National Academy Foundation’s (NAF) use of LiveBinders makes it easy for teachers to demonstrate learning success

February 5, 2017

 

In recent years, significant changes have been made to the way teachers are to be reviewed, leaving many with a substantial amount of extra work. Groups like NAF, a national organization dedicated to ensuring high school students are career, college, and life ready, have created new standards to help teachers provide evidence to support the materials and lesson plans they teach and showcase the successful work they do. NAF requires evidence from their over 700 academies, and in 2015, NAF academies reported 98% of seniors graduated, with 92% of graduates having post-secondary intentions.

According to NAF’s Director of Evaluation and Continuous Improvement, Patricia Smith, the evidence documenting process is designed to help academies self-assess to reach high standards. Said Smith, “The mission of NAF is to foster high-quality academies that will enable students to have strong college and career outcomes, and it’s important for academies to have a high fidelity to NAF’s educational design, which consists of 4 elements: Academy Development & Structure, Curriculum & Instruction, Advisory Board, and Work-Based Learning. NAF helps them reach that fidelity with a self-assessment tool that is accompanied by evidence . . . stored in a number of programs, one of which is LiveBinders.”

NAF’s educational design is centered on small learning community research that Lenovo Scholar Network Launch Event - Pathways Academy of Tech and Design (53) (1).JPGencourages project-based learning and teamwork, which ultimately lead to more efficient teaching and learning. The Academy Assessment (for which evidence is provided) is a tool academies use to track their level of fidelity to the design and to conduct strategic planning based on assessment results. These results are used to track the academy’s fidelity to curriculum design over time.

Said Smith, “Teachers, counselors, advisory board members and district staff participate in the academy assessment process. The process is one that builds community and strengthens each stakeholder’s understanding of their role in the process. For example, an advisory board member or local business person participates in the assessment process offering information and supporting data from a fundraiser or function they hosted, and can use the invitation or a sample poster as evidence.”

From hardcopy to digital

Documenting evidence should be as straightforward a process as possible, and NAF therefore sought organizational tools that teachers would be used to, and which would require the least disturbance of the organizational systems they already used. Teachers were used to creating meticulously organized hard copy binders that catalogued and showcased years of hard work to separate the wheat from the chaff in teaching materials.

When the inevitable move from hardcopy binders to online tools emerged, many teachers were understandably wary of the implications. Of concern were both their existing curriculum collections, and the ways that adopting new technology might force them to change the way they teach and manage their resources. Furthermore, teachers, as well as NAF, worried about the immense amount of time reorganizing evidence into a new format would likely require from each individual teacher. Said Smith about the challenges, “NAF has indeed had some concerns about the amount of time and what constitutes a proper piece of evidence. We’ve been concerned about the time it’s taken for teachers to upload evidence, based on their technological skillset, which is different for every individual. . . There are such quick turnarounds in schools and it’s crucial to have a place where practices and projects can be stored (such as a LiveBinders tool) as there’s a ton of information that needs to be accounted for when a new academy leaders arrive.”

Showing evidence while making organization easier

Many of the options available to teachers for achieving the transition to digital presented too many barriers to entry. Digitizing hardcopy materials would be tough enough without having to learn to navigate the complexities of another online system, and uncoordinated efforts at digitization would eventually make the situation even messier.

Up to that point, time-strapped teachers would often use piecemeal approaches for handling digital resources, like storing files on USB drives, and transferring parts of their curriculum to online services like DropBox. While this represented a step in the right direction, it still threw a wrench in the system by forcing teachers to change the way they think about and organize course materials. It also limited collaboration, cohesiveness, and the visibility of evidence for learning that is increasingly demanded by organizations like NAF.

Sharon Schueler, facilitator at the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Academy of Finance, describes how LiveBinders has helped make collecting evidence a seamless part of the school’s improvement plans. Says Schueler, “The key to the success of using LiveBinders is to add, organize, and update evidence on a regular basis. Our action plan, along with documenting evidence in the LiveBinders template, helps to maintain our focus towards continuous improvement. LiveBinders makes it so easy!”

NAF recommends LiveBinders

Recognizing the opportunity to both help teachers demonstrate the effectiveness of their work as well as give them a tool for digitization that would make teachers’ lives easier, NAF recommends LiveBinders. As a platform, it allowed teachers to digitize their coursework in a format that would enable easy organization and sharing without changing the underlying framework of curriculum organization: the three ring binder. NAF recognized that since each LiveBinder is organized like a three-ring binder, with tabs, teachers moving from hardcopy binders would be able to make the transition without fraying their existing organizational system.

Patricia Breeding, an instructional support teacher in Orange County, Florida schools notes that the platform has helped retain the organizational advantages of hardcopy binders while eliminating their limitations. Says Breeding, “The organizational system before LiveBinders was hard copy binders, and it was difficult and inconvenient to lug around those heavy binders from place to place. LiveBinders makes the organizational and preparation process much easier, and is also a very affordable option for academies.”

Multimedia resources like video and hyperlinks can be easily added to the binder, as well as digitized hard copies, allowing teachers to put everything, including evidence of their work, in one place for the first time. Storing everything in the cloud–even for those who know nothing about the cloud–would make adoption easier and increase the immediate fruits of switching to digital.

NAF offers Google, DropBox, and LiveBinders as effective options for organizing course materials to show evidence of teaching and learning success, and NAF has found that introducing teachers to LiveBinders can be a boon to their course organization overall, and to other trainings and certifications. Said Smith, “Another benefit has been that academies have been able to use evidence for purposes beyond NAF such as for Career and Technical Education reviews, or regional certifications. NAF supports the idea of academies documenting their story and sharing that story widely to increase enrollment, recruit industry partners and great teachers and to raise funds. Measuring fidelity to NAF’s educational design should benefit academy students in multiple ways.”

 


Google Sign Up and Login Added to LiveBinders

January 9, 2017

LiveBinders now supports Google sign up and login. For those of you who have students with Google accounts, this will be a real time-saver in getting them started with LiveBinders.

You can link an existing LiveBinders account to your Google email address or create a new LiveBinders account with your Google email address.

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LiveBinders for Business: The Future of the Paperless Office

December 14, 2016

MOS Office Furniture, Inc., marks the last hurdle for going totally paperless

MOS Office Furniture, Inc., together with parent company Martin Office Supplies, Inc., has provided office supplies and furniture to customers from large government agencies to consumers since the 1980s. The company operates a storefront in Granbury, Texas, but its main business for the last fifteen years has been large furniture projects for large institutions, including schools and universities. Cody Martin, co-founder of MOS Office Furniture, was introduced to  the furniture business by his father and, along with his business partner Russ Wood, found success for his own firm with a visionary early adoption of internet marketing. As a longtime vendor of  office supplies and furniture to schools and government agencies, MOS Office Furniture understood the needs of traditional institutions to present communication materials in easy to manage formats, and adopt digital communications that mirror paper communications.

In keeping with the business’ family story, MOS Office Furniture was introduced to LiveBinders by Wood’s daughter, a school librarian. MOS found that LiveBinders (Livebinders.com), which mirrors the functionality of a ring binder and is widely used in education, is a great fit for its catalog distribution and communication needs for projects with government and education institutions.

How a traditional office supplier goes digital

MOS’s long history as an office supply distributor, in conjunction with its own shift to a truly paperless office, put the company in an uncommon position of needing to identify the most effective ways hardcopy-reliant organizations can make the shift to all-digital content. Like most businesses, MOS used to handle most digital communication over email, but quickly ran into the medium’s many limitations. Sending single versions of simple PDF documents is easy over email, but MOS’s catalogs that include large PDF documents and a need for strict version control for drawing and product information updates outpaced email’s functionality and created serious version control headaches.

Cloud solutions like DropBox and Google Docs were useful for pointing customers to large files, but MOS found that while the use of these services made file access easier, they were not able to address the underlying challenge of organization. A sea of Google Docs and DropBox links added a new layer of complexity on top of email’s own limitations. MOS was able to see that email and cloud services were not able to fully replace hard copy materials yet, particularly for the government and education organizations that comprised the bulk of the company’s customer base.

All of these issues were compounded by the size of projects MOS worked with. While more traditional digital content platforms might meet the needs of smaller projects consisting of a few furniture pieces, the aforementioned issues could become quite cumbersome as MOS met the furnishing needs of large facilities and organizations.

LiveBinders marries organization and cloud storage

When Russ Wood’s daughter, a school librarian, introduced them to LiveBinders–a platform increasingly familiar to educators as a way to organize and easily share course materials–they instantly recognized the benefits it posed for their business.

“The word was that LiveBinders is used a lot in education,” says Cody Martin. “Our company does a lot of business with education, so we payed attention. It occurred to me that we could use this in our furniture business; it really is a digital equivalent of a ring binder.”

Martin found that the same features that made the binder-based organizational structure of LiveBinders effective for teachers would also work for conveying product information to his customers. “Some of the folks we work with are tech adept and some are not,” he says. “They can use email and spreadsheets, but are they really adept with cloud-based applications? Probably not.”

According to Martin, livebinders catalogs offered a level of easy functionality that allows customers at all technical levels to effortlessly navigate their content. Most customers, he says, don’t have to think about navigating the platform, they just dive into it–it’s that intuitive.

LiveBinders allowed MOS to cut through the version control challenges of email without requiring customers to navigate a tangle of cloud storage locations like Google Docs and Dropbox links. LiveBinders gave MOS the ability to present a diversity of materials, like text, drawings, blueprints, links, and spreadsheets in a single easy-to-access format which could be consistently kept up to date. “If a drawing changes you can go in and delete the old drawing and put the new one in there. If you use email you’ve got six versions of the same thing floating around.With a LiveBinder you can make sure the most fresh iteration is in the binder and you know everyone is looking at the right thing.”

A vision for LiveBinders in business

MOS’s insider’s view into the evolving office supplies landscape has led the company to identify an unaddressed niche in business that LiveBinders is poised to fill. “What’s happening in the office products industry is that anything that has to do with a piece of paper is now in secular decline,” says Martin. “We’re seeing the convergence of smart phones, tablets, cheap cloud storage and wireless. If you’ve got an iPad you’ve got the equivalent of six thousand ring binders at your fingertips. The problem is that the transitional period will still take years; that’s why people should pay attention to LiveBinders. It’s how you replace a ring binder.”


The State Bar of Georgia’s Museum of Law Goes Digital With LiveBinders

November 15, 2016

Since 2008, Deborah Craytor of the State Bar of Georgia had nurtured an ambition to extend the Bar’s educational programs beyond the physical bounds of the Museum of Law in Atlanta. The Bar had run the museum and hosted educational programs like the Journey Through Justice, which gives more than 10,000 Georgia schoolchildren the opportunity to learn about the law every year. The program includes law lessons, mock trials and tours of the museum. It has been a success, but the Bar found that the program’s popularity had led it to outgrow the capacity of the field trip and physical museum in Atlanta, leading the organization to pursue virtual alternatives for delivering the same information.

Using the LiveBinders platform (www.livebinders.com), the State Bar of Georgia was able to create digital resources that are easily shared on the Web with teachers, giving students throughout Georgia exposure to lessons on the law.

Taking the Journey Through Justice Beyond Atlanta

According to Deborah Craytor, the geography of Georgia has made it difficult to expose students outside Atlanta, and particularly in rural South Georgia, to the educational resources and programs offered by the Bar’s Law-Related Education (“LRE”) Program. Says Craytor, “We’re in Atlanta, where the largest concentration of lawyers in the state is. Lawyers and members of the public outside Atlanta sometimes feel like we don’t pay as much attention to them as we could. Reaching out with a digital version of our Museum of Law resources is a great way to help bridge that gap.”

When the Bar began to build the Virtual Museum of Law–which officially launched on June 3rd, 2016–inclusion of online resources for teachers was an essential part of the project, but the system had to be both readily adaptable and under the control of the museum_headerteachers and the staff of the LRE Program. Says Craytor, “We want to have this information online and available to everyone, but we want to give teachers control; you don’t want students having access to the same materials so they run across all the answers! Also, we wanted to make sure that we’re interacting with teachers and gathering their input, not just putting a bunch of information out on the Web.”

LiveBinders & the Virtual Museum of Law

Craytor had been introduced to LiveBinders before the Bar created the Virtual Museum of Law, and when the need to securely share resources on the Web became an integral part of that project, she recognized LiveBinders as a natural fit. The platform could be easily integrated within the format of the Virtual Museum, and conform to the access and organization requirements of teachers and the Bar. LiveBinders allowed the Bar to create a multi-level experience for the Virtual Museum of Law that includes a public site, videos and quizzes for students, and lesson plans and other curriculum materials accessible only to teachers. LiveBinders is already a popular tool among teachers, due in no small part to its functionality, which brings the simplicity of using a three-ring binder to the digital world. According to Craytor, educators have found accessing LRE Program resources through LiveBinders to be straightforward, and an enormous improvement on the ad-hoc system previously in place. Says Craytor, “Before we started using LiveBinders, a teacher would call or email me and say ‘I’m getting ready to teach about juvenile justice, what can you send me?’ We’d look through our resources and email or mail them, which was incredibly labor-intensive. Now I can just keep the LiveBinders updated and teachers can access them any time they want.”

Staying Current on the Law

Sending lesson information as a digital LiveBinder also allows teachers to automatically receive the most up-to-date information on the law, which can change frequently. Before LiveBinders, when information was sent to a teacher, there was no way for teachers to know if their materials were out of date other than to check in with the Bar.

According to Craytor, the combination of Web access, version control and seamless updating of information, including a binder-like organizational format teachers are used students_2to, exemplifies how LiveBinders is ideal for digital sharing. “The LiveBinders approach to organizing information is consistent with a trend in the digital world of leveraging curated collections. There is so much information on the Web that more and more organizations are trying to assemble collections rather than force people to look all over the internet for something. LiveBinders gives people a one-stop shop consistent with the direction the Web is going in general,” she says.

Paper-Attached Industries Can Embrace Digital

The legal world, like the world of education, is one steeped in the use of paper for most resources and documents. Organizations like the State Bar of Georgia have found that in addition to making communication and sharing information easier for programs like the LRE Program and its Virtual Museum of Law, the paper-document-mirroring nature of LiveBinders makes it easy for professionals like teachers and lawyers to reap the benefits of digital communications.

For Craytor personally, the platform has offered a way to go digital without compromising the organization and control of paper documents. She says, “Giving up my paper was a really hard thing to do. Intellectually I recognized the advantage of LiveBinders, but emotionally, I was tied to paper. However, we’ve found it incredibly useful and adaptable to our work, and now we’re moving as much as we can to LiveBinders.”

 


Export a Table of Contents

November 10, 2016

We have had the request from several customers to show table of contents for their binder on their website or blog. That feature is now available under Share > Embed.

Share menu showing embed code for Table of Contents

Here is an example:

Fun additions to your binder Table of Contents


Image Resizing

October 30, 2016

When you upload very large images, instead of showing a horizontal scrollbar in the binder, you will now see your image fitting perfectly inside the binder. So no matter what device you’re on, whether it’s a phone, a widescreen, or a tablet the images will resize so that your binder will always look just right!


Create a Custom LiveBinders Widget

October 30, 2016

You have always been able to embed a LiveBinders shelf on your website, but now you can customize that embed code and decide the width and height of the shelf, the sort order, and the size of the binder icons. This feature will generate two types of embed codes, one for regular sites and one for Google sites.

Enjoy showing your binders off on your blog or website in just the way you want them to be seen.

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