A Detailed Defense Of First Class

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Here's a thought-provoking comment posted recently on the blog defending FirstClass and the limitations on the use of non-CPS software that were of such an issue at the start of the year:

"I dunno. This AUP sounds a lot
like most AUPs created by large school districts. The expectation that
teachers and other employees will ONLY use the CPS official email to
communicate with teachers and parents is pretty typical of AUPs that
I've seen (including mine at a local university). This is pretty much
mandated by federal law regarding student records, and certainly is a
wise thing to require for large school districts that may need to go
back and check through what has been communicated between teacher and
student in case of some kind of lawsuit or other difficulty.

"As for the difficulties of using FirstClass, yes, it isn't the most
user-friendly system for email. But it isn't THAT hard to use. The
person who commented about sending email to the wrong person is only
upset that in a system with 40,000 employees there might be a few
people with similar names. What to do about that? The claim that
parents can't contact teachers via FirstClass is simply untrue.
Teachers can give out their ****@cps.edu accounts and outsiders can
email them. Not a problem at all.

Read the rest of the comment below, and weigh in with your thoughts in comments. 

Rest of the comment:

CPS is a HUGE system that (until a few years ago) had the most
antiquated set of network resources (including the student information
system) of any school system in the US. The IMPACT project has brought
these systems forward at least three decades. Yes, the rollout was
difficult (and yes, the e-IEP system has a few bugs to be worked out),
but, um, I can't imagine such a project being without its bumps in the
road. Yes, some people are making a lot of money, so what's new about
that? (Think erate money, bussing, lunches, textbooks, accounting and
consulting firms. The deep and wide CPS trough is very attractive to
for-profit companies. I don't see how it couldn't be this way. Yes,
some reforms around the edges are possible, but to get bent out of
shape because CPS has employed contractors to work on IMPACT is just
silly....they couldn't have done it in-house as well or as efficiently).

The prohibitions on contact between teachers and students using such
tools as Twitter and Facebook are increasingly common in schools, and
it's because the school districts can't control the collateral messages
that these sites may send to students (for example, the
context-sensitive Google ads that appear in Facebook). While I agree
that these may be very useful tools for 21st century teaching and
learning, I can't really imagine how CPS or other districts could turn
a blind eye or even sanction such means of contact between students and
teachers. If I were a K-12 teacher, I would be quite wary of
"friending" students or having them as followers of any open system
like Twitter, not because these contacts would never be valuable (they
would, most likely), but because the current legal climate in so
litigious and uncertain. Best not to be made an example of, or a guinea
pig in deciding what's appropriate and what's not.

I'm a little less certain about the claims made by your teacher
commenter about external web sites and the Flash interactive s/he made.
I don't believe that this policy prohibits the use of all Internet
materials external to the CPS network. And if students interact with
the teacher via a website the teacher made, and the teacher uses the
official CPS email as their contact point, I don't see how that
violates the policy. A clarification from ITS about exactly what that
part of the policy means for curriculum and instruction would be a
helpful addendum to the AUP.

FirstClass actually includes some pretty powerful and robust
collaboration tools for teachers and students. Yes, there has been
little or no training on those, so far, since the more infrastructural
aspects of IMPACT have taken priority. Yes, CPS needs to re-invigorate
it's department of e-learning so that it's more than an IMPACT training
department. Yes, CPS instructional leaders need to set their vision
MUCH higher than the requirements of NCLB and realize that they are
robbing many many students of a secure place in the future economy
through their short-sighted ideas about teaching and learning. But
those are bigger problems than just the legalese that seems necessary
for the AUP.


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  • It is possible to simply export e-mails from FirstClass. That shouldn't be necessary but it is possible.

    I've been and will continue to be a fierce critic of the CPS AUP, the Chancery products, and the FirstClass system. And I too am frustrated with the lack of available storage space. I have something like 100MB on FirstClass on 100MB on a CPS server. 200MB - in 2010? Seriously?

  • One thing is the AUP and the other is defending the indefensible. First Class is a first class piece of crap. Any software usability expert would tell you that software and web services that cannot be "understood" on first glance then toss it or hire some usability experts. If Huberman was as tech savvy as he thinks he is, then he would seriously think about getting rid of this debacle. It seems that CPS habitual in its imposing fourth rate web services on its teachers and students. Duncan with his Ivy League "smarts" signed off on this contract. How much money is being wasted on the SIM/Gradebook, E-Iep, CPS University, etc. We have special education teachers without laptops yet they have to do the e-Ieps. The new scantron benchmark testing for children does not provide enough computers to the schools. The problem like the school closing scandal, is that the top administration and board running the schools like Daley's City Hall, deals and mandates are done in the dark and we the citizens suffer for their malfeasance!

  • The initial comment is simply inaccurate. Looking at other city's AUP, our is far below the general standard. It's merely a chilling tool to stifle speech and prevent our children from thriving in the 21st century through illogical and draconian controls.

    See for example, Miami-Dade's AUP which not only seeks to promote responsible use in words, but also actually instructs users on proper use.

    Reading the AUP is clear--like most things coming out of the highest echelons of Central Office, the main goal is to cover their own behinds even at the expense of student learning. Instead of mandating certain types of use and restricting access to educational sites, CPS could support the instruction of empowering, appropriate internet use.

    I am becoming more and more of the mind that if CPS' legal department were to be disbanded tomorrow, we would see immediate innovation and improvement on the school level.

    So why are you the taxpayers paying millions for lawyers to harass teachers and damage education in the city?

  • "I dunno," begins your anonymous commenter in his defense of the AUP. I heartily agree.

    The entire 6-page Authorized User Policy is given to stating what we are not supposed to do on the CPS network (including 32 "Unacceptable Uses"). There's not even a mention of what we CAN do on the network. Something in that fact should set off a warning bell.

    And I've got to second what Xian says about the CPS Legal Department, which sends anonymous, unsigned, threatening notes to which no reply can be made to users for violating the AUP--even when they cannot cite a specific point in the AUP which has been violated. It's as if they make rules up as they go along.

    Regarding FIRST CLASS, I use it because I have to do so. I don't like the program, no matter how orgasmic your "thought-provoking" commenter gets when writing about it.

    Nor do the kids use it. I require assignments and e-mail communications with students (more so than most teachers at my school). I encourage the kids to use First Class (largely so I don't have to look at some of the rather risque e-mail names they create for themselves--uggh!). And yet, no more than 1 in 10 students bother to use their "free" CPS First Class account.

    That should be another indicator of how user-UNfriendly the program is.


  • CPS Web Services are sad. Those who know the beginnings of Impact know how woeful the planning was. One person who was involved at the very beginning said that the ring leaders had no clue from the get go! Serious. Mr. Runcie, can you respond to these charges of ineptness involved in this endeavor under you watch. If you are going to fire people at Central Office. Runcie should be the first to go. He has been protected enough. Dead weight is dead weight! Get some courage Huberman and fire Runcie!

  • When my son was given a computer, we were told of First Class. There was supposed to be a parent component. If there is it is such a big secret that no one at the school imagines how to use or administer it. I do not feel it either good or necessary to log via my son's information to communicate with teachers.

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