EdsbyWe’re at the Alabama Educational Technology Conference (AETC) this week. We’ve already seen a bunch of awesome education companies, but our favorite so far has to be Edsby. Edsby is an incredibly useful tool for educators, administrators, students, and parents. In a nutshell, Edsby is a sort-of internal social-esque network for K-12 school districts. Here is a more detailed description from CrunchBase:

Edsby is a cloud-based software application that blends social networking with class and student management. It is intended to promote engagement between K-12 students, teachers, parents and school administrators.

But what exactly does that mean? Well, Edsby has different components for all parties: educators; students; administrators; parents. Let’s start with educators:

Edsby For Teachers

Fist and foremost, Edsby helps teaches cut down on the time it takes to handle tedious, administrative tasks. “It automates much of your administration, gives you better insight into your students than you’ve ever had, and gives you new, more efficient ways to communicate with parents and leverage them for the academic success of your students.”1 At the heart of this is Edsby’s construction.

Rather than putting the onus on the teacher to set-up and maintain the class/parent roster and data, Edsby preforms the majority of these tasks automatically:

Edsby’s student and parent data isn’t painstakingly entered and managed by the teacher. It comes automatically from your school or district’s student information databases without you having to do anything.2

This allows the teacher to actually do their job, rather than becoming some sort of ad-hoc database administrator. As far as teaching, Edsby uses the familiar timeline approach to classes. Each and every class using Edsby is organized into what they call a “conversation timeline.” This timeline contains all questions and comments, assignments, and information for all students and teachers to see. This format was a calculated decision:

As you post notes in your classes, create assignments and assign homework, these events are shown in the conversation. Students can easily ask questions and post information in the conversation, facilitating the sharing of information among all stakeholders—unlike ad-hoc social media groups which may exclude some students and parents. Unlike e-mail, which is an anti-social medium, Edsby conversations allow even shy students to learn from the questions of others.3

What’s more, Edsby provides teachers with detailed analytics for each student. Beyond the basic grades and engagement stats, teachers can get very in-depth with student data by diving into a particular student’s performance, schedule, comments, and more across all of his or her classes:

Edsby automatically tracks, filters and displays recent and relevant conversations for all of the kids you teach. Never feel left out of the loop again. Whether it’s changes to a student’s address, or another teacher posting a mark or a discipline event, Edsby makes sure you see what you need to know in a secure area, available only to teachers and school staff.

You and your colleagues can make notes about students and observations about learning progress. Access students’ schedules and assignments so you can see what their workloads look like and whether they are getting assignments in on time in other courses.4

This holistic view of students gives educators a more detailed picture of students.

Edsby for Students

Edsby helps students in many of the same ways it helps educators. Perhaps mos importantly, Edsby acts as a sort-of daily/weekly/monthly planner and calendar:

Edsby knows what classes, assignments and homework you’ve got. He knows your timetable and where you need to be through the day. He helps you track and manage your activities by showing you all the events and classes scheduled for today, as well as important upcoming events and assignments. He’ll even automatically remind you when you need to do something.5

In addition to mapping out assignments and schedules for students, Edsby helps them keep up with important documents and class materials; a sort-of Blackboard/Dropbox in steroids:

When your teacher uploads files and videos in a class, Edsby puts them in the class library for easy access. So the next time it’s the night before the exam and you need to find the study guide you lost, it’ll be Edsby to the rescue…If there are items that are important to the class, Edsby puts them in a Pinned Items area every time you enter the class. No more searching in your backpack.6

Edsby also acts as progress tracker, displaying all grades and all of the units and courses that students are taking or will take. Further, Edsby also incorporates extracurricular activity management:

Edsby offers secure and convenient locations for discussions, teams  and clubs. Glee club? Football team? They can have their own Edsby Groups. Edsby Groups also let you upload and manage files. Create events in the group, and Edsby will automatically copy the events on the calendar of every member of the group. 7

Edsby for Administrators

While there are resources out there that offer similar functionality, as far as student and teacher functionality, Edsby really separates from the crowd with its administrator and parent features. Edmodo and other such software platforms simply do not meet the robust feature list for parents and administrators.

It all starts with deployment. Rather than going trough a painstakingly difficult process, Edsby offers turnkey incorporation. Quite simply, Edsby works with any and all IT systems and architecture that schools already use. Meaning, rather than undertaking a massive, expensive migration process, Edsby handles it all internally, and quickly. For the technical minded, here is a quick overview of the process:

Edsby has fully automated bidirectional data synchronization with district enterprise data management systems.

On the uplink side, Edsby can query multiple systems, synthesize the resultant data set into a single update, and then use that to populate the relevant data structures in Edsby. This means that Edsby can easily be synchronized with (for example) UserIDs from an Identity Management System, teacher names from an HR database, pictures from a folder of JPEGs and enrollment data from an SIS. In addition, Edsby is extensible. For example, the Edsby Student Panorama form could be easily extended to provide access to student performance data stored in Cognos or WebSphere, which would then be synchronized by Edsby.

On the downlink side, Edsby is capable of producing any required data. This data may then be either saved as CSV files, stored in auxiliary SQL tables, or written directly back to the required enterprise database.

Edsby has been built with a plug-in architecture for both import and export data communication. It supports the following standards:

  • CSV
  • Excel
  • ODBC
  • Direct SQL (MySQL)
  • Direct SQL (Microsoft SQL Server)
  • Web Services (SOAP, REST, JSON, AJAX)
  • SIF (via CSV or XML)
  • FirstClass Batch Admin8

Once Edsby is in use, administrators are able to see a 360° view of the school:

Edsby gives you a complete up-to-the-minute dashboard on any student. When a parent calls, get current classes, marks, attendance, schedule, observations teachers have made about the student, what the student’s workload looks like, whether they’re getting assignments in on time, discipline records and more. Confidently share a student’s exact academic status.

Edsby also lets you add badges to students’ information, so you can see if a student has special needs. You also see a list of all of the parents and guardians of the student and exactly what rights each has (in today’s world of blended families, not all parents can approve field trips, for instance.)

Edsby gives you a much more comprehensive and useful dashboard than any available from your student information system (SIS). This information, called the Panorama in Edsby, is secure, and is available only to teachers and school staff.9

Further, Edsby allows administrators to bring parents into the fold.

Edsby for Parents

Edsby incorporates a robust set of tools for parents, all in pursuit of keeping them well informed with the daily activities of their children. Gone are the days when parents would have to pry details about school out of their children.

Edsby shows you what each child is doing, and how they’re doing. It pulls together up-to-the-minute information about each of your kids and presents it in a clear, easy to understand format. See their assigned homework. And their attendance. And the specifics of what they’re being taught in each class each day. Edsby also shows you how their performance in each course stacks up—from Excellent to Needs Improvement.10

Further, Edsby allows parents to interact with teachers and administrators in a much more fluid way:

Edsby shows you latest important news from your school and your district. Edsby also has an easy, convenient way to contact the school office or your children’s teachers. Still just getting paper notes from your school passed along in your kids’ backpacks? Or only a few parent teacher interviews a year? Edsby gives you a way to communicate, in both directions, with the staff shaping your children’s education.11

This is truly where Edsby stands out as the best school management software. By viewing each school in totality, Edsby is able to keep all parties – students, teachers, administrators, and parents – informed and up to date. The robust education tools – for both students and teachers – though available from other sources, pair with the administration and parent tools to provide the most holistic view of a school possible.

At AETC, we were able to speak with the Edsby team, and learned a bit more about the software: