Friday, February 11, 2011

Why Some Teachers Hate SharePoint

Ok, maybe this piece is long overdue. Like the elephant in the room that no one will talk about.

Why do some teachers say they hate sharepoint? Because a lot of teachers have told me they hate it.

I have done some fairly extensive research on the topic. By research, what I mean is I show up to work, and I am accosted by a teacher in the hall who can't wait tell me that they hate SharePoint today. After some critical thinking, and and little Q and A, this is what I have been able to distill. When someone says, "I Hate SharePoint", I hear them saying:

1.) I don't hate SharePoint - I hate that I have had to write a new website every year for the past three years. Plus, if I learn how to create a SharePoint site now, won't everything be different next year, making what I have learned obsolete?

2.) I don't hate sharepoint - I don't have an extensive technical vocabulary, so I don't know how to describe what I want to do. I can picture it in my head, but not describe it.

3.) I don't hate sharepoint - I thought I knew how to do something simple (like change my contact information on my main teacher page), but when I attempted it I got an unexpected result, and I can't figure out why it didn't work. This frustrates me.

4.) I don't hate SharePoint - I am worried that if I attempt to do something myself, either it won't work, or I will do something so terrible, it cannot be undone. It is better to put it off rather than tempt fate.

5.) I don't hate sharepoint - I need help finding an option that is in a menu, but I am not familiar with the menus.

6.) I don't hate SharePoint - I hate that my students don't go to my site, or very few of them go to my site, so why did I bother building it?!?

7.) I don't hate SharePoint - I hate learning about SharePoint as it is an area outside my comfort zone, and it causes me a lot of anxiety because I am worried about how much I will have to learn just to get started.

8.) I don't hate SharePoint - I just love my Mac. And there are a lot more Mac's out there than people realize. I am a Mac user at home too.

9.) I hate SharePoint - well, there is always one in a crowd, isn't there?

Currently the district invests a great deal of money in SharePoint. It also invests money in training key individuals at the top in how to do anything and everything you could possibly want to do with SharePoint. They spend money sponsoring Learning Teams and Learning Groups, where mentor teachers get some paid time and teachers get some classroom coverage to learn new skills, such as the use of SharePoint or other kinds of technology in their classrooms. I think this is money well spent.

Is SharePoint perfect? No. Does it take a lot of time to learn? It depends. SharePoint can be like one of those bloated swiss army knives that is so thick with tools it is unusable.

I think the key to making SharePoint more widely accepted is as follows:

1.) Implement SharePoint 2010 over summer break and let everyone know that they don't have to do anything - the district will do it for them. (I know the district plans to roll out SP 2010 with no teacher effort required)

2.) Implement SharePoint 2010 over summer break, as it is easier to edit, and is Mac friendly.

3.) Don't change anything for a couple of years. No moves, no version changes. Change nothing. Let everyone get used to the same website for a couple years. Let some people choose to set up their sites and do nothing with them for a couple years if that is their wish. But I think people will begin to feel comfortable with their sites in this era of stability, and be more motivated learn more about their sites, and try new new ideas and web parts on their own time.

4. ) If kids are not coming to your website, it probably isn't a lack of bling. Or games. Or buzzers. It may be because kids don't need to go there, or kids don't have a role in the website. Figure out what kids need and what parents need. Then put that on the site, and not much else. Forget about being fancy.

One teacher is going to change the animation on her site every couple of days, and offer incentives to kids who can tell her what the new one is. While this might get kids looking at the animation on her site, will they be exploring the other content there? I don't think they will.

I am going to do some thinking and asking around and find out what kids and parents need from their site, and then post on it. Think you know what parents and kids need on a classroom website? Please comment - I will post it.


5 comments:

jbellsd60 said...

Have you tried moodle? 7 years in our district and little costs, all learning opportunities haven't incurred extra costs, integrates flawlessly into AD, no CALs or licensing to pay for, very flexible, can be used for class websites, or collab pages, PAC discussion groups (no licensing for including parents into things)... We can't afford sharepoint and I'm not sure why we would other than to offer it as an option for teachers, but if you can afford sharepoint, why not offer moodle as an option for teachers?

Michal said...

I think you did a great job with the post!
I know I was ready to wring SP's neck when I first became site contact...I built 2 websites for one school in a year, and then had to start up new websites for 2 other schools the following year. Silver lining: that ended up being great 'hands on' learning. :)
Like you said, hopefully no version changes happen for a couple of years to give teachers time to get comfortable with it.

Olga said...

You are a good teacher to be so patient and willing to teach the teachers. You are on to something--it is all about the fear of the unknown. Be gentle with them (as it sounds like you are.)

Dave said...

Thanks for your thoughts James. I certainly concur with many of your personal and other's challenges with Sharepoint. I am wondering if Sharepoint is really the "tool" we need?
There are so many amazing 2.0 tools out there (eg. Moodle, Edmodo, etc.) that are established and have done all the "work" to make the platform user-friendly for not only teachers but also students AND parents!
Yes, security and safety can be an issue when working with students, but I believe that this is more about awareness and understanding than having to do with firewalls and security software.
Web 2.0 tools are generally free, easy to use, are always available and usually apply updates in a much more seamless fashion.
I know my buddy Brian will struggle with this but I think all the money you speak of as it is applied to training and upgrades could go to more resources in classrooms for teaching and learning.
In order to move forward from here we still need to do "New things in New ways!"

Dave said...

Thanks for your thoughts James. I certainly concur with many of your personal and other's challenges with Sharepoint. I am wondering if Sharepoint is really the "tool" we need?
There are so many amazing 2.0 tools out there (eg. Moodle, Edmodo, etc.) that are established and have done all the "work" to make the platform user-friendly for not only teachers but also students AND parents!
Yes, security and safety can be an issue when working with students, but I believe that this is more about awareness and understanding than having to do with firewalls and security software.
Web 2.0 tools are generally free, easy to use, are always available and usually apply updates in a much more seamless fashion.
I know my buddy Brian will struggle with this but I think all the money you speak of as it is applied to training and upgrades could go to more resources in classrooms for teaching and learning.
In order to move forward from here we still need to do "New things in New ways!"