Tracking through technology

Abigail Imiolek, news-features writer

With a click of a button, a new bar on the graph rises. The bars shows a new grade for the latest essay in English or the latest test in psychology. Every student at KHS has one: a dashboard which shows how their grades are changing.

The dashboards use Google Sheets, where students enter scores to reflect on how they can improve and see changes in their grades over the school year. KHS started using the dashboards this year to highlight how students are doing in particular sections of their courses, according to Jessica Vehlewald, director of professional development and supervision.

“The dashboard is just a tool,”  Vehlewald said. “It’s not anything but a way for teachers and students to self-reflect on learning.”

Because the dashboards are new this year, not all teachers have them yet. Deanna Hempen, English teacher, helps set up the dashboards and also uses them to track reading and writing goals in her class. She finds the dashboards effective in showing what her students need to focus on.

“I do love that their purpose is to give students information that will help them determine what their strengths are and where they still need support,” Hempen said. “So it’s putting the power in the students’ hands to take ownership of  their education.”

Angela Scheer, social studies teacher, has been using the dashboard for the past two years in her AP Psychology classes in order to see which areas her students need to focus on more before the AP exam on May 1st. Scheer includes review questions from past units on all her tests to see how well her students remember the information.

“When [May] rolls around and [the students are] trying to do their last-minute studying for the AP exam, they can go in and see which areas they’re scoring the lowest on overall,” Scheer said.“[They] can really target their studying and make it more effective.”

However, according to Scheer, her students have faced problems using technology for the dashboards. Issues with Wi-Fi and accessing Google Sheets on iPads have made the dashboards frustrating to use.

“Last year, [the students’ reaction to the dashboards] was much more positive,” Scheer said. “This year, there have been so many technological issues with the dashboards. Students get frustrated and some of them have wanted to quit and not do it at all.”

Despite the technological problems, Vehlewald finds the format practical because students and teachers can get immediate feedback. The dashboard also helps teachers more easily meet the requirement of a Missouri law which requires teachers to show their students are improving.

“That [law] has nothing to do [directly] with our dashboard,” Vehlewald said. “It just so happens that the dashboards allow students to very easily show improvement so the teachers don’t have to collect any separate pieces because we have this tool.”

KHS plans to continue using the dashboards in the future. Scheer hopes issues with the dashboard can be resolved because she finds it useful.

“We’ll see come [May if my class] feels as if it’s helpful for studying,” Scheer said. “I do feel that, for my class, where there is a prize at the end: this comprehensive test that can potentially give them college credit, it’s really effective.”

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