The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

Can We Talk About the Portal?

Why We Should Consider Moving Away From the Portal
Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

My first few weeks as an Upper School student were filled with complaints from me and my peers. Most were similar to the following; this schedule is ridiculous, why does the whole high school have lunch at the same time?” or “I arrived 10 seconds late, why does that count as ‘tardy?’” or “these teachers speak in borderline riddles, how am I supposed to follow their instructions?” and I’ve even heard the occasional “my ____ teacher is actually crazy.”

These are valid complaints, and while every student’s experience is unique, it’s almost unanimous among the current group of freshmen that the portal makes very little sense.

I hear less and less of this sentiment as time goes on, and chances are it’s not because we’ve had a change of heart but because at some point, when the requests of the public are completely ignored, most will just give up and accept defeat. We’ve reached that point now. Many of us have grudgingly adapted to the quirks and differences of the portal.

I’m sure the faculty has heard plenty of students complain about the site, but when asked why they dislike it, most students will say that it’s slow and not much else. My problems with the portal go much further. I want to look at  the controversial choice of switching from Google Classroom to the portal, potentially grade-affecting glitches, misleading and bizarre wording, and more.

When I say “potentially grade-affecting glitches,” I’m being serious. I know these are glitches because there’s no world where having an assignment that is “completed” and “missing” at the same time is intentional. This issue has occured to me and others, and I have no idea what could cause it.

And yes, it is actually grade-affecting, or at least it appears that way. I have had one more glitch happen to me that also could be considered grade-affecting. When I was writing a paragraph in the box that’s provided on certain assignments, I pressed submit, and not only did it not submit, but it completely erased my paragraph.

As for “misleading and bizarre wording,” this one is just my opinion, but I do think it’s a valid take and a harmful feature. Looking at Google Classroom, when you turn something in, the assignment disappears from your to-do list, and it doesn’t show up in the box for each class that says “assignments due soon,” which  makes sense. The portal, in contrast, ignores common sense. When you submit an assignment or mark it as completed, nothing will change. This has led to multiple occasions where I’ve been confused because it looked like there were more assignments than there actually were. 

Another less significant example is the use of the word “tardy.” I may be exposing myself here, but I had no idea what tardy meant when I first saw it. Apparently, everyone else did, so I guess it’s not that big of a deal, but the word “late” works just as well and is much more straightforward. What I’m saying is, if you’re going to use the word tardy for being late, you might as well go all out. Replace absences with truancies, and replace schedule with itinerary because a thesaurus says they’re synonyms.

I mentioned Google Classroom before, and of course, it’s not perfect, but Google knows what they’re doing. This is why my teachers and my classes have been using it since I was in second grade. I know the ins and outs of Classroom so well, and it goes so well together with all of Google’s other websites and tools like Docs, Slides, Sheets, Drive, Gmail, Calendar, Forms, and Translate.

I’d say my biggest problem with the portal is that we’re using it at all. What’s the point of switching after six years of using Classroom, only to boot us off of it, then not teach us anything about how to use this new website? What would that be like for someone who hasn’t even seen the portal before?

This may not be true, but it feels like I’m the only one who’s advocating for some change to the portal anymore. I didn’t even discuss the tedious sign-in it makes you go through if you’ve been off the site for more than a nanosecond (it’s nice not having to enter your email in every time, but the amount of loading that it takes to get back onto the site after about fifteen minutes of being off of it isn’t fun), or the nightmare that the mobile version is, or how certain teachers will put tests up on the portal, but you have to click on the “future” assignments page to be able to see it, and I could keep going. All I want is Parker to at least acknowledge how many of us feel regarding the portal. 

That being said, there are actually things I think the portal does better than Classroom, and there are some features that are positive. Looking into these things, I now kind of understand why Parker would make graduating middle schoolers switch over. There are some features provided that would be impossible to replicate in Classroom, like showing absences, room numbers, your personal schedule, (and, if you’re in a mood, everyone’s personal information) the emails of teachers for easy access, and the ability to see your grade with many more classes than before. In high school this information is far more essential than in Middle School. 

This is obviously a more negative article than it is positive, and my general feelings about the portal still are, too. Maybe one day I’ll come around on it, and maybe some of my complaints will be acknowledged and potentially changed. I’m no website designer, and these are just my opinions, of course, but I think they’re valid and worth bringing up. I’m hoping that this sounds more like feedback than an attack, and that a potential response to my thoughts would show openness to change.

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