Hello, Teacher Friends!
My name is Katie Brown and I am a public school teacher in Orlando, Florida. I teach 8th grade language arts and am the language arts department chair for my school. I am also a digital teacher leader in my county, which means I model technology usage in the classroom for other teachers. And I have a Masters degree from Quinnipiac University in Educational Leadership, with an emphasis in digital learning.
(DISCLAIMER: I do not glow like this in real life.)
I tell you all this because it’s what I want to know about other teachers when they start giving me advice. What in the world do YOU know about it?! is often my first thought when I sit in a conference or workshop and someone is trying to introduce me to a classroom tool. While I work for a really great school district (and one of the largest in the country!), it’s no secret among teachers that one of the most frustrating parts of utilizing classroom management tools or learning management systems in our classrooms is that they are often created and pushed out by people at the top of the education food chain. And more often than not, those people tend to have been removed from the classroom for quite a while, if they were ever in it to begin with.
So, before we go any further, you should know that I am a teacher. First and foremost, forever and ever, amen. I love teaching. I love lesson planning. I love creating activities and assignments. I love data. I love other teachers. But, more than any of those things, I love students. I love seeing them perk up in a classroom when they finally – FINALLY – understand something. They sit up straighter in their seats, write or type a little faster than before, and might even be coerced into answering a question out loud in class. (I teach middle school, remember? Coercion is practically built into my lesson plans!)
I think that’s the frustration that I have with the education system today. It isn’t always student centered. In fact, teachers often have to go out of their way to make sure their students are at the center of their classroom, and no where is this more apparent than in our standardized assessment process. I’m one of those weird, mythical unicorns in education because I happen to love data. But what I don’t love is that data is often a product of how a student felt on a particular testing day and that frustrates me. My students demonstrate more of their understanding to me gradually on a day-to-day basis in my classroom than they do on the spot with a bubble sheet in front of them. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought to myself, if I could quantify what I am observing in my classroom?
And that goes right along with my friend, Dr. Robert Marzano, whom I call in my head, Dr. Bobby. (SIDE NOTE: One time, I put a picture of Dr. Bobby as the wallpaper on my teacher computer in my classroom, kind of as a joke – Sorry, Dr. Bobby – and my students kept asking all day, “Is that your dad?” Ha!) Dr. Bobby says that in order for a teacher to be INNOVATING (those of us in Marzano districts just shivered a little there), we have to know where every student in the classroom is on the standards-based scale at any given moment in a classroom.
I don’t know about you, but my classes are full, busy, and constantly active, making it really difficult for me to accurately assess and, especially, track where every student is on the scale. And that’s where ClassMax was born. I needed a way to track what I was recording at a glance in the classroom. I needed it to be simple, no more than a few clicks, and I needed it to be useful data, instead of me just running to my spreadsheet at the end of every class period or (more likely) at the end of the day, trying to recall what I had seen that day in my students.
So, I drew this is a notebook:
And then I showed it to my husband when I got home from school, and said, “I think this would be useful to teachers.” To which he responded (God bless his sweet, supportive soul), “Okay, what else would you want it to do?”
I spent the next week thinking about all the simple things I had to track in my classroom that a) made my teaching better b) took time away from my teaching and c) was required reporting for my school or district. If I was going to be tracking progress on standards, why not start tracking everything in one place? By the end of the week, I had identified three different areas that were necessary for on-the-spot tracking in my classroom:
- Standards-based progress monitoring
- Accommodations usage
Once I had a concrete idea in place, my husband, Chris, and I began forming our company and our web development team. We have spent the past three months turning my little notebook into a functioning platform for teachers that “maximizes classroom success.” (Pretty great tag like, right?!)
In the past two or three weeks, things have started coming together and I am beginning to see my silly little hand drawings come to life.
Progress Monitoring went from the picture above to this: (No standards or text has been added to my working prototype yet, so ignore that weird Latin. Yours will be in English!)
Accommodations tracking went from this:
Behavior tracking went from this:
And the overall look of the dashboard went from this:
I am so proud of our team and what we have put together because every square inch of this classroom management system is made for teachers. It is easy, quick, reliable data reporting that actually saves time in the classroom. And what teacher doesn’t need more time?!
Over the next week, I’ll be explaining and profiling different features of ClassMax here on the bloggity blog. We’ll be taking a look at the three primary features – progress monitoring, accommodations usage, and behavior tracking – but we’ll also look at other features we have added to just make life easy, like our seating chart creator, student grouping ability, hall pass monitoring, and bell sync technology.
I’m so excited to share this product with you. Not only will it help us be INNOVATING teachers, not only will it help us save time in our classrooms, not only will it help organize meaningful data, but first and foremost, it is going to make us better teachers. It’s going to maximize our classroom success, and I don’t mean that as a tag line.
Although, it’s a pretty darn good tag line, isn’t it?
HAPPY TEACHING, TEACHER FRIENDS!
If you haven’t already, head over to www.classmaxapp.com and sign up to be notified when ClassMax launches in a few short weeks!