By: Mike Rutherford, High School Technology Coordinator and Librarian at International School Bangkok, Thailand
As a 6th grade English Language Arts teacher at International School Bangkok, I had my hands full, as every middle school teacher knows! I was teaching 108 students and was responsible for helping them meet or exceed our grade level standards as readers, writers, speakers, and listeners. With 108 students, I was struggling to manage all the data related to teaching and learning. The amount of time I spent finding and then having to organize information was astonishing.
Key student data was all over the place: I had students’ papers where I provided feedback on their writing, my notes from conferencing with students on their reading, information from counselors about certain students’ needs, standardized test scores, parent information, phone numbers, email addresses, emails from parents, student journal entries, Individualized Educational Plans (IEP), accommodation plans, allergy or other health information, etc. This amounted to an average of 17 disparate sources of information about each student that I had to manage. Multiply that by 108 students and that is 1,836 pieces of information. And, that number was not static, because students are constantly creating more data (work) every class period. Additional assignments with feedback, conversations to capture, goals, emails, scoring tools/rubrics, and reading logs. This number kept increasing at an exponential pace.
There was one other time in my life I felt like I was drowning in data, which was when I was working in sales and marketing in the private sector. I was marketing to 250,000 prospects across the United States via email and direct mail. With that many prospects, I was unable to manually keep track of who was sent what, when they called, what was discussed, and what they purchased. So, I had turned to Salesforce to help manage all the data from these prospects.
Fast forward six years later and I am again drowning in data, but in a very different setting – as a classroom teacher. After a year and a half of struggle, I had had enough, and realized – couldn’t I use Salesforce to solve this similar problem I had a few years ago? So, I moved to Salesforce.org Education Cloud for K-12 to create a classroom database to track all 17 disparate data sources I had for all my students. I applied my prior experience in constituent relationship management (CRM) from sales to an educational setting.
How Salesforce for K-12 Enables Student Success
I’ve been in the education world nearly my entire life, as a student, teacher, administrator, business person, and now a teacher again. Being in education, I have heard the words “transformative educational technology” used often. But this time, it was different. Salesforce changed how I approached teaching and learning. The ease with which I could capture and analyze data freed me up to spend more time actually teaching and providing feedback to my students on their learning.
With Salesforce, I was putting all of my student’s work into one place. When I needed to see the feedback I had provided a student on their writing or reading from a previous conversation, I was able to easily access it. This allowed me to immediately see if they had demonstrated their learning on the current assignment, and we could set goals for the future. At parent-teacher conferences, I didn’t show parents their children’s grades, I showed them what they had learned and gave them examples of their growth as readers and writers. I had such a rich portfolio of student work accessible in Salesforce for each student that I could show the parents, teachers, and the students themselves all their work with the click of a button.
Here’s an example (note that this is not an actual student, for privacy protection):
Thanks to Salesforce, I became the go-to resource for teachers’ team meetings for information about our students. What is Jimmy reading now? Does anyone have the email Mrs. Gonzalez sent us? What does it say about Phong in his accommodation plan? How is Mina’s writing progressing? Who does Paula have for Spanish? How did Augusta do on her reading assessment? I had all of this information available immediately by opening my students’ Salesforce records.
Sharing Best Practices in K-12 Data Management
At our next team meeting, two colleagues approached me and asked, “How are you getting that student information so fast?” I showed them the student learning database I created in Salesforce, and they were sold. Given that we taught the same students, I was able to add them as users and shared the necessary static data regarding the student profiles. We then met and designed what they needed as math teachers, which was different than what I needed as an English teacher. We set up each of their units as sections so they could find what they needed quickly. We realized that the notes and feedback we were putting into Salesforce about our students was also important for our Learning Support teacher to access, so we added her as well. We created profiles and roles so that the English teachers and math teachers could share necessary data, but that the records were partitioned, so I did not have to see math assignments while I was teaching English. This tool transformed my ability to manage student learning data for myself and my colleagues, allowing me to be very efficient and spend more time on the craft of teaching.
I am excited to share my story because I want you to know that you can do it, too. Learn more about Salesforce for K-12 education.
About the Author
Mike Rutherford is the High School Technology Coordinator and Librarian at International School Bangkok (ISB) in Thailand. He is responsible for the needs of the high school in regard to technology and the library – which he thinks is a ridiculously fun job! He uses Salesforce and Pardot to solve all kinds of challenges at ISB. He is currently working with high school students to learn to use these powerful tools. Prior to this year, Mike was teaching 6th grade English Language Arts and Social Studies.