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Schoology program helps ISD 192 teachers share ideas, students share study tips online

A new program being used by Farmington School District 192 is a lot like the social media site Facebook, but this social site is set up just for teachers, students and parents.

District 192 started using the Schoology program at the beginning of the school year, according to Charles Duarte, head of the instructional technology division of Farmington schools. Each student and teacher in the district has his or her own individual username and password, which were created prior to the launch of Schoology.

Whereas social media sites enable users to reach out to the public, Schoology is limited to those in the Farmington school system. That means teachers can share homework assignments with students, and they can share the coursework with other teachers in the district. And that's just one of the many features offered.

"This has a very academic focus. It's built with the intent to be used in the education setting, so there are a lot of great ways for students to submit work in a paperless fashion, and for teachers to post work and make comments," Duarte said.

Teachers have options to open portions of their work - curriculum, questions and so on - to other teachers outside of Farmington but within the Schoology program. However, at no time is student information shared with anyone outside of Farmington schools, and no student is able to see another student's personal coursework.

"There are some pretty nice privacy settings there, which is good in terms of protecting students," Duarte said.

Teachers have the ability to post assignments on Schoology, and students have the option of completing those particular pieces online. Teachers can also set up online discussion groups with students and answer questions.

There is also a student-to-student component that Duarte likes. That part enables students to give each other study tips, encouragement and a place to work together on projects. Farmington schools now has a student help forum on Schoology, which enables students to post questions, and other students to answer.

"This has really put us on a path of creating a community that extends beyond the four walls of the classroom," Duarte said.

The comments posted by students are closely monitored, as well, to ensure no cyber-bullying happens. If a student posts something negative or inappropriate, the school administration has the ability to identify that individual and address the incident with the student.

Parents are able to access their own student's activity on Schoology, so they can see homework assignments and know when big tests are coming up.

"The district spent a lot of time taking a look at a variety of management systems. We wanted a system that allowed for online collaboration, but we also wanted that interaction between students and teacher, teacher to teacher and student to student. A lot of different systems were offered, but Schoology seemed to offer what we were looking for. I feel confident in saying we're very pleased with the choice," Duarte said.

As Farmington schools move toward implementing iPads in the classrooms, using seems to be a natural fit, he added.

"The two definitely work together ... with the mobile learning and access to mobile environments. Schoology is really going to fill that need for us. It can be accessed through the Internet, or an app on the iPad," Duarte said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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