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Roots Director of Operations and Innovation Provides an Overview of Creating Tech Tools

Roots Director of Operations and Innovation, Jill Tew, shares how the school has worked to create and develop custom applications to support integrations and student and teacher workflow.


Transcript: Jill Tew: the first thing that we did this year was build some really rigorous and robust analysis tools for them so in thinking about the way that we do instruction and think about assessments and measuring scholar growth here at Roots, we have our own set of internally developed learning standards which really take every content area – math, reading, writing, science – and breaks it down into chunks throughout the year that ultimately add up to common core standards for end-of-year mastery, sometimes a little bit more rigorous than that, depending on the content area. But in order to do that, we really needed to have tools that would, A – mimic those sort of mastery-based levels that we have instead of a more traditional scope and sequence of saying on this date, all the kids are going to learn about matter. It’s much more adjusted and much more calibrated to a more mastery way of looking at the world. The other thing is that if we’re going to have teachers looking at data really, really deeply across their content area, but also digging deeply into certain strands so, which of my scholars are having trouble with the rhyming – maybe even a specific sound of rhyming – maybe it’s eight – I’m having trouble rhyming eight. And so, building a tool that would actually facilitate that level of deep analysis – because if you want teachers to be able to get to that level of detail when they’re thinking about their groupings – groups can be so small here at Roots and so intentionally designed – you need a tool that’s going to get to that level of detail to empower the teacher to be able to look at that data at that level and say, “Okay, these five kids all have trouble with the same objective, so I’m going to pull these five kids into a group” – to make that decision quickly and to give them lots of support as they’re learning the tool early in the year. I did a lot of kind of sitting side-by-side with them, answering questions – also debugging. There are a lot of bugs. We build a lot of this in-house which meant we were using rather than building kind of a separate software solution – using the Google Suite of products to be able to create this in a kind of pulling the best pieces of Google Suite to create this tool together. So, really it’s kind of a mish-mash of Google forms and Google sheets that we’ve built this using, and so there’s a lot of opportunity for me to go in and add new sheets when the teacher says, “Hey, this visualization actually works a lot better for me” or “Let me show you how I’m thinking about this. Can we have a spreadsheet or a sheet in this workbook that does it this way?” and then I’ll kind of spend some time thinking about it, put them together a prototype and kind of flash it to them and say, “Hey, is this what you were thinking?” So, I’ve had a couple of examples where me – not coming from the educational world and not ever having been a teacher – I ask a lot of questions to understand how teachers think about grouping, what kinds of information is important to them, and how they need to see it in order to be the most effective teacher they can be.

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