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Case Study: Avon Grove School District
"PBworks has just become the way we do business here. I can't imagine us not using it."
1. What background information should people know about you and your organization?
The Avon Grove school district in Pennsylvania has over 300 teachers and 5,000 students across four schools (covering the entire K-12 continuum) and seven communities. We have a small but dedicated group of technology specialists who have helped move the district into a position of technology leadership.
2. Why did you start to use PBworks?
We have a group of instructional technology lead teachers, and at the time, we were focused on looking at the use of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. We started using a workspace, though it wasn't PBworks to begin with. We used a workspace as a leadership group to get a feel for it ourselves, so we could then move it to the classroom. One of the main uses was for organizing our meetings. We put the agenda, notes, and schedules all on the workspace. We were so excited about it because it meant the end of carrying a gazillion folders and sending a gazillion emails, and all the meeting information was archived on the workspace.
After a year of playing with workspaces, we progressed so that all of the curriculum leadership groups and the administrative group started using workspaces. That's when we moved to PBworks. It's much easier to use, it provided better security for our leadership group and for our curriculum development, where we needed the ability to restrict access to a smaller group. This was part of a district-wide focus on Web 2.0.
3. How are you using PBworks?
PBworks just took off like wildfire, and a big part of that is because of how easy it is to use PBworks. It's so similar to what we do in Word that the teachers just took to it. They were looking for mechanisms for having kids collaborate online, and PBworks was just so much easier than other tools like the blogging services. They use PBworks as their homepage, they post their homework assignments...part of the reason we have such broad adoption is that we have teachers, leaders, and administrators using it. Each of our schools has their own workspace. Principals post their announcements and even embed their school calendars.
Our teachers and students have also evolved creative ways of using it in the classroom. For example, at Fred S. Engle Middle School, the students are composing stories online, and documenting Social Studies research in workspaces to make it easier for children to keep working on their assignments when they are home.
4. Why did you buy Campus Edition?
There were two key reasons for us.
One, we wanted all our teachers to have access to the tool, so unlimited workspaces was a must.
Two, we also wanted additional security for important content, such as the ongoing curriculum development work.
5. How did you train your users on how to use PBworks?
We have instructional technology specialists--essentially coaches--to help with the integration of technology in the classroom. We also have literacy and math coaches. We also have lead teacher groups. So we started with the leadership--the administrators, the coaches, and the lead curriculum teachers.
We created a leadership group of 100 people who were on site, and could help people out who were in the same building. We also did afterschool training so that people had support. PBworks is one of the easiest things we've trained on, so that helped. One unusual fact about our district is that we set aside daily time for teacher collaboration, and we used that time to help teachers become used to the tool.
Besides support, we also had strong leadership. Administrators knew the tool, administrators were held accountable for using the tool, and administrators were held accountable for helping teachers adopt the tool. With the principals using PBworks for their communications, the teachers had to use the tool.
A final thing that helped us is the support we got from Pat Sine from the Office of Educational Technology at the University of Delaware. It's important for a school to have support from someone who is current and knowledgeable in all the new technologies and techniques. Pat helps me in mapping out our long-range plans. She's pushing on us and helping us to keep moving forward and stay as current as we can. For example we're outfitting our intermediate schools with smartboards and projectors, and the folks from the University of Delaware will help us map out the training plan for that rollout. That's something a lot of school districts don't take advantage of, and the folks at Delaware have been overjoyed to be able to help us.
6. How has PBworks benefited you and your organization?
It has really opened the doors with communications...if you want to know what's going on, go to the workspace. Go to the Science workspace, and you can see what we're working on. If you have feedback, leave it on the page. It has allowed everyone to have access to and provide feedback on everything we're doing with the curriculum.
It's also extended the learning environment. For example, I get notifications whenever anyone makes edits, and I'll see kids writing on the weekend, just because they want to. Isn't that great?
7. What are folks saying about PBworks?
What you would hear from teachers is how easy PBworks makes it to communicate and collaborate with each other. PBworks has just become the way we do business here. Teachers see how much it helps them with communicating with students and parents, and internally with each other. I can't imagine us not using it.
I was talking with our lead teachers recently, and we discussed how far we've come in the past few years. This year, it was hard to recruit people for our annual technology fair simply because it's such a part of our daily lives that they don't think it's anything new!
To view some of Avon Grove's publicly visible workspaces, visit their "Resources for Teachers" web page. There, you'll be able to see how Avon Grove uses PBworks for things like curriculum development, new teacher induction, and peer coaching.
Want to bring PBworks to your school or district? Talk with a product specialist by calling 866-945-4463 (+1 (415) 963-4369 outside the US) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.