This series of blog posts is a little different than what I usually write. The first post in the series explains how it is different and tells the story of the teachers of Spring Lake Park High School (SLPHS) involved in a partnership with Infinite Campus. This post gives voice to the students in the class and the final post introduces a few Infinite Campus employees and lets them share what they learned from the partnership.
Throughout the course of last school year, students in the Technology, Engineering and Design Pathways class at SLPHS visited Infinite Campus twice – once for a tour and to participate in some usability testing and a second time to participate in a Python coding workshop.
The Technology, Engineering and Design Pathway class is taught by SLPHS teachers Brandon Masloski and Jeremy Sellman. They invited me into their class at the end of the 2018-19 school year to listen to their students and find out what they thought of the partnership. The class has students in grades 10-12.
The students’ first visit
The students first visited Infinite Campus in September, 2018. This visit included a tour of the building and meetings with several people at Campus, including Charlie Kratsch, Infinite Campus founder and CEO. Some students were also able to do some usability testing on the Campus Student app.
When I sat down with the students in May, 2019, even though the first visit was months before, most students were excited to talk about that visit to Campus. Tyler remembered thinking on the tour “Campus was a unique place. It was more open and flexible with what you could do,” he said. “There were unique activities there,” he added. Brandon enjoyed being able “to see how people work and actually interact at Infinite Campus. Seeing that, honestly, made me think a little bit about what it would be like to work there and if I did try to get a job there what it would end up being like.”
Faith remembered hearing about some of the different jobs at Infinite Campus and how people collaborate. “I remember they brought in a lot of different staff that had different positions at Campus. They gave an overview of what they do and how they execute their jobs and how they collaborate with one another and keep all the different positions together to make sure everybody is on the same page. That was really interesting,” she said.
Eric enjoyed listening to Charlie: “to have the CEO talk to us, hear his own story and why he made the company and all that stuff … what he did before that. I just thought that was really interesting and really cool to know.” Brandon agreed. “I think it was really nice to hear what Charlie had to say. It was nice to know what he did prior to becoming a business owner and actually running it. Getting to know a little bit about his past you can know that even though you might not have the most extensive background, you can still get to high positions and that you still have chances. It was inspirational – his story coming up and how he came to be the man he is now.”
While the tour was still going on, some students were pulled out for usability testing. Devon was one of them. He remembered, “they had me go through the application and do some tasks. I remember I had to look at what my third hour was, what grade I had and what my most recent upcoming assignment was.”
The students who were part of usability testing seemed happy they could help out because they understood that their actions in testing the app could result in changes to it. They knew their feedback had value.
The second visit
During the students’ second visit in November, they participated in a Python coding workshop. The students recalled the workshop taking about two hours and said it was their first encounter with Python. “For us, it was new,” Tyler said. “We hadn’t learned Python before that. It gave us a good start.” Eric agreed, saying “we did some stuff with other coding but Python was new to us. I think it was a good experience because, being a programmer, you have to learn so many different types of code, and be able to adapt.”
Several students commented on how learning Python was different. Abdi said “I liked Python programming – it would actually work. That was cool. You were solving a problem,” he said.
Aidan agreed saying he said liked “that it was very open ended with how we could approach the problem. All year we’ve been doing stuff with code.org and a lot of that is they have a list of instructions – here’s how you do it – and then you can go through step by step and write out what they want you to do. But with this it was very open and I could actually think about how would this work? Try to think. Rattle through my brain. Figure out how to get it to work instead of having the instructions laid out in front of me which I thought was very nice.”
While some students were a little frustrated the Python workshop wasn’t longer, others kept the materials and instructions and continued working with their project after the workshop. “I made a game afterwards and that was pretty cool,” said Mikey.
Planning their futures
Tyler explained this first course in the Technology, Engineering and Design Pathway had a broad scope. “It’s not purely coding. It’s a broader aspect of computers. We talk about networking, cyber security, how computers work, how internet works, and we don’t go into super detail depth, but we go into a little depth in each category and towards the end of the year we did do coding for our AP part so we did like Code App, code.org using Java Script. With the app, you can do whatever you want with it, like build a game, quiz or whatever you want it to be and then AP would score it from there.”
For some students, that broad introduction helped give them some focus for their futures. One student said he wanted to be a mechanical engineer before taking the class. Now, and specifically after the Python workshop, he’s thinking about going into computer science instead of mechanical engineering.
Faith said something similar. “This is our first year of opening up pathways so we’ve done a lot of test runs and trying new things and I think overall it’s gone really well. So I really look forward to other people coming up into pathways and how it’s going to get better and improve. It’s really broadened our horizons of options.” Faith also has plans to continue in pathways. “Next year I’m taking the engineering pathways course. I’m going to be looking into engineering design because I’m thinking of going into automotive services technology and I’ve always had an interest in computers and coding so that’s why I took this class. It’s really helped me get experience and going on actual site visits and seeing the environment there is very acceptable.”
“Next year I’m taking Business and Innovation and that’s the more business side,” said Mikey. “Where I can take what I learned from this class and make my own business from that.”
“When I first signed up for the class I thought – well, I really like computers and playing games. I always wondered how they were made. And now I do know how they made it and it’s a lot more difficult than I thought. This has been the funnest class I’ve ever taken. It’s been – it’s not like they sit there and tell us what we need to know. We get to do it hands-on and that’s what I like,” Mikey said.
In addition to the visits students made to Infinite Campus, there were visits to Spring Lake Park High School by Infinite Campus employees. These visits involved classroom observations and conversations with teachers. Part three, the final part in this series, will look at what some of the Infinite Campus employees learned from visiting the high school.