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Guest Post: How I Trained My Teachers

Kristen Hughes

Student Data Coordinator at South Ripley Community School Corporation

Guest Post: How I Trained My Teachers

When it comes to implementing new technology, an enthusiastic staff can set the tone for a positive experience. Kristen Hughes, student data coordinator at South Ripley Community School Corporation in Versailles, Indiana, was kind enough to share a behind-the-scenes look at her approach to teacher training.

When I was hired as South Ripley’s student data coordinator in April 2016, I took on an assortment of duties, all related to student information. State filing and reporting, distributing usernames and passwords for programs, and creating rosters for testing programs took up the bulk of my time. But after just two months in my new role, I had another project on the horizon: guiding South Ripley through the transition to a new student management system.       
I had spent two months getting comfortable with our existing SIS when I found out we would be selecting and implementing a new one. Our existing system was antiquated. It has served us well, but there was a lot we wanted to do but couldn't – and I believe we were the only school corporation in Indiana still using it. Data is a huge part of my job, so I’m thankful I was able to attend SIS demos, visit neighboring schools, and interact with software vendors prior to the final decision. I got to be a voice in the selection of our new SIS, and for me, Skyward was a no-brainer.
I previously worked in the software development world, so I’m comfortable with implementations and I became the go-to person for this project. Once the decision to go with Skyward was made, I started preparing for our first internal teacher training. This initial training would be a high-level overview with the primary objective of helping teachers see what’s possible. Nobody likes change, but my job is to get my teachers excited.
I started by taking some PDC courses – the Educator Access + and gradebook courses were most helpful at this stage. I’m a huge fan of SkyDoc, too. I watched tons of videos, read the documentation, and highlighted important material. The information is very detailed, and I enjoy using the search feature to find what I need. I love that you can access SkyDoc through the support site, too.

Once I knew my way around the system, I got our training database set up. I created different scenarios so teachers would be able to see what common tasks look like, such as entering a discipline incident, accessing information for students in special education, and taking attendance. Then, I wrote a script that outlined everything I wanted to cover in the initial training session, which I highly recommend to anyone who leads training sessions.
By this time, everybody was hearing about Skyward, Skyward, Skyward, but they still didn’t really know what it could do. We have a late-arrival professional development day every month, and our first internal Skyward training was set for that date in April. I wanted to start by showing the teachers all the bells and whistles, from improved parent communication tools to mobile access to managing activities online – all things they couldn't do with our existing system.
In that first training, I also wanted teachers to know that there’s no wrong way to access information. You can take attendance in 3 different spots; you can get to the student profile 15 different ways. It’s how you feel most comfortable doing it. After the teachers got to see all the cool new features during the first session, they gave a round of applause! They’re extremely excited about everything Skyward has to offer.
After the training, we sent out PDC login information so the teachers could dive right in and get their feet wet. Then in July, we’ll offer four separate sessions with a Skyward rep that teachers can attend voluntarily. We’ll hold additional training sessions on the first teacher work day in August. It’s up to the teachers to be proactive and ask any questions they have, but I will be present at each of these sessions to help make sure we learn as much as possible.
My best advice? Be upfront and honest with your teachers. Be clear that a software migration will be happening, and involve them in making the selection. I can’t tell you how important that is – I got to be a voice in the selection of Skyward, and so did our teachers. Also, if districts can name one person to oversee the implementation, that’s key. It’s not a one-person show – the entire district has to be engaged and involved – but that can go a long way in maintaining good organization and clear communication.
Every software conversion has its challenges, but if you stay focused on what your staff will be able to do, your ducks will fall into a row.


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