MTA: Empower FAQ

  1. How would I set this up to show a video w/o subtitles and have them answer questions in English?

In future lessons, when you will learn how to create your own activities, you will learn how to make a video a  resource for your activity.  Students could then watch the video as one action step in the activity, and then the next step could be for them to answer questions.  They could answer them via the student workspace, a Google document that you made and posted as a resource for the activity, they could make a video  of themselves answering the questions, or they could answer the questions in a Pages or word document and upload it to their locker to turn in.

  1. What happens if the student does not give their work a title? Will it still save?

To use the word-processing or drawing tools in the student workspace, students must provide a title in order to have them available to use. If they are attaching a document, Empower will show the message, “Please insert Title” if they try to hit “SAVE” without giving their document a title.

  1. Will the student see arrows to confirm they have completed the activity or will they see numbers to determine how many steps are included with the activity?

There is an icon that students will see in the upper-right corner of the activity that shows that they have turned in work.  If there was only one item that needed to be turned in, then they know that they have completed that activity.  If there are multiple items that need to be turned in for that one activity, they will need to look at the action steps, determine how many items need to be completed, and then look in their locker to see if there is a green checkmark next to each item showing that they have turned in that work.

  1. This seems like an online school. Will we still interact with students in the future?* Will everything we do in class have to be available some way digitally?* Are we supposed to put all our lessons on Empower? I thought it was just a grading program.*

Empower has the capacity and is intended to be much more than a grading program.  The emphasis in a proficiency-based system is personalization of learning which involves creating a learner-centered culture, transparency of learning, and student autonomy.  Empower is designed to organize the activities that students will engage in independently and collaboratively with teachers providing direct instruction and using formative assessment practices to consider the needs of individual students who will learn at different paces in a classroom setting.  

Yes, teachers will interact with students.  Will the interactions change?  As the learning goals become more transparent in scales which unpack the learning goals and clearly identify the declarative and procedural knowledge a student must master in order to demonstrate proficiency, the goal is that each student is engaged in the activities they need to be engaged in to grow.  Teachers will still facilitate class discussions and activities, but to personalize learning teachers will need to plan instruction to meet students where they are at and establish structures in the classroom that offer opportunity for students to work on the foundational knowledge and skills based on individuals needs.  

Empower is a tool that will provide transparency of learning.  The graduation standards will be clearly communicated in a K-12 set of learning progressions. The learning goals, and specific learning targets associated with each learning goal, will be organized in scales for each step in the progression.  The goal is that teachers, students, and parents will be able to understand the learning goals and students with instruction and support will be able to reflect on the scales, identify which learning targets they have achieved and which learning targets they need to continue to work on as they grow to meet the learning goal.  Everything a teacher does will not need to be available digitally, but for students to have resources available that allow students to work on specific skills independently based on needs should be a goal.  

Do all your lessons need to be on Empower? No, this is not the expectation.  The expectation in time will be that the activities teachers organize in Empower clearly address the learning goal(s) and the learning targets referenced in the scales so the learning expectations are transparent and students are empowered to independently and with teacher support grow the knowledge and skills required to meet our expectations for graduation.
  1. Is this tool promoting even more screen time for our students?*

The goal is not to promote more screen time.  The activities designed by the teacher to support student learning can vary.  The instructions or directions might be given through an activity or in some other format but the activity itself may require conversation, collaborative work, or some other type of activity.  Empower is designed to allow teachers to create opportunities for students to work independently on specific skills associated with a learning goal or engage in activities with the whole class, groups, and so forth. The types of activities a teacher designs determines the amount of screen time.  Having the activities in Empower offers the opportunity for teachers to assign one or different assignments to students in a class, collect assignments, provide feedback, and score student work in one environment.  Students can monitor their individual progress in this system and use resources to practice skills based on their individual needs.
  1. Video submission?

Yes, students could create just about any kind of file, (including videos) and attach them as files in the student workspace. Once in their locker, they can be submitted my clicking the circle next to their title so that a checkmark appears.

  1. I am wondering how this will be user friendly for special education students?

How do you modify for special needs?

The more a student interacts with Empower with direct support and instruction focused on using the tools to complete and submit assignments, the easier the system is to use. If students are using Empower prior to coming to the high school they should become more accustomed to using this system.  Universal design features available through the use of technology can support learning.  Teachers will ultimately need to determine what accommodations or modifications should be made for individual students based on the IEP. With the variety of ways that students can submit their work, it really opens up more options for them. When we learn how to create activities, we will see that there are some features we can utilize, such as audio instructions, that would make activities more user-friendly for students with special needs.

  1. Can you only attach files to Empower through Google Drive, or can you attach files via other applications (Word, Pages, Keynote, etc.)?

In the student workspace, students can click the attach icon and upload just about any type of file to their locker that can be turned in to the teacher. When a teacher makes an activity, while they can choose to make a Google Drive document a resource for students, they too can upload just about any type of file they want, and make it a resource for students to download and use for that activity.

  1. It seems well organized and clear steps to follow. If the work is not saved, can it be found in a trash or draft so the students don't lose all their work?

If students use the student workspace and give their item a title,then type some text or start drawing a picture, and then X out of the activity, or log out without having hit the SAVE button, Empower still seems to save their work.  They can go to the activity, go to their locker, and their unfinished work should be there. I  tried this out with a drawing called If not saved…  I logged out w/o having saved my work. When I logged in, went to the activity and opened My Locker, there was my unsaved drawing.

  1. Can the work be submitted in a printed way and be recorded in empower?

Yes. If students hand in a hard copy document, you can still use Empower to record their completion and/or performance level on the assignment.  When  we complete the lessons on creating activities, you will learn how to create a “Quick Task”.  The quick task is a great way to record progress of non-digital activities.

  1. I am wondering if current teacher worksheets can be uploaded with ease and how?

There are copiers in the school that will save a worksheet as a PDF. Once digital, they can be uploaded as resources to be used in activities.  They would then be available for students to download and print themselves.  Empower will not make PDFs editable, but there are ways of using annotating tools in Preview that would allow students to type in answers in a text box.

  1. How does one actually use an activity that requires student-teacher or student-student interaction such as a debate?

You can still use Empower to record their completion and/or performance level on any type of assignment.  When  we complete the lessons on creating activities, you will learn how to create a “Quick Task”.  The quick task is a great way to record progress of non-digital activities.

  1. ‚ÄčIs this for homeschooled students? Wouldn't students have the opportunity to ask their teacher questions in person?

No, this is not for home-schooled students.  While certainly students can ask their teacher questions when they are in their presence, students at MTA do not see their teachers every day.  They can use the tools in Empower to ask their teachers questions or for feedback at times when they don’t see them.

  1. ‚ÄčIf students have a bunch of activities going at the same time, is it clear to them which pieces of the activities they've completed and which ones they still need to finish before submitting? Basically if they try to submit their work, will empower flag it and tell them they haven't finished?

For the first question, please view the answer to Question #3 above for your answer.  Empower will not flag work that students turn in without  completing it.

  1. Is it necessary for students to use this system as opposed to existing systems that have been thoughtfully developed and integrated by teachers?*

Empower will be the tool used to clearly articulate our graduation standards and specific learning goals as student progress through our system.  Empower will also be the tool we use to communicate with students and parents as we document their progress toward meeting our requirements for proficiency-based diploma.  Teachers will be expected to use Empower to track student progress on the learning goals based on the scales developed, and we want students to interact with Empower to track their individual progress. Having the activities in, or connected to, Empower offers the opportunity for teachers to assign one or different assignments to students in a class, collect assignments, provide feedback, and score student work in one environment. As students move through our system, Empower will be a tool for learning and tracking learning which all students are using and to have all teachers actively engaged using this system is the goal.

Many of the tools and systems that teachers currently use can be connected to Empower as links and specific assignments can be uploaded as an activity.  The goal is that teachers, students, and parents can access the activities or resources which are focused on the learning goal(s) and learning targets referenced in the scales and the information in Empower would be used to help students identify what they know and what they need to learn to demonstrate proficiency.  How the teacher’s current system integrates with Empower would depend on what the teacher is using.   If you have specific questions about a system currently being used and how it would potentially interact with Empower, please name that system so a more detailed response to your question can be provided.
  1. Is there a way for a teacher to upload a template a template document for students to complete in the action section?

Yes, a teacher can connect a Google Drive document as a resource for the activity and then attach that resource to an Action Step. When the student clicks on the link to that document, it puts a copy in their locker.  Then they go to their locker, click on the title of the document and they will be taken to it in Google Docs where they are working on their own copy (complete with their name in the title just like Google Classroom). To ‘turn in’ their work, they go to their locker in Empower and click the circle next to the document title so that a checkmark appears showing that they have turned it in.

  1. Is there a way to create a playlist flow that has a non-linear arrangement? I understood it as the student could do the steps in any order, but visually I think kids may feel locked into a particular sequence of activities if it is linear. A "cobweb" style layout may provide the appearance of more flexibility to the student.

Currently, Empower does not have the ability make activities in a playlist appear as non-linear, or cobweb style.  As a teacher you can tell students when it is appropriate to do activities within a playlist in the order they wish, but within Empower activities will appear linear.

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