in my fourteen year teaching career. My colleagues and administrators have listened to me enough that I know I am valued. My colleagues, administrators, and students have challenged me on a daily basis to improve my teaching skills and methods. Some of my ideas are supported; most are shot down. But I am also stubborn. I refuse to be shut down. I listen to naysayers’ valid concerns and remold my failed plans. But
I refuse to play victim.
I recognize that the last statement may come across as offensive. The statement itself seems to blame the victim. That is far from what I intend. People who refuse to play victim recognize that they are a formidable force for change. They empower themselves and others around them.
Recently I used the “Don’t play victim” statement with a critical colleague of mine. While he and I rarely see eye to eye, I value his critical nature because all ideas must withstand criticism if they are to be successful. And, I know that he cares about the school because we attend the same weekly 6:45 am Friday Guiding Coalition meeting.
“I am waiting for the ACLU to win the lawsuit against the parents who send their children to schools across town,” he said, somewhat tongue-in-cheek in response to the new boundary changes that will impact our school.
“Don’t play victim,” I retorted. “If parent want to send their children to a 'so-called privileged' school, let’s win them back with a PR campaign that shows parents how awesome our school truly is. Let's use Twitter and the news media to show the world how awesome our students and teachers are.”
You see, a person who refuses to play victim recognizes that problems exist but also recognizes his or her own power to address those problems. It may take time, it may be draining, it may not be in our initial image of perfection, but change does occur.
A person who doesn’t feel valued does not feel powerful enough to make positive change.
Blame builds walls instead of inter-linking roads where true change occurs.
Constant negativity shuts down our allies.
Complaining is not bad. Thinking positively is not bad.
Shutting down each other is bad.
Everyone - students, parents, teachers, and administrators -
want to be respected and valued.
I choose to think positive in a cloud of grey because I want change to occur. I am not a yes-ma’am. I have been fortunate enough to have administrators who do not always agree with me but most definitely listen and challenge me. I refuse to sit in a meeting, as I have in the past, bottling my emotions. I refuse to become angry just because everyone else is angry. I refuse to shut up just because my voice is the minority.
If you are offended by a comment, ask for clarification. If you don’t agree with the direction of the school, respectfully voice your opinion - not just to your friends behind closed doors, but also to the ones you think possess the power. Listen to the opposing side, validate their concerns, and move forward together.
Positive teachers do not believe that everything is perfect, that we must hold hands and sing kumbaya, that we must follow our administrators like sheep. Rather, positive teachers recognize the power of positive thought, stubborn persistence, and working together.
Negative teachers equalize positive teachers. They make us re-evaluate our ideas and help us mold better ones that benefit everyone. As long as the negative voices are not the loudest and most boisterous, as long as those voices do not kill the dreams of aspiring teachers, as long as their love for their students still shines through, negative voices can be a powerful force.
Our schools need both voices - the positive and the negative - the ying and the yang - if we are to be successful. Neither should be shut down because, in the end,
everyone wants to know they are valued and valuable.
As the end of term break approaches, I'd like to share a few tips for administrators on managing student accounts on My Big Campus. Some of your students will be graduating or moving on to other schools or districts. Most will be advancing a grade or year level, and virtually all will have new teachers and classes.
Removing and graduating user accounts
You don't need to (and shouldn't) delete your student users at the end of every term. When you delete user accounts, all user content disappears — content that students and their parents may want to keep, particularly their files and photos. This is especially important for graduating seniors, whose digital portfolios will be valuable for job and college applications. You can also do this for teachers who retire or transfer out of your district.
District Administrators can manually upload a users.csv file that will disable access and remove accounts from your district, while still preserving student content. You'll find that option at the bottom of the SIS page on the Administration dashboard. Please note that this is not reversible -- only use this if you want to remove these users permanently from your district. After the import is complete, email the file to email@example.com, and we'll use it to add these accounts to the Alumni Portal so students will be able to access the content they've created in My Big Campus. Access to the Alumni Portal is free.
Updating student grade / year levels
One of the most common questions we get from students at the beginning of each school year is "I'm in grade / year x, but my profile says I'm still in grade / year y. How do I fix that?"
This isn't something the students can change from their Account Info page, however -- it must be done with a SIS import. First, make sure your student grade levels are updated in your Student Information System. Then create a new users.csv file with the updated student info, and import that into My Big Campus. The updated grade goes in column F, as shown in the following table.
US: Student grade level or year (1 through 12) Use 0 (zero) for Kindergarten, and -1 (minus one) for Pre-Kindergarten.
UK: Student year (1 through 12). Use -1 (minus one) for Reception, 0 for Year 1, 1 for Year 2, etc.
It's also easy to transfer students and teachers to new schools within your district. Update your SIS with the new information, then export a users.csv with the people who are changing schools. The updated school ID goes in column E, as shown in the following table.
To secure your groups from use while the group owner is away, remove students from all groups.
If your groups are auto-populated and memberships maintained with SIS imports, you can use a SIS import to remove group members. In the "memberships.csv" file, if the field unique_sis_group_id matches an existing group, the import will remove all existing users (except the group owner) from the group, and replace them with the list of users in the CSV file. Use "groups.csv" to create new groups or update an existing group with a new group owner. Specify existing group ID to overwrites group settings for existing groups; new unused group ID to create a new group.
If group owners maintain the group memberships, group owners can use the Group Maintenance tool to remove members.
NOTE for schools not integrated with the Lightspeed filter: If you have a standalone account and the students you've given accounts will no longer have you as a teacher, there's a bonus. When your students are removed from all groups, their policy will automatically change to lock down their accounts until they are added to a group again. They'll still be able to log in and browse the Library, but most social activities will be disabled.
Updating parent information
If you haven't already deployed the Parent Portal at your district, this is the perfect time to plan the rollout. This series of blog post explains what to do:
If you've already enabled the Parent Portal, you can update parent and child information from your SIS. Remember that parents log into the Parent Portal with their email address -- teachers who have children attending schools in your district will need to provide a personal email address, not their school email address.
Note: For parents with multiple students in the district, include each student on a separate row.
Important: Update your Emergency Contacts
When school lets out for the summer, MBC staff will continue to monitor user activity. Occasionally, they find posts that must be referred to local school or district administrators for action. When student safety is at stake, we need to be able to reach someone who can help. As your staff makes plans for summer vacation, make sure your emergency contacts are up to date, especially if you will be allowing students to use MBC over the summer break.
Make sure everyone on the list is available and willing to be contacted in case of a serious incident.
That's it for now. I'm eagerly awaiting the full launch of the newly redesigned schoolwork and mobile apps, and our staff is hard at work on training materials to ease the transition. As always, I welcome your comments and questions related to this blog post. I'll see you around Campus!
Find inspiration, lesson plans, professional development in the Bundle Exchange
As a staff user, when you click on Bundles you see the Bundle Exchange where you can search for inspiration, lesson plans, PD, and more by keyword, rating, popularity, state or common core standard, and more. Brooke Wheeler from Benjamin Bosse High School came up with a great idea for a Bundle: My teacher is absent! What should I do?. It's a fun and engaging lesson for her art classes that she can share with a substitute teacher for days when she can't be in class. And it's an easy idea to adapt for your own subject areas -- create your own, or find and adapt bundles by state standard, type (lesson plan / unit / project-based learning, etc.), or keyword.
Check out our Professional Learning Communities
The educator-only newsfeed EduTalk has come into its own as a source of ideas, questions and answers, and shoutouts from users in every corner of the US and abroad. Many teachers have already linked My Big Campus with their Twitter accounts, and tweets propagate automatically to EduTalk. You'll see "hoots" from experts like MBC Senior Coach Matt Kitchens, PBL practitioner Jason Seaver, and virtual education specialist Michele Eaton, among many others.
Finally, there's the MBC Trainers group. We created this group originally to host the first MBC Summer Academy, back in 2011, and it's become the go-to place for best practices, collaboration, technical discussions and expert help from certified MBC Coaches, MBC staff, and other MBC power users. You don't need to be an MBC expert to participate -- request to join, and group owner Merleen Johnson will even send you some goodies!
Got tips or feedback of your own?
Let me know in the Comments if you have a question, or would like to share a tip of your own. I always welcome your feedback related to the subject of this blog post.
We're already getting questions from school administrators about how to prepare for extended school breaks. I commend these admins for planning ahead :-)
I'll be blogging about best practices for end of term breaks over the next few weeks. Today, I'll talk about best practices to consider for managing student access to My Big Campus when teachers and staff may not be available to monitor student activity.
Even when school is out, a lot of students will still want to visit My Big Campus regularly. You can safely leave My Big Campus turned "on" for your students this summer if you wish. Students will appreciate the chance to explore the Library, use Bundles to build their digital portfolios, and practice their digital citizenship skills.
I want to assure administrators and teachers that even if your school is not fully staffed over the break, I and the rest of the My Big Campus team will be monitoring user activities, just as we do when school is in session.
Important: Update your Emergency Contacts
Even when school is out, MBC staff continue to monitor user activity. Occasionally, they find posts that must be referred to local school or district administrators for action. When student safety is at stake, we need to be able to reach someone who can help. As your staff makes plans for vacation, make sure your emergency contacts are up to date, especially if you will be allowing students to use MBC over the summer break.
Make sure everyone on the list is available and willing to be contacted in case of a serious incident.
Here are a few options and best practices to help you manage your users over the summer.
Option 1: Leave Everything as Is
Option 2: Remove Students from Groups
To secure your groups from use while the group owner is away, remove students from all groups.
If your groups are auto-populated and memberships maintained with SIS imports, you can use a SIS import to remove group members.
If group owners maintain the group memberships, the group owners can use the Group Maintenance tool to remove members.
NOTE: For users not integrated with the Lightspeed filter: If you have a standalone account and the students you've given accounts will no longer have you as a teacher, there's a bonus. When your students are removed from all groups, their policy will automatically change to lock down their accounts until they are added to a group again. They'll still be able to log in and browse the Library, but most social activities will be disabled.
Option 3: Adjust Student Policies
Through MBC Administration, you can adjust the policies for students at each school to disable any aspects of the site you don't want them using over the summer, such as student-to-student messaging.
Option 4: Disable Accounts
District and School administrators can disable accounts using policies. You'll see it as just another check box in the list. We hope this won't be necessary, and I want to assure you again that My Big Campus is monitored by my staff even during school breaks.
If this is your choice, however, here's how to turn off My Big Campus for all students, or for specific groups of students:
In the top right corner of the screen, click your name, select Administration, then click the Policies tab.
To disable all student accounts, left click the "All Students" policy and choose Edit.
Select (check) Disable all users that get this policy
If you only want to disable a subset of students, you can create a Custom Policy and assign it to MBC groups, Active Directory groups (requires Lightspeed filter integration), or individual students. This Tech Note explains how.
You don't need to (and shouldn't) delete your student users at the end of every term. When you delete user accounts, all user content disappears — content that students and their parents may want to keep, particularly their files and photos. This is especially important for graduating seniors, whose digital portfolios will be valuable for job and college applications.
You can disable these accounts using the procedure above, or you can upload a SIS file that will disable access and remove accounts from your district, while still preserving student content. I'll have more information on that in a later blog.
I'm interested in hearing from school admins and teachers about how you manage student access during breaks. Let me know in the Comments if you have ideas, tips, or questions related to the subject of this blog post.
Hi everybody! The school term is winding down again for our friends in North America. While students can look forward to a vacation, our developers are working full steam ahead on a series of enhancements that we'll be deploying throughout the next quarter.
We also know that educators will be wondering what's ahead, so today I'd like to share what's going on with Schoolwork. Those of you who attended the recent MBC Trainers Update webinar, as well as everyone who watched the recorded version, got a preview of some new features we're planning to introduce.
You'll be able to preview the updated Schoolwork features while we add the finishing touches to the interface. Here are some of the important things you should know:
The existing Schoolwork interface will continue to be available until the new Schoolwork interface is finalized in July.
There's no need to upgrade or migrate your existing schoolwork -- this update simply adds features and streamlines the work flow.
Some existing tasks haven't been updated yet, and must still be done in the old interface. These include:
These tasks will be fully operational by the time the new interface is complete.
To preview the new Schoolwork interface, look for the link at the top of current Schoolwork sections.
To get back to the "old" Schoolwork interface, click the Schoolwork icon in the left navigation bar.
New features for teachers
As teachers become more comfortable with online assessments, their expectations naturally grow. We've been listening, and we've added many of the features you have asked us for.
Here are some of the new things you'll be able to do:
Create and use rubrics -- you'll create these in your Drive, then add them to Essay and File Upload questions (rubric sharing coming too!)
See all submissions if a student takes a test more than once.
Rearrange questions within a question group -- just drag and drop to change the order
Automatically download attachments for one submission, or for the whole class
Mark individual student assignments as Missed or Excused
A new Group Admin option lets you connect submissions to your TurnItIn account to automatically screen essays for originality and proper citations.
New features for students
See upcoming, submitted, and graded assignments
Popup reminder if you try to submit a test with unanswered questions
Your feedback welcome (and desired)!
We've created a pair of discussions in MBC Trainers for educators to submit bug reports and feature requests. If you're not already a member of that group, you can request to join and our staff will add you promptly.
Note for students: These discussions are open to teachers and school staff members only. You can report any problems to your teachers, and they can pass those along to My Big Campus support.
That's just a sample of what's coming up, and I'll be talking more about specific features later. Keep watching my Blog for updates, and I'll see you around Campus!
Imparting knowledge is no small task. On any given weekday, educators are surrogate parents, traffic cops, and referees. They are judges, juries, and life coaches. They are cheerleaders, mentors, and the avid fans of youngsters placed in their care.
School boards, superintendents, and building-level administration call on educators to diagnose hardheaded hardware and pioneer teaching techniques using sophisticated software. They attend countless meetings on everything from curriculum changes and administrative policy to student special-education needs, parent conferences, and school fundraisers.
Educators plan lessons on the weekends and grade assessments well into most evenings – monitoring and adjusting instruction along the way. Many educators complete a full day's work in the classroom and then attend graduate courses at night through a local college or university – honing their teaching skills by furthering their own education.
And all of it is done while balancing the needs of their own families.
As far as educators are concerned, never mind the Peace Corps, teaching is the toughest job they will ever love.
My Big Campus salutes educators worldwide. We thank you for your countless hours of service to students and to your communities.
Students, I want to hear how the teachers in your life have inspired you at school and beyond. Please leave your "Teacher Appreciation" comments below, and watch my blog for updates. Don't want to leave a comment here? That's cool: Post a word of thanks on your teacher's wall, or send him/her a direct message.
Either way, take the opportunity to show your gratitude. Your kind words will mean the world to the educators who influence you each day.
My Big Campus will undergo scheduled maintenance on Friday, April 18, from 10pm to 12am Pacific Standard Time. Please save all your work and log out of MBC prior to the maintenance window. We apologize for any inconvenience.