Learning Upgrade: Technology in Iowa Schools
Technology. Has been, a game-changer, as, far as the opportunities, that our kids have a, device. Can be an expensive, worksheet, if you use it a certain way but, it also can help transform, teaching and learning if it's used the right way school. Has looked the same for a long long time now, we know that that can be different and, when you walk into any classroom in this school you wonder who is the leader because the kids are leading their own instruction. They're given the tools to do so. The. National educational, technology, plan is the central, framework, for how technology. Tools and digital learning resources can. Be used by educators throughout. The, nation's education, systems to really reimagine. And transform, learning for, teachers, kids, families, everybody, in within the system and so what, it does is, it pulls, together, policy. Recommendations. Research. Expert. Recommendation. And, examples. From the field about, those things in practice, so there was content, around learning how kids learn differently. Using these these tools resources, opportunities. Talks. About teaching, of course and how the teaching profession is different now than it was 10. 20 30 years ago content. Around leadership and how districts. At schools state leadership really. Plays a role in setting, the agenda building. Consensus, talks. About assessment, as well and really with a focus strong focus on data, and how technology. Enables. Educators to have access to more, and more data faster, and faster in, real time and what what to do about that talks, about infrastructure, which, which, is big plays big into this in terms of both, devices. Software. Hardware and, broadband. Access which, is wildly important now that we're trying, to see anyplace anytime connected. Learning occur in our schools so I. Think technology, has changed. Student, learning by putting. The ability to, create learning, into, the hands of students so they, are now really. Empowered, to take, an idea and push, it further maybe even beyond what, the teacher thought about when he or she planned. The lesson, and I've. Seen teachers really integrate, traditional. Technologies, and new technologies. In creative, ways. I would. Like to be able to say that the research around, education. Technology, is glowing that. Everything, we're doing with technology is, showing these, amazing, positive results, when it comes to student learning.
Unfortunately. That's not necessarily, the case it's a bit murky what. We've had to do is dig a little bit deeper what. We found is that those gains are often coming not necessarily, from a ubiquitous, use of technology, but, rather a very purposeful, and careful use of technology, and, getting. Even deeper into it we're seeing that the instructional, practices, of the teacher make the largest difference, the. EdTech plan says, that students. Really need, to, know. How, to, use. Technology to, solve real-life, problems. We're. Beginning, to see that shift, where we're actually using, technology. As a tool to transform, learning. More, to help students. Become, creative. Thinkers. Critical. Problem, solvers. Collaborators. And working. Differently, with technology. Rather than just using technology, to do what we've always done, kids. Are doing so so. Much more advanced things now than, I ever imagined. Could even be possible as, a high school student I could, think they interact with each other they build team skills, they, create products, out of information, I find and all of that really. Goes back to happening. Because they have an easy access or, avenue to do that and technology, plays a large, role in that. So. Today in my classroom, you would have seen students, who are starting a personalized. Writing, unit what I do is I go on to Google Sites and it, allows, me to create content, that can, be differentiated, for everybody. In my classroom it doesn't matter what level you're at so, if you're at a basic, level you can still work independently, with me circulating, and then, as I'm circulating, I'm noticing, these, kids are lacking in this area or these kids are really strong in this area so I have a couple opportunities to either partner, kids who are strong with, kids who need some support. Or I, can pull three or four kids into. A group focus, on that skill the, next I can, pull a different small group and focus on a new skill so it just allows me to personalize and differentiate, much, more readily. One. Area that I think has, been extremely beneficial when, it comes to digital technologies. In school has been for assistive. Technologies. So, technology, can help all students but in particular, our students, with. Particular. Needs. Bradon, has the, diagnosis. Of cerebral palsy, today. He was in a science class they had a presentation. To do on a national. Park, Brayden, was in a small group with his Chromebook, and so using. Read, and write Google he's able to talk, his, answers to the computer today for, the presentation, and hand, that in and interact. With a class more and be, more involved, I think. For so long for him in school people. Have just assumed that, the. Physical, work that he's doing is his ability you. Know and now he can, use these tools and and show, all, this stuff and yeah and have independence. I think that's the, biggest thing I, think. Our staff is, making. The transition from being something, where, students, are are receiving. Knowledge and the teachers a font of wisdom the. Teacher can really become. Really. Really an aide and helping that student reach, a potential. Pretty. Much every single student our school district has their own computer. That's, changed, dramatically, every. Single student whether they're special needs not special needs every student has a Chromebook, you know I think more than anything else technology's just become ubiquitous right, it's. Kind of like the air we breathe in, our in our schools and we're, not about technology here I think that's the interesting thing about this is this, is not even you know I would not call our one-to-one initiative, a technology, initiative, it's a learning initiative, you know what we want to do is is create the very best learning experiences, for kids that we possibly can period. It. Counseled us everyone's. On board to make sure that you know everyone, has the tools that they need in order to learn it levels. The playing field and you, know kids are able to do things now that you know they were never able to do before, for, an initiative like this to be successful you have to understand this idea that that things are possible now that weren't possible before you, know when I'm thinking through how are kids going to demonstrate, their. Understanding, of a concept their understanding, of some. Content, but there are lots and lots of ways that I can have kids show, that now it doesn't have to be in a written essay right, I can have kids create, using. Any of the technologies, that they have at their disposal they, can create videos and they can create audio and they can use images and annotate.
Those Images they can also write they, can write all kinds of different kinds of text we. Want students to be able to take charge of, their learning to, be able to know. How to learn, and how to demonstrate, competencies. Through learning, you, know in our case we we start with why, we. We have created, some very clearly defined Y statements, around why we do all of this why we're making the investment. Of time and energy and significant. Money into this technology, rich environment. Let's, watch in, terms of Milo he has a very specific purpose and that purpose is, to assist. Special. Education, students, on the autism spectrum with. Appropriate. Communication, and recognizing, nonverbal, skills for, some students, having a relationship, with that device, is easier, than having a relationship with a human being and, for, for this a very special group of students they're learning social. Skills that they will use with other human beings from a device, from this robotic I find, it to be amazing mix, it up you know students. Are learning these, social, clues and cues and, appropriate, responses, from the, technology. From the robot and applying them in their daily life with people for. Most students that work with Milo it's so intuitive for them when Milo asks for their attention eyes on Milo students, engage, and then when they engage their. Attention. Is there the cadence, of the speech is slower allowing, more time to process that keeps anxiety, lower so. There's just more retention there's there's a greater processing through it it's. Just again another, opportunity for a student to be very individually, engaged. And realize. Those greatest, potentials. To. See the, true application. With, a student. Who needs to develop particular. Kinds of skills to watch it you know happen was amazing, for me it's, why you do the work. So. Education technology. Has always been around since, at, the beginning of schooling in the u.s. so, we've had paper pencils. Slates, but. What has really changed over the last two decades has, been that, we've moved from kind of a whole group instruction with technology, where technology, was really supplementing. What was already happening in the classroom, and now, what we're seeing our, classrooms, where, there's. This idea of personalizing. And individualizing. Instruction through, technology, we, also don't, necessarily see the students doing the same things and their devices anymore, students, could be using the same piece. Of software but doing very different things with it based, on their learning interests, based on their differentiated. Learning levels. So. We don't have to teach to the whole and wait, for everybody to get to a certain place before, we move to, the next place, in the continuum, of learning, and, this enables, us to meet kids needs in, ways that are where, they're at so when they're ready to move they're able to move. Even. Though the. Other three kindergarten, teachers are considerably. Younger than, I am I am actually the one who uses technology. The most and is, always looking for new ways to use technology in the classroom and so, they love it when I share ideas of things oh I found this we can do this together. In the class I don't. Start with technology. And I, don't start that technology. Is what I want. To use, so. What am I going to teach what. I do is figure out what is it I want to teach and is there a way that, technology, can, make that a better experience.
So. We have our one main classroom. Which is called our 21st century classroom, when you first walk in you're gonna notice whiteboard. Walls we call those the idea walls that you can actually write on, just like a whiteboard our, tables, are moveable for different configurations but, they also are whiteboard material. On the tables the other thing in the classroom we found is that we're able to differentiate, instruction mean. That maybe a group that needs more time on a concept, they, work at one table but they're maybe in another group that needs to accelerate and so the teacher has the ability to display. Different things, depend, on what the students need so, each one is a math problem a lot, of kids processed by talking, listening, to other people think and how they think about problems and and they're modeling, they're thinking is. A powerful way to ignite, learning and kids and so, anytime we can put them in a collaborative group where they're hearing other people. Process. In. A structured way my, job then is how, do I set up tasks, and conversations. So. That my kids can, build the blocks for each other to get there having. Spaces, like that have. Pushed me to be, better at. Moving. Away from the stage moving, away from being the expert in the room partnering. Up more with kids in that, way. What. We have found is, if you wait to, give, teachers directions, it slows the whole process down so. Making sure that the teachers know that they have permission, to try. Things that they know will meet the needs of their learners in the classroom I think is is one, of the things that's a great asset here, I have, found that if you plant. The initiative, or plant the goals then, the teachers find ways to accomplish, that they, are the best teachers. Of each other for things that work, well for students you, know it used to be that, as a teacher you'd walk into the classroom and you had a textbook, that you taught from and, you, taught the lesson and you tested the kids at the end and the. Learning was very stagnant, what we do now is we have the Common Core for a basis, for what needs to be taught but, the teachers do a lot of pre assessing, the teachers use, a lot, of technology. - number, one engage the kids, number, two get feedback, constantly from, the kids on their learning and then, number three instead of taking a test at the end IV in it let's create a project that. Shows me what you know. It's. A rather intimidating, process I think for people to like learn along with students, so I think we're pretty candid, I'm learning with you oh I made it err so don't do that but, we usually try and fuse it into our lessons.
Modeling. Modeling a model model model yeah, to make it like seem very natural for us so, this is how you use it this is the mistake that you can make with it and then, the we do we all go and do it together and then of course the you do you go and do it on your own and. I think that's important, that they see us make those mistakes because, sometimes, with tech it can, seem not, super user-friendly with, you know certain systems and so it's like well, we just saw miss Barry mess up and she figured out eventually and so that struggle, is good sometimes so being, able to push beyond the struggle with, using those tools is important. So. The national education technology plan. Has. A new focus for teachers, which is really. Wanting, and recognizing. That for teachers to use technology, effectively they. Need a lot of professional, development many. Of our teachers did not grow up using technologies, they, did not grow up seeing teachers using technologies, effectively, some, of were not even trained when they went through their teacher preparation programs, because was long enough ago that they, didn't have those opportunities. We. Constantly, talk about. Differentiated. Learning and how. You. Can't teach to the whole anymore. It's just it's. Not fair to students, you, have to meet students, where they are and for teachers that becomes a very difficult job, because, now I'm, not teaching to one entire, group I have. 25. Individuals. Who. Need different. Kinds. Of things each and every day and so. Technology, especially. One-to-one. Technology, can. Differentiate, that. Learning. For. The, student. Leadership. Is key I can't. Emphasize how important, leadership is if. You see a school that ended. Up disbanding. A one-to-one program it's often because they didn't have strong leadership in place so. If, nothing, else leadership. Has to, be the driving force when, it comes to implementing. A technology, program in your school, leadership. Needs to create a vision and that's. Where things need to begin rather than with a tool it, needs to begin with the vision from the leaders in the school. Really. Started at the school board level and their support, and, saying that the, status quo isn't. Good enough for our kids that we want to provide every opportunity we can for them to learn and grow I've heard it said before that your zip code shouldn't, determine what you're able to learn there's. Big-city, opportunities, here in rural Iowa. Technology. Helps make that happen rural. Poverty and Iowa's a real thing some of these big pieces of technology, students may not have accessibility, to through their own home. Six. Years ago the, administration, said, we're gonna hit technology, hard and that, was scary the. Teachers ability to be very flexible and, to, learn. On their feet as they go I think that's invaluable, to. The culture that we've grown here it's really not a top-down, driven system, anything, that's mandated. Kind of has that negative, twist. On it the, teachers know that they're free to try. Things they're empowered, to do, what they know is best for their learners. Our. Administration. Is very supportive they, come in they want to see what we're doing but they give us wings and they let us fly if. We have suggestions they always want to hear them and they will find a way to make it happen I think. What the teachers have felt is they. Have permission, to fail forward, anything. That they want to try in the classroom, you know a lot of times they'll run it by me but not always they. Do what they know is good teaching practice, it can't be top-down you have to invite the. Educators, and conversation. They have to be a part of this decision-making. Try. To I guess model, everything, we want from our teachers needs, to come from us as an admin team really, that's not my personality to, be, on, social media, and that's something that I got to step out of my comfort zone with we, got a school Twitter, account if I'm asking her staff to reach out and connect with other people on. Twitter become, part of the IOA edchats that I'll put myself out there and become, become.
Part Of that conversation which, has, helped grow, some nice professional, connections, and those connections, were harder before technology, it would wouldn't, work if we just said do this do this do this and didn't do, it because they need to see us failing forward also with it we. Need to rethink how. Teachers. Approach, their jobs we, have to you almost give them opportunity. To, fail and to, be risk takers, you know they need to be able to try, new things if it, doesn't, work, okay. What, did I learn and as, a result, how. Can I do it differently the next time, with. Or without technology. That. Will make it a better situation, for. Our students, part, of preparing educators. To. Take. Advantage, of everything, great that, technology. Provides is preparing, them to do it and giving them the the time to, try, things out creating, environment, where they can take risks. You. Know where it's you know safe to fail it's. It's. Okay to experiment. Because, that'll help teachers. Feel, better about teaching. With thing tools, and methods and processes that maybe they haven't been teaching that way for their entire career its, brand new well they feel safe they can take that risk I. Think. Technology provides, a real opportunity, to. Assess. Students, in more. Efficient, ways and, to provide real time data back to students. And teachers we. Know that good assessment, is integral, to good, instruction, and it should be just, part of how, teaching and learning happens and so when, teachers, can use technology. To, quickly, assess. And check student progress they, can get right back into instruction, and so it's a seamless transition between. Teaching. Students. Demonstrating. Practicing. And then assessing, and then right back into the cycle, for. Many years, technology. Was really used, in a summative assessment, way kind. Of almost a standardized, test online, a paper pencil test online and, it, wasn't that much different but, what we've seen over the last decade has been a movement, into, unique. Ways to do formative assessment, and technology. Can play an integral role in teachers.
Being Able to get those in the moment checkpoints, during the process of learning which is what formative, assessment, is so. There's a lot of software now that allows students, to be working on maybe a mathematics, problem and the teacher can actually log in at the same time synchronously. And see what they're doing and give, them feedback in the moment about what they're doing. The. Biggest thing has been feedback, technology, has made that, so much easier for me but for the kids they can be so much more responsive, you know I can give feedback they, get an email or a comment right away and they're eager to check and then they're eager to fix and so that process for. Feedback especially, I feel has been really streamlined, so you can see who's really, getting it and you can see who's maybe. Struggling with how to get started and it allows you to make comments as they're working I think it makes two flexible grouping, so, much easier because, we don't have to wait you know normally, they, do an assignment it's due Friday and then we're moving on here it's like do, we do it Monday Tuesday. I can check and I know what these kids need I can sort them I can group them way easier just, makes that process so much more. Simple and then we're able to reach kids way faster. The. Impact, on technology, on student learning is difficult to measure it's challenging, to measure. We. Are using. Some. Software across. The, entire. State of Iowa, one. Of the things that Iowa actually, a product that Iowa brought in teachers, fill out a survey and so you know it is self rating just say how technology, is being used students, fill a survey to talk about how technology is being used and that compiles, information across those different surveys to show how then, technology. Is being used you know but how, what access to teachers have to technology, or to students have taken technology, at home, as, well as what's. Being done with that technology and what, skills that, teaching, staff might have to, use that technology and. So one of the things that we've done is to implement something called bright bytes and bright bytes is just a data source that we take a survey, with parents, students. And teachers grades 3 through 12. And try, to get areas, that we're doing well with with, bright bytes were able to see how kids are using technology. And if it's making an impact on the learning that they have one.
Of The things that we've done to take the the bright bytes data even further is to create a foresee team a leadership, team with, technology, the foresee stem for communication. Creativity. Critical, thinking and collaboration, we. Look at that data and then we try to help teachers within, the 4 C areas, get, that to their students, and then every year we measure our data did we improve in those areas. We. As, a committee. Had, a set time where all the teachers got together to, do the bright bites survey. We, get the results, back and we look through and. We kind of just look at what are some areas that are a, high need for teachers. That they're, really seeming not to use technology, or not understand, how to do, and, this is one of the few ways that we've been able to say besides just we know it's making a difference come watch our classrooms, we have some data that, we can show the school board we can show our community, and we're very very proud of the direction we're going with that once. We identify. The need, is there we can then create, measures. That help us project. The, kinds of things that we need to do in order to enable kids and teachers to. Be, working, around those four C's and we starting, now to actually. See improvement. In, those areas, so that's very exciting. Financial. Education technology. Plan, places. A large emphasis on a variety of things when it comes to infrastructure, it's not just, having, high-speed. Broadband. Internet access it's. Having high-speed access for, the entire community, so while, they have this technology at school once, they leave school if, they don't have a way of getting on the Internet at home it. Doesn't help now. There are answers out there like the library and that kind of thing but the library is not always open or. The student might be doing homework late at night so, there are districts that are doing some creative, things this. Community is a very high tech community, and as an embraced. The. Idea of, being a technology, leader in the school district, I. Hear, people talking about our our, schools and our technology, focus you know in the community and the pride factor we've. Also recently begun. An initiative where a little over a year into a community-wide, Wi-Fi, project, to allow our. Community, to have lots. And lots of free public Wi-Fi to benefit, students but also to benefit you know anybody in the community who needs Wi-Fi, we've, started in in neighborhoods, of poverty first on purpose and we're. Moving across the city installing. As much free, public Wi-Fi as possible, and it's, a cooperative team, effort between the school district and the city of Council Bluffs and lots of other organizations who've helped so it's really a community that's embraced, the. Idea of being a tech leader because, the people here are proud of what we love, what we've done in schools and in the city and in the community in general in. Addition, to kind of this high speed connectivity, we. Also want, to make sure that, we. Have all of the devices. In place and that, we can sustain them because there's a lot of devices that are coming into the schools it's not just what the schools are buying or, purchasing, it's also students are bringing in their own devices teachers. Have their own devices so you want to make sure that the infrastructure, physically. Can just support that another, piece of it is just kind of creative. Long term budgeting, and making, sure that you can afford to sustain the, vision that you have a large, piece is digital, citizenship, making. Sure that students understand, digital etiquette making, sure that devices, that, are used in the schools are safe and secure and students, understand, what that is that you're in line with federal. Laws so, infrastructure, stretches, out to mean a lot of different pieces coming. Together to, make these. Devices, successful, in the classrooms, or, one-to-one school districts or all kids here in our district. K-12, were issued a 1:1 device iPads. At the k5, six through 12th grade have the MacBook, Airs that. Provides a piece of equity, that all. Students, are on a level playing field I think one of the big things that we did this year is we did a technology, refresh so we all got new devices it had been three years since since.
The Other devices were in place and it was, time to upgrade I think, that is a big piece and making sure that we're planning financially. For that to occur and then, you know the training piece for teachers because even though the device is the same device there are more. Capabilities. With the newer versions, and making sure that the teachers are aware of those and always, giving them time to explore, it's. Hard technology, is expensive and and making sure that we had the funds in place to support that was. One of the key pieces that we had to have in place before we, proceeded. Every. School district struggles with how do I fund it and where's that money going to come from and what else do I have to cut to make this happen I think. One of the main things that we've done here at Howard Winn is, we are not big on textbook, adoption, we do not go out and purchase a lot of curriculum, there's, so much stuff on the internet that's free, or. At, very little charge that, the teachers have really gone out and pursued, those things. That, meet Iowa, core and that they can adapt to, use. As teaching resources in their classroom, so that's, a lot of funds that we have saved just, by utilizing the devices, that we have you. Know we got an appropriate, use policy that, we need to communicate. Have. People check off on hold them accountable to that that that's that's, a piece of it we have very few things blocked here at the school we try to I, guess. We try to teach take those, approaches. At an individual, basis with different students on, that way and oftentimes I wonder you know should we put the clamps on things a little more but the reality is when they leave here for college. Or career that, things, are wide open and, some kids need a little more coaching and that than others but that's what we're here for to is to teach teach, those soft skills to help them be employable, and be, productive as after they leave here it. Really is a system. And there's a lot of moving pieces to it now and there's a lot of things that need to be going right to make it all work. Technology. Doesn't replace great teaching, technology. Supports, great teachers helps, with engagement, of students, there's, not a magic app there's, not a magic machine there's. Not one thing that's gonna be a cure-all because, we're preparing kids for jobs, that aren't invented, yet our kids across America and public schools are doing things that we never dreamed could happen, 15, or 20 years ago but. What is very helpful and the research has shown this is the instruction, moves the teachers making they, have an independence, that they never had before to, be able to see that, integration. Of just excellent. Teaching of those teacher and student interactions, plus, the layering in of technology, and the students being able to create has. Has been really exciting. You. Know I would not call our one-to-one initiative, a technology, initiative, it's a learning initiative, it's about the learning experiences, that we can create for all the kids in our district.