The hours an educator spends in active teaching pursuits are just a small piece of the overall workload puzzle. Between developing lesson plans, reporting on student performance and keeping parents informed of student progress, a teacher's job spills over into the hours when there are no students sitting at the desks.
Technology has been both a blessing and a curse when it comes to the teaching profession. On one hand, electronic reporting tools streamline some of the processes that go along with teaching; on the other hand, more work has been handed off to teachers because the technology exists to make it so. It seems that with each passing school year, another responsibility is placed on the shoulders of teachers who already have more than enough on their plates.
Overworked and Still Behind
A report published on TeachingQuality.org states that nearly 70 percent of teachers say that they simply do not have enough time to address all of their states' curriculum frameworks, despite the fact that teachers work an average of 50 hours per week. Teacher surveys have also found that a reduction in teacher workload would increase retention, particularly in the first five years of a teaching career. Not only would teachers be happier if they had more time, but they are struggling to fit in their current requirements as it is.
The primary role of teachers is educate their students, yet they are often so bogged down in the paper-pushing that accompanies the job that their very purpose is compromised. So how can educators take advantage of existing technology to streamline their professions - and save themselves time in the process?
Alma: Free Student Information and Learning Systems
New technologies are emerging to combat these frustrations. Alma, a student information and learning management system, combines a wide range of reporting features that are typically only available in several fragmented systems - instead of a central location. Alma brings together lesson planning and curriculum management with student and classroom management to give teachers all the tools they need in one place and with one login - so they no longer have to master a dozen different tools to do their jobs.
Alma has clever shortcuts and time-savers throughout the system, so tasks that might take several clicks in other products can be done in one or two clicks in Alma. Built-in messaging and collaboration tools make easier and cut down on the time it takes for teachers to connect with parents, students and other educators. And Alma is cloud-based, which means it can be used from any internet-enabled device - cutting down on late nights in the classroom.
Alma is a "freemium" product, so its core services are offered for free, including school management, student records, backward curriculum development and gradebooks. Schools can upgrade the core package for a fee to include extras that may be helpful to their operations, like on-site support and emergency notifications. There is optional support for schools who would like the hands-on help, but it is not a requirement for schools that have the staff and ability to handle it on their own. Most schools will be able to set up the system in a day or less.
Alma's customers include schools in 20 states and four countries.
The Teaching Benefits of Time-Saving Technology
As a former public school teacher, I wish I had access to the type of technology and reporting that Alma offers. I still remember thinking of the school bell at the end of my day as the signal of my "lunch break" and that there were still many hours of work ahead of me. Like other teachers, I did my work without complaint and did my best to ensure my students were learning what they needed to know before exiting my classroom doors for good. Still - between planning, reporting, communication with parents and actual teaching, it was nearly impossible to get it all done. So I feel the pain of today's teachers, asked to do even more in an already-tight schedule.
Any tools that can free up teachers' time to dedicate to actual teaching are ones that schools should seek out. There is no reason that the profession of teaching shouldn't improve its efficiency as the technology becomes available, and Alma is a frontrunner in making this happen in K-12 schools across the country.