Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why Skedula Fails to Make the Grade

My esteemed fellow blogger, NYC Educator, has written a couple of posts about the new online grading system that is being shoved down everyone's throats. If you don't know about it, it's called Skedula and it's supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread. For the reasons why it's not even better than moldy bread, you can read NYC's posts here and here.

For the record, I agree with NYC. Skedula sucks. It is cumbersome and unwieldy. The menus are hard to navigate and it is anything but intuitive. Before Skedula, I had used 3 other online grading systems, and all of them were far superior. Like NYC, I was able to master those systems in short order just by playing around with them. With Skedula, we needed extensive training just to get up and running. Worse still, the trainer from Skedula was a former city teacher who either was bounced from the DOE for incompetence or dropped repeatedly on his head as a baby, because he was about the worst trainer I have ever seen. He let the teachers (his students for the purposes of the training) dominate the discussion, with the result that pretty much no one understood the system any better than before we were trained.

NYC Educator was surprised with the number of comments he received on those posts, and so was I. It appears possible that Skedula has a swarm of PR people who seek out negative comments about their program and flood sites with testimonials about how if Skedula were human, they'd french kiss it. Who is spending all this time and money to push this program on city schools--and why?

One thing I do know is that Skedula is rife with potential for abuse. For example, my principal confirmed to my chapter leader that he has access to ALL incoming emails to teachers. Imagine the problems this might cause. If a parent has a private issue with a teacher, does the principal really need to see it? Does the parent know that these supposedly private communications are being sent to the principal? What if a parent writes to a teacher to complain about a school policy, or worse still, the principal himself?

To the best of my knowledge, emails written by teachers to parents do not automatically get sent to the principal, but a function is already built into the system one way--it's not to much of a stretch that a principal might, at some point, get both incoming AND outgoing emails.

Another problem with Skedula is that it is far too open. Other teachers in your school can see not only your grades, but also your anecdotal records (my understanding is that this is the default and can be changed, but who knows that, or how to do it?) You'd be wise to be careful when writing anecdotals, as its about as private as Facebook, only with more obscure controls.

I'm still pretty new to Skedula, but it already seems quite problematic. I want my emails and anecdotal records private. I don't want everyone in the building to have the ability to see what I am doing. I don't want admins checking to see how often I update my grades, or how often I log in.

How long will it be before someone gets removed from a classroom because of something that was said or done on Skedula? I'm betting we'll see that happen before too long.


BronxEnglish said...

Mr. Talk, you are one hundred percent correct.  Skedula is a pain in the butt to use, and what's more, if students are switched from one class to another, ALL the data you entered in the gradebook disappears.  Seriously?  Like I don't have enough to do, that I have to now duplicate information?  I gave up last year and am back using Gradekeeper.  That's not ideal either, but it's better than Skedula.

Guest said...

>> I don't want admins checking to see how often I update my grades...

Why not?  In all the non-DOE schools I've taught, admins were expected to check teacher gradebooks.

And I'm glad that admins have access to your school emails to parents or students.  There are already too many teachers who have private, inappropriate communications with their students -- transparency is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I also do not like it.

It is hard to figure out how to use it as it is not user friendly. You have to ask how to find out how to do almost everything: how to contact guidance, how to set up course requirements, etc.

I have no problem with accepting change, but Daedalus, which we used before, was easier to use.

One thing I do like about Skedula is having the opportunity to look up every student at the school which comes in handy doing college recommendations for former students, but it does not list when you had the student since your name isn't there. That makes it hard for you to check the grade.

They need to revamp much of this "wonderful" source.

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree, Skedula is very difficult and over burdening to use, for both, teachers and students. I embraced the program, spent countless hours (on my own time) in an attempt to become 'proficient' in the program, thinking it would be a great time saver. It is not. The program is very time consuming, not user friendly, does not lend it self well toward differentiation of use by teachers at all and is actually far more of burden then help! For those of us who teach the same students in all course areas, it is a nightmare! The program does not allow for a 'homeroom' class, and we are continually toggling back and forth between our 'different classes' for everything. The program is set to track students on one level only, if one teaches students with varied ability levels, tracking progress is not possible. When the internet is down, or insanely sluggish (which is very frequently) it becomes a nightmare! Additionally, student anecdotal notes are and should be a personal, private place for a teacher to note and document issues and concerns, and keep track of information... not a public forum. The program is a great 'idea', but unfortunately, it needs a lot of work and 'tweaking' to be the 'effective' program it is supposed to be. I wish for once, actual classroom teachers who had to use these systems daily would be consulted... then we might actually have a useful system!

Anonymous said...

Skedula is a tool. I used it as a teacher for 3 years and found it helpful and empowering. It allowed me to communicate with everyone better. I can see that teachers that do not keep good records or have questionable communication practices might not like to see light shed on these aspects of their job. Skedula is not Facebook just like your Outlook Account with the DOE is not the same as your Gmail account.

Ancedotals are not automatically shared with all staff members but in my opinion in all but a few rare cases they should be. Administrators can and should see anecdotals, just as they should see grades, students work, lessons and all aspects of student's education.

Data from classes is not lost when students are moved from one class to another. Your assignments are different than those of other teachers and you would not want them to transfer. Datacation keeps those records and can access them upon request. Perhaps if a feature was build into the software that archived former students and allowed teachers to view their data would be helpful.

Harold Phair said...

Skedula is not a grade book. Skedula brings several sources of data into one platform.This data can be used to help students correct a math or ELA skill that is preventing them from improving their performance. The Help Site provides videos and written instructions on how to use Skedula. If you can't learn this system in a couple of weeks, you are probably not suited for this profession. Stop the whinning.