LeiLani Cauthen, the CEO and Publisher of the Learning Counsel, shared that, while on the road this year visiting with school leaders in districts of every size across the country, she observed that all were in the midst of various aspects of software systems-level restructuring. Confusions over devices and buying technology were mostly over. Administrations were deep into finding better solutions to support teachers with full digital curriculum implementations and more sophisticated teacher professional development.
“While it was common to find districts with decently established infrastructure and computing devices, what is happening with teachers is far from well-executed with regards to software oversight,” said Cauthen. “By survey, teachers are still spending upwards of 25 percent of their time finding content and building custom lessons. In the meantime, technology and digital content collections continue to grow into realms that individual teachers and even school technology departments can’t keep up with—and the oversight to vet this content is questionable at best, in most cases. Luckily, I am finding most districts, such as our award winners here at the gathering, are beginning to get a handle on many of these challenges.”
The annual gathering was a chance for many school leaders and teams to be appropriately lauded for doing superlative work. The recipients of the Learning Counsel Digital Curriculum Strategy Awards for 2017 included:
St. Vrain Valley Schools (Longmont, CO): The district with a systematized personal learning environment. Awarded for their work in preparing students for a complex, globalized economy, they emphasize a systems approach where technology and other digital resources are integrated into every level of learning across their PK-14 environment. Their students receive a highly rigorous education that leverages technology to build personalized learning environments for student advancement and growth. Through their strong leadership and dedicated teachers and staff, their Learning Technology Plan and digital curriculum integration programs have been nationally recognized for the infrastructure that allows for long-term sustainability in an uncertain funding environment. Their robust professional development programs give teachers the tools they need to effectively implement a 21st-century classroom, and their community of parents and students champion St. Vrain's model of digital citizenship and academic excellence. Receiving the award were Executive Director of Curriculum Kahle Charles; Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction Dr. Tori Teague; and Director of IT Patrick Mount.
Pickerington Local School District (Pickerington, OH): The district with traditional-digital. Awarded for major strides towards implementing their version of blended learning called “Tradigital Learning,” in which teachers blend the best teaching practices of a traditional classroom with those of a digital classroom. In recent years, Pickerington Schools have ceased purchasing textbooks and worked in partnership with the technology and teaching and learning departments to incorporate high-level digital content into the curriculum. This modern digital content has allowed their students and teachers to have access to updated content and material that enhances instruction through engagement, interaction, differentiation, and personalized learning. In combination with this change in pedagogy and additional modern-day resources, Pickerington is also the largest school district in Ohio to go completely 1:1 (one computer for each one student). Receiving the award was Director of Instructional Technology Brian Seymour.
Lammersville Unified School District (Mountain House, CA): The district “changing time and space” in terms of schedule and use of classrooms, they were awarded for additionally facilitating student success with 21st-century skills of collaboration, creativity, communication, citizenship, and critical thinking. LUSD has a fully digital high school, 1:1 Chromebooks for students grades 3-12, 3:1 in grades TK-2, a combination of print and digital K-8 curriculum, and a uniform classroom technology standard for teacher devices. Key to their success is intentional planning to support teachers with the skills and knowledge to design and facilitate powerful instruction using technology at the center of every implementation. Their journey is punctuated with challenges around vetting the technical aspects of any roll-out for integration and requisite IT support. Receiving the award were Mountain House High School Principal Ben Fobert; IT Program Manager Shawn Yohannan; Assistant Superintendent Heather Sherburn; and Instruction, Assessment, and Technology Coordinator Katrina Borncamp.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools (Virginia Beach, VA): This district creates a unique path for students and allows remote or temporarily sick students to attend via robots. They were awarded for their creation of Compass-to-2020, their school division’s strategic plan. This plan includes developing multiple pathways for all students and a program of personalized learning using appropriate digital resources and tools. To this end, the department of teaching and learning developed a readiness guide for schools to self-assess themselves in the dispositions of students, teachers, leadership, community, and learning environment. To support these efforts the division has moved towards utilizing digital resources and tools whenever possible as well as moving towards a 1:1 adoption of Chromebooks in grades 1-12. Receiving the award was Director of Instructional Technology Bill Johnsen.
Logan City School District (Logan, UT): The district taking their transition all the way up to a changed personal learning dynamic across the institution’s structure using digital enhancement at every level. Awarded for their self-paced blended learning program, for online classes to free up student schedules for other activities, for credit recovery, and for blended learning in traditional classes. Their initiative, “Innovations Logan High School” is a self-paced blended learning program, offering students the opportunity to work through subject matter as needed for individual learning styles. All schools in the district are using digital curriculum in their growing one-to-one environment. Receiving the award were Educational and Technical Services Director David Long, Mount Logan High School Vice Principal Paul Wagner, Board of Education Vice President Lisa Hopkins, Board of Education President Kristie Cooley, and Business Administrator Jeff Barben.
Emerson Public Schools (Emerson, NJ): The district aligning with community and student-consumer needs. Awarded for their diligent work to make the effective use of technology a core component of the district approach to teaching and learning. This has been accomplished through the incorporation of a 4-12 1:1 laptop initiative, in-classroom technology from K-2, and a consistent and clear professional development model that has been done with, and not to, their dedicated teaching staff. As a result, the transition, supported with both fiscal resources and the participation of the Emerson Board of Education, has been successful and a point of district pride.
St. Dominic Academy, Diocese of Maine (Portland, ME): Awarded for their incorporation of a blended learning model that achieves a “just right” learning level for each student. With the support of The Foundation for Blended and Online Learning and many other stakeholders, Saint Dominic Academy has begun to shift from the traditional format of teacher centered to student centered learning which has allowed their students to flourish. This summer they held a first ever, blended learning Summer “Bookend” Enrichment Program which allowed students to complete four weeks of “face-to-face” and four weeks of online/blended instruction during the summer months. They are transforming Catholic education in Maine through their digital curriculum strategies. Receiving the award was teacher and Distance Learning Manager Peter Servidio.
Denton Independent School District (Denton, TX): The district who asked what everyone really wanted. Awarded for their ongoing team approach consisting of curriculum and technology experts that together create digital solutions for its 30,000 students. The D-TEK (Denton- Technology Engages Kids) team conducted hundreds of taped interviews of students, teachers, and principals, to provide guidance for professional learning, development of digital curriculum, summer programs such as Raspberry Pi camps, and personalized instructional coaching. A leader in instructional technology in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Denton ISD has hosted the Technology in Action conference for the past eight years, impacting the digital practices of over 1700 teachers each year. Receiving the award were Director of Instructional Technology Dwight Goodwin and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction & Staff Development Dr. Mike Mattingly.
Los Angeles Unified School District (Los Angeles, CA): The district thriving on digital. Awarded to the nation’s second-largest school district, serving a total of 618,970 students, for their Instructional Technology Initiative (ITI), which provides instructional technology support district-wide. In 2014, ITI led a task force of more than 50 members, which included parents, students, teachers, community leaders, and district personnel, to develop the mission and vision that would shape the way ITI serves school leaders. The task force’s efforts resulted in developing a mission and vision that ITI continues to adhere to today: Always lead with instruction and not the tool. For example, in 2016, ITI helped pioneer the District’s adoption of an interdisciplinary framework called the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Student Standards—the first school district in the country to do so. Designing programs of support founded on the ISTE Standards ensures that ITI provides rigorous professional development to all LAUSD school leaders to address living, working, and thriving in a growing digital world. Receiving the award were ITI Coordinator Sophia Mendoza and High Tech Los Angeles Principal Mathew McClenahan.
Highline Public Schools (Burien, WA): With a promise to know every student by name, strength, and need, Highline was awarded for their drive to engage students in personalized digital learning across all grade levels. Efforts included 1:1 devices, small group instructional practices, STEAM-integrated courses, expanded computer science course offerings, technology-infused career and technical education courses, and online curriculum. Students are provided with opportunities to build expertise in computer science and digital skills through internships with local businesses. Educators design and develop curriculum and courses aligned with Universal Design for Learning standards. Highline has created tools and resources to support students with specific special needs, such as English language learners, students with IEP or 504 plans, and other classroom situations where digital learning is the predominant delivery method. They continually develop digital courseware supporting standard accessibility practices and techniques preparing every student for college, career and citizenship.
Super Hero Award: Orange County Public Schools (Orlando, FL): The district who thought of it all and executed flawless plans at scale. Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) received the coveted Super Hero trophy this year. Awarded for their LaunchED Digital Learning Program, which is now in its fourth year of implementation. Annually OCPS deploys approximately 100,000 digital devices to staff and students at all twenty high schools, eleven middle schools, and six elementary schools. The digital transformation at these schools is led by digital curriculum teacher leaders at each site whom attend monthly professional development provided by district staff. Professional development focuses on how the seven key instructional systems can be leveraged to support personalized learning. Over the course of four years, professional development supported the transition of classrooms from traditional instruction to transformative learning. To date, there are one hundred and eleven digital curriculum teacher leaders at LaunchED sites. This year, classroom teachers also have the ability to receive monthly direct instruction through the LaunchED courses housed in the Canvas learning management system. Receiving the award was Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Digital Learning Rob Bixler.
About the Learning Counsel
The Learning Counsel is a mission-based news media and events organization focused on helping education professionals in the K-12 sector gain research and context on the shift to digital. Serving as an intermediary between schools, curriculum publishers, and high tech companies, the Learning Counsel provides perspective and organizational tools on the transition to digital for school systems across the country. For more information, please visit TheLearningCounsel.com.