At the beginning of the one-to-one iPad program last year, there was an application that has been recently discontinued: Haiku Learning. It has been replaced by Veracross and eBackpack. This was a decision made by Mr. Crowley (Director of Technology), Mrs. Quinn (Middle School Principal), Miss Schwobel (Technology Coordinator & Librarian), and other officials last summer.
One of the interesting things about this choice is that FCS was using Veracross during the 2013-2014 school year, but thought Haiku would be a better program in the long run. However, after returning from a Veracross conference this summer, Mr. Crowley learned about new Veracross features and amenities that were not available when the school had used it. After sharing this information with fellow staff members, Miss Schwobel said “it was a no brainer” to switch back to Veracross.
Miss Schwoebel shared, “Throughout last school year, we, the Tech Department, had been getting mixed feedback from community members about Haiku. Recurring comments seemed to be that dropbox feedback was not supported on the iPad, and the app navigation was confusing and didn’t work very well. Teachers mentioned the gradebook feature was not as robust as on Veracross. We were piloting Haiku during the ‘13-’14 school year and hoping this could be a permanent program, but it just didn’t work out.” Schwoebel also explained, “Teachers really expressed interest last year to digitally annotate or ‘mark up’ documents and hand them back to students electronically. eBackpack does that really, really well!” In closing, Schwoebel admitted she was originally hired because of her familiarity with Veracross, and she is excited to be working with this program again.
eBackpack, on the other hand, is a different story. The school planned to implement eBackpack this year regardless of Haiku because of its exceptional dropbox features. Ms. Davis, foreign language teacher & eighth grade advisor, admitted, “I am still learning eBackpack. I like eBackpack better [than Haiku] because you can digitally submit, correct, and return documents, which was not possible on Haiku. I like Veracross, because as a teacher we have all of our assignments & grades in one spot, and students can view them all in one spot. I am glad they made the switch.” Similarly, Mr. Barry, sixth grade science teacher and advisor, stated, “I like eBackpack and Veracross. The flow of work makes more sense. It allows students to keep better track of their assignments. It is just more user friendly. Turning in homework is great on eBackpack. I didn’t use Haiku much. It was fine as a website, but not for assignments and posting homework.”
Gordon Wilcox, eighth grade student, said, “I felt frustrated because I was just getting into the rhythm of Haiku, and than we changed programs. Overall, I think this is a more efficient system, and it will help us get our grades back easier.” Evan Sweitzer, eighth grade student and musical genius, prefers the new system over the old. “I disliked Haiku because it was hard for me to turn in my assignments. Also, it was hard having to import documents into many different apps just to turn them in. I am glad the school made the change, because it shows they listen to our feedback, and tried to do something about it.” However, Oona Pierre, an eighth grade student and Dr. Who fan, and Jane Whelan, an eighth grade student who used to serve on the Student Leadership Council, disagree with Davis, Barry, Wilcox and Sweitzer. Oona argues, “I liked how on Haiku, we were able to view our assignments in the same place as we turn them in.” Whelan adds simply, “I liked Haiku.”
I am glad Friends’ Central made this change. I struggled with following the steps of turning in assignments and viewing my nightly homework assignments. Sometimes I felt as though in certain classes, teachers spent more time explaining the computer program than the assignment! I think the new system is much more efficient and more self-explanatory. These are key elements in educational technology.
Feel free to comment, and share your view on the whole technology switch!