CACTES

Technology Integration for teachers

Support Documentation with Screen Steps Part 1

In the last posting I talked about how we use e-books to provide teacher support in our district. I also talked about the laborious process it takes to produce these e-books. Some of them have taken me weeks to produce.

Most of the questions from teachers or campus technologists can be answered with the information provided in one of our e-books. Many times I found my self referring a teacher to an e-book, but he or she just needed to get one thing done quickly. So I was asked to talk them through the process over the phone. I was a little frustrated that I had spent so much time on this e-book and it wasn’t used consistently.

The e-book often covered most aspects of a technology with detailed information. It was this depth and breadth of information that I thought was pushing some teachers away from the e-book. I realized most teachers did not have an e-book reader so most of them were downloading the PDF version. This meant scrolling through pages and pages of information.

There is no doubt that teachers need support, and that documentation is key in a large district. The success of our small e-book site was a testament to this fact. I wanted to know what else I could do to help teachers get information they needed quickly. To this end I went back to the site that produces the Screen Steps software we use.

One of the features in the software is the ability to export lessons as web pages. You can export an entire manual as a web page. I tried exporting lessons and entire manuals onto our server. The problem was obvious from the beginning. The list of links to each lesson was going to be a challenge. At this moment it was a couple of dozen, but they were destined to increase. There was no way for users to search for what they needed. There had to be another solution that was easier to use and manage. This option was fortunately also available within Screen Steps software.

Screen Steps has the option to export lessons to full featured online sites. These sites have search, category and tagging options. Most of these sites are paid services. Fortunately one of the options exports to WordPress. WordPress is a free application that can be installed onto any server. WordPress is also available for free for those that do not have a server, at WordPress.com. This free online service comes with three gigabytes of storage. More than enough for most school districts to get started.  Additional storage can eventually be purchased.

I wasn’t able to go with the free version because our district content filter blocks WordPress.com. I didn’t want to go with WordPress.com either. I wanted a more personalized version for our district. We have a server for our department, and installing WordPress software is very easy if you know a little about MySQL, PHP and HTML. I installed WordPress and configured Screen Steps to upload a lesson. Screen Steps uploaded the lesson complete with images. One of the options when uploading a lesson  is to select a category. This helps organize lessons for our end users that want to browse. Screen Steps also applies tags placed within a lesson to the posted blog. This is another way in which users can browse lessons.

Once I was able to get this to work I started uploading lesson after lesson onto the site. At first I was frustrated that I could not upload an entire manual, but realized that I could upload lessons that were short and to the point. The most important lessons. The short lessons that made my larger manuals became the small bits of information that our users could search and get the right information they needed. Now our users can search and view support items online.

Once we had this in place I wondered what else we could do to make our support site better for the district. I decided to go back to bluemangolearning.com and get some ideas from other sites that are using Screen Steps. I found that Blue Mango Learning has an entire page dedicated to providing help with using Screen Steps to provide support. After reading the information on their site I learned a few things. I learned we were doing a lot wrong, but we were also doing some things right.

In my next posting I will discuss what I learned from their site and how this is affecting our support site.

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