New digital offerings a win-win for CCSD#2

CCSD#2 Technology Instructional Specialist Lisa Shadrick speaks about the Canvas Learning Management System during Technology Night Nov. 12.

Mike Moore

In smaller school districts, it is impossible to have every course offering fathomable on the face of the planet. For Converse County School District No. 2, they may not have the room or staffing capabilities to give students a wide swath of entry-level college courses on top of what district educators are already instructing.
With that being said, other districts in other corners of Wyoming may just have the courses Glenrock seeks to build upon its offerings for students. Through the help of the internet and recent technological advances in software programming, classrooms 20, 30 or even hundreds of miles apart can now be connected.

The makeup of the Glenrock student body is vastly different in 2018 than those who walked the hallways in 2008. Students today have spent most of their lives with modern tablets and smartphones embedded in their lives after the initial iPhone was released 11 years ago in 2007.
This means students are not only comfortable with their devices but enjoy using them inside school and at home. In setting students up for the future ahead, CCSD#2 Technology Instructional Specialist Lisa Shadrick says the district’s job is to ready the student body for the workforce, college or whatever their journey may be, with technology in mind.
“We live in a very technology-rich environment and these kids are what we would call ‘digital natives,’” Shadrick said. “They’ve only known a world with technology.”
That means the teaching styles of yesteryear simply aren’t viable in this day and age and it is the job of educators to catch up.
“We have to meet them at what they know now,” she said. “In moving forward with their futures and whatever they plan on doing, technology will be involved. We’re helping them to have a better understanding of how they can utilize that.”

It is no secret Wyoming is remote, with communities few and far between in terms of distance. Small, remote school districts may not have the resources to bring all of the educational tools each and every student needs or desires.
As technological infrastructure improves and capabilities expand, schools now have opportunities to connect more than ever before.
One tool at the forefront of this push is the Canvas Learning Management System, where the Wyoming Department of Education signed a contract to provide special statewide pricing of Canvas to all K-20 institutions across the state. So far, 20 K-12 districts around the state and six higher education institutions have started using the system. This is the first year CCSD#2 has used the Canvas system.
“We have students, for instance, seniors at the high school level taking college classes within the learning management system,” Shadrick said, noting the platform houses student assignments, lectures and more. “It’s a one-stop shop for education with an online focus.”
She says this is exciting, as students are already working toward college degrees in this early stage of Canvas. Parents can be involved with their children’s education at home, making education transparent and collaborative, Shadrick noted.

In a classroom of 20 students, teachers are faced with the tall order of ensuring everyone absorbs the necessary curriculum during the school year, regardless of the fact that each pupil learns at a different pace. That all changes with Canvas, as students can learn at a speed that fits their needs.
“Technology allows them to go in, be leveled to where they are skills-wise and continue with their education,” Shadrick said. “We’re able to meet the students at their needs because of these programs.”
Alongside Canvas, the district is using Google tools and various web-based programs to help with reading, math and other content areas.
Online tools, such as Google MyMaps, allows educators to go back in time and map out historical moments in U.S. history. Social studies teacher Miranda Haskell has been using it to help her students visualize what they are learning from the curriculum.
“It just enriches all content,” Shadrick said. “It does a phenomenal job.”

Despite the early stages of implementing additional technological tools to enrich student learning at CCSD#2, Shadrick says they are already witnessing the fruits of their labor in more ways than one.
For example, she spoke of a student visiting her with questions on how to embed video from YouTube into a slideshow they are building. After walking the student through the process, she asked if they would go back and teach the rest of the class, which they agreed to do.
“They walk away, like ‘Oh, my God, that is the coolest thing,’” she said. “They pay it forward.”
There were concerns revolving around providing each district student with Chromebooks to use in school. Shadrick has experienced quite the opposite. She says students now are collaborating and communicating more than ever before.
“If you walk into a classroom, they have their Chromebooks up and they are all absolutely engaged,” she said. “To see 100 percent engagement in classrooms. . . that is exciting.”
Shadrick thanks the school board for seeing the need for 1-to-1 Chromebooks for every district student, a decision made last fall and early winter.
The district has even rolled out a program allowing high school students to bring their own devices such as laptops, as the district now has the infrastructure in place to support a program and Chromebook checkouts if they need to take them for homework. They’re eyeing the possibility of expanding checkouts to grades 7-8 in the near future.

Since this is the first year the district has worked with Canvas, they are just seeing the tip of the iceberg of how education is changing in a new tech-savvy world surrounding them. Shadrick hopes to build upon what they have already brought to the table in the coming years, but is pleased with the start they have observed.
“We’re kind of throwing things out and we’re going to watch, see the data and we’re going to check and see what works and what doesn’t,” she said.
In the push to bring more students to a proficient level, Shadrick says she is asking educators what they need in order for students to get to that point.
“We will continue those conversations and I will continue investigating the best tools so our students are proficient and beyond,” she said. “It’s just an open dialogue with teachers so that we make sure we meet the needs of all the students.”
With any discovery phase, they will find methods that work and don’t work, and will fine-tune offerings over time, she said.

Following a successful initial push with Canvas, Shadrick says the goal now is to develop a strategic plan with the state representative to implement Canvas district-wide in grades K-12 and beef up course offerings down the road. The first year was not mandatory for instructors to get on board with Canvas, but with it being so successful, Shadrick says there will be a push to expand.
“In the district we probably have about 12 active teachers utilizing it,” she said.
Additionally, she wants parents to get involved and ask questions.
“Let’s have this open dialogue so we can all be working together to help students,” she said. “This is an exciting time in our school district and we really want parents on board.”


Glenrock Independent

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