In a black suit, light purple shirt and red and blue tie, Bassam poses for a photo in front of a bright green bush.

Student Spotlight: Taking Personalized Learning to a New Level

For University Prep student Bassam I., technology is at the forefront of his learning. Since elementary school, he’s loved computers, playing around with Scratch and Google Slides at nine years old. At twelve, he started programming with Java, eventually learning different programming languages like Javascript, HTML, CSS, Lua, C#, C++ and Python. By sixteen, he wanted to learn electronic design.

“I love electronics. I sometimes will just take something apart to figure out how it works,” says Bassam. “We live in an age where anyone can get information, any time, anywhere. I am grateful I live in a time where I can learn pretty much anything.”

From deconstructing Chromebooks, calculators, pedometers and power strips to building prototypes of USB hubs and touch screen phones, Bassam has explored the ins and outs of a variety of tech items. Despite his innate skills with technology however, learning these things didn’t happen overnight for Bassam.

“I built a prototype for a USB hub you could connect to via Bluetooth. It took several months of looking through documentation and learning about things like impedance, RF design, micro-soldering and more,” Bassam explains. “I still have a lot to learn.”

Customizing His Experience

Bassam’s interest in technology has continued to be explored here at Visions through things such as his Directed Project, where Bassam was able to focus on subjects that he was passionate about, and the Game Design CTE Pathway. This passion has even taken root in his everyday experience with instruction through SchoolsPLP, which is the learning management system that students like Bassam use to access courses, assignments, grades and more.

Using SchoolsPLP every day made Bassam familiar with the program’s basic functions, so when they made an update at the beginning of the school year, he noticed that the change added an extra button to click in order to access his student portal. To mitigate this, Bassam began creating PLPMod (pictured below), which is a Google Chrome extension that can be used to personalize a student’s SchoolsPLP profile both aesthetically and functionally.

“To develop for PLPMod, it starts with something to change,” explains Bassam. “Let’s say people want to change the background. First, I add a setting into the menu. Next, I use the inspect window. I find the HTML element I want to change inside of this inspector, then I figure out how my program will find the same element. Then I code PLPMod to find this element and modify it or add things there. Just like that we have added a new feature!”

Bassam has added numerous features to PLPMod, including the ability to: create a custom profile picture, create a custom background for the home screen, toggle the GO button for classes, click a “What-If” calculator button that shows what students’ grades will be if they get a specific score on an assignment (according to Bassam, “This was arguably one of the most popular features.”), show grade letters as numbers and vice-versa, show assignments in list form when entering a class rather than going to the latest assignment, click on submitted links to view teacher feedback instead of having to copy and paste the link into the search bar, pin Discussion Instructions, update Logs to keep users updated of new features, and customize the settings menu.

“I have learned quite a lot,” says Bassam. “This was my first ever chrome extension. I learned how to create a manifest (a document describing the extension), how to publish an extension, how to save data in an extension, how to get some feedback and how to fix some bugs.”

Bassam’s amazing work has impressed not only his fellow students, but his teacher, Toby Spencer, and even SchoolsPLP themselves. SchoolsPLP summarized Bassam’s skills with their program in an article of their own, writing:

“In an interview with SchoolsPLP, Bassam discussed how he enhanced the user experience of the student dashboard by developing a Chrome extension mod for SchoolsPLP! The mod allows students to customize their profile pictures and backgrounds, as well as allowing the user to remove the GO button and change the grades from letter grades to number grades, [which] improves both the functionality and aesthetics. Bassam’s innovative approach to the student user interface showcases his talent for UX [user experience] and endeavors in the programming field.” 

Mr. Spencer praises Bassam’s “creativity, ingenuity and computing prowess,” and Bassam credits Mr. Spencer and his CTE teacher, Kim Grant, for supporting and encouraging his passion for technology.

“I’ve never met a single teacher that wouldn’t help me learn the material,” says Bassam. “I’ve also had some really good teachers like Miss Grant! Her class is very flexible, and she likes our creativity on assignments and our own personal projects we share in her Video Game Design class.”

In the future, Bassam wants to go into a career centered around programming or computers. He thanks his family, friends, and teachers for making him the person that he is, and he thanks Visions for giving him the resources and opportunities to explore what he loves.

“[Visions] offers much more than any other high school. The schedule is very flexible and not as rigid as other schools. They also provide you money for school-related activities,” says Bassam. “I like [my] Directed Project and working on my own passion projects for school credit.”

From computers to coding to SchoolsPLP, Bassam has found the program for success, and we look forward to seeing all that he’ll accomplish in the future.