It’s that time of year again. It’s time to get the CSVs from the office staff and to create usernames for various different online tools that we use. This is the 2016 update of this post that is now five years old. Having just re-read the post, it is shocking to see how little has changed since I last wrote about it. Maybe it’s because no-one cares about this whole process like I do…
So, what are my requirements? Yes I am picky, but I am a paying customer too. I’ve also been ICT Leader in various roles and schools for 11 years so I know what I want! I would like:
- To specify my own usernames – I have a number of sites that are used, I want the usernames to be the same
- To have usernames that are school-specific and not site-specific – I’d much rather Johnny Smith could be jsmith rather than jsmith184 or whatever because the sie has 20,000 users
- To specify my own password – Yep, security is important, but let’s start with a generic password and then teach them how to change it in September rather than giving them all random passwords which will be a pain to manage. I am also making this easy for staff.
- To put all of my children in year groups rather than classes if I choose to – The year group changes once a year so in August, I can change the Year 4 to Year 5 and they are ready to roll. Moving them all to different classes each Summer would be a pain. I’ve tried it before and it takes ages. I do want to use classes for some things e.g. Google Apps but I can add that later.
We use a variety of online tools in school and these are the ones that require usernames/passwords for the children to access. I though I could write a bit about each one as it is such a different prospect for each tool. This isn’t just about creating new users, this is also about updating them too. For example, moving up a year group, adding that new Year 5 child or removing someone that left Year 4. It needs to be a simple process.
In our school we use:
All require similar things. They all need pupil names and they usually require a username and password. Some will ask for an email address and some would like a class/year group too. This is all done via CSV and I have prepped the CSVs ready. I have a CSV for each year group with all pupils in. Our username structure is defined as first initial and then four letters of surname e.g. iaddi. Some children have a 1 on the end if there are duplicates but it works well. We have 250+ pupils and only a handful of duplicates. Oddly, these are often siblings with forenames starting with the same letter.
Create the CSV, make an organisation called Year 3 and then upload. Once created, I have groups for the pupils so that I can email them if needed. So year3@ will go to all year 3 pupils and so on. Unfortunately, you can only add 25 users to these groups at a time so this slowed me down a bit. But still, all Year 3 users uploaded and whole school done in around 10 minutes. Annoyingly, when you try and add users to a group, if they are already there it says “operation failed” but doesn’t say why. I know why, it’s because they are already a member! Grrr. Also, if you had Jake Smith (jsmit) and you’re adding John Smith (jsmit) it just moves them rather than saying that the user exists already. I found a few duplicates in our old years 6 that we hadn’t deleted yet. My suggestion? If there is a duplicate username, tell me!
The show-off of the bunch. After uploading the users to Google, I logged into J2E, pressed the Google Apps button and it takes all of my Google users and puts them in J2E. Their support is also top-notch, they have a fab little team who reply to tweets and listen to schools.
This is the gold standard. I created a CSV of my whole school. I uploaded it and every user was colour-coded. Green users were new, blue were being updated (moving year groups for example) and errors were in red. Less than 2 mins and done. Wow. Best of the bunch as it gave me a clear indication of any errors or warnings.
Times Table Rockstars:
Easy. Uploaded/dragged the spreadsheet and it uploaded the new users. @ttrockstars also replied to my tweets about the process and offered ideas. Fab company with great support. *Update* TTRockstars also have the colour-coded feature to make you aware of any errors in the upload process.
With the exception of Google, I think this is the biggest company on the list. They are present in so many schools yet adding usernames is a huge faff. I even had to phone tech support. Firstly, all users are site-specific, so Jsmith would be Jsmith174 because of how many users there are. Not ideal at all. I have started prefixing usernames with the school initials so that we can at least have something easy to remember. If it finds a duplicate username, it chucks a number on the end, so they all have random numbers on (it does start with 1 and work up, but they are not all the same). I phoned to ask for help as it seemed quite complicated and the suggestion? Delete all users (and their scores/data) and start again. Every September. Ouch. Alternative could be to not bother with usernames, don’t save scores and just use it as a game rather than a tailored tool, but that seems silly. I can export all of the data before deleting, but again, not practical.
The biggest problem with Sumdog is that you can’t delete users. I mean you can, but they stay on the system for six months so you end up having duplicates you didn’t plan for! Also, despite having class sizes (year groups) of over 50 on there already, there now seems to be a limit of 50 per class. This is frustrating as it means putting all pupils into classes each year.
After various tweets, Tony Parkin suggested giving my thoughts on what makes this whole process successful. I would say…copy 2Simple or make a link to other stuff schools are using, whether this is Google Apps or Microsoft or whatever, make the link so we just have to press a button and it all copies over. Also, if there is an error message, make it obvious. Don’t put “there was an error at this time” as we don’t know what that means!
If you work for one of these companies and want to give some feedback or tell me I’m wrong, feel free to get in touch.
At least that is all done for another year…….unless we get new children in September who weren’t on these lists of course……..
PS. Yes, there are some system that link your register/MIS data but generally, these things don’t do that. Google does, but none of the others do. I want simple systems that any teacher could use.