How “Shaking Up” The Way They’ve Always Done It Is Now a Systemic Reality!
Five Technologies Improving The K-12 Digital Learning Experience
Guest Post by Dr. Veta New from Anderson School District Five, Anderson, South Carolina
In 2013, under the direction of a new Superintendent, Mr. Tom Wilson, Anderson School District Five had one middle school take a giant leap to provide a Chromebook for each student to use in the classroom for “e-Instruction.” Teachers and students were responsible and eager to “shake up” and “challenge up” to indeed change traditional instruction, so in October 2013, the District supported students to take home the devices.
A few remarkable successes included completing MAP testing in just two days for two subjects compared to weeks with traditional testing and the obvious and most desired, an increase in student engagement in classrooms where technology is effectively utilized. The increase in winter benchmark scores was attributed to digital instruction.
This pilot was an extraordinary success so since the 2014-2015 school year, each student in grades 6- 12 has been taking home a Chromebook and will include grades 3-5 this year. Students in K-2 have a personal device to use at school.
The standard response to any “disruption” or change often results in resistance and at best reluctance to accept and engage. This merely has not been the case. The commitment by the Superintendent to provide resources for infrastructure, technology repair and e-Learning specialists has allowed the District to share expectations and communicate with the community, especially parents. The fact that preparing lessons and returning assignments can be completed with limited access to the internet, yet be uploaded upon return to the school went a long way in helping teachers, students, and parents believe in the vision.
District Five continuously reviews and recommends software and digital supports. It was quickly realized that an essential and useful single sign-on, ClassLink, would create ease of use and access to apps. This process has become routinized by students and teachers, primarily because it is so very convenient, intuitive, and accessible. Having ClassLink as the district repository of all instructional software provides teachers with a “one-stop shop” that reduces frustration while increasing productivity.
#3 Google Classroom and GSuite
In 2014, a team of Googlers spent time with teachers and focused on simplifying the Classroom technology so that teachers and students could spend more time on learning. District Five did not directly define Google Classroom as the learning management system although it has morphed into being the leading site for teachers and students to create, organize, exchange, update, and improve student work. As Google has continuously seen opportunities for developing the platform, teachers have often provided important feedback so that it’s easy to organize assignments by grouping them into modules and units. The Chromebook experience is highly dependent on this robust Google Classroom and GSuite setup.
#4 Digital Integration Specialists (DIS)
In the beginning, there was one district leader tapped with full responsibility for focused training on the use of the device as an “instructional tool.” That term means something more than an electronic notebook or storage system, but rather a robust system using the Anderson School District Five model, “Vision Five” (learner-centered, growth-oriented, innovative instruction, standards-aligned)* to assure fidelity and support toward the District mission “to educate students who are college and career-ready and will positively contribute to an ever-changing world.”
It became abundantly clear that a larger cadre of talented and “tooled” educators was needed to deploy the excitement, skills, and ideas to transform teaching and learning truly. During the past two years, 10 “Digital Integration Specialists (DIS)” have been trained to support the transformation of instructional practice using Chromebooks and additional resources related to the integration of traditional practice with “E-Learning and Integration.”
#5 eLearning Days
The most current excitement related to the take-home environment in District Five has been the approval to be the first “eLearning” Pilot in South Carolina! When weather, hurricanes, snow, power outages, or emergency school closings occur, District Five will continue learning and teaching from the comfort and safety of home, thus no makeup days! Learning can stay in real time, with current, relevant content and digital access to teachers. Should energy or wi-fi access limit completion of assignments, there will be a makeup window, usually five days.
As soon as the pilot was announced, Superintendent Wilson was in contact with media outlets from around the world. In a phone interview with The Washington Post, he said, “It just makes good sense,” explaining that on average, a small percentage of students attend the makeup days that are tacked onto the end of the school year, so the district has eliminated them. The superintendent said the school district invested $11 million in Chromebooks over the past several years, providing them to students in kindergarten through 12th grade, “so we think we’re in a position to make it work.”
To the future: It can be concluded that with the momentum and support established with not only these five technologies, but with the school year poised to offer inviting, realistic, and meaningful ongoing digital experiences that continue to “shake up” the future by learning from the past and taking risks to improve learning and teaching. After all, the Vision “to provide an excellent school system empowering students to reach their potential through academics, arts, and athletics becomes stronger the more we leap into digital learning paths, and frequently, the “one less traveled by… has made all the difference.”
For more information and details: https://www.anderson5.net/Domain/388. This site will welcome you to Anderson School District Five “eLearning and Integration.”
Dr. Veta New completed undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Georgia in the fields of Career and Technical Education and Family and Consumer Sciences and then achieved her Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina in Policy and Leadership. Dr. New served schools in Georgia as a teacher, a principal at all levels, Director of Professional Learning, and Superintendent. Moving to South Carolina, she has served in many roles related to secondary instruction and connecting with post-secondary education, business, and industry. Dr. New currently serves as Director of Professional Learning in Anderson School District Five, Anderson, South Carolina.
Personal Professional Vision: To teach and to learn is a lifelong passion and priority. The enjoyment of “work and career” involves envisioning the brightness of what the future holds while meeting the daily needs for students based on the direction established by the school district.