12 School Districts Honored for their Innovative Digital Curriculum Transition Strategies

Event News
The annual National Gathering was an occasion to celebrate success and connect ed tech leaders facing similar challenges
By: 
Cebron Walker, Editor-in-Chief

At the Learning Counsel’s Annual Gathering and National Awards event, twelve leading districts were recognized for their vision and innovation in integrating digital curriculum and technology into their teaching and learning process. Attendees at the event included top education executives from around the U.S., who gathered to acknowledge exemplary progress and discuss how innovation, technology, and school and classroom remodeling is pushing the education envelope—all in the name of better outcomes for our youth.

The Learning Counsel is helping education leaders chart a course that includes actionable data and current trends,” said Janell McClure, the Director of Digital & Multimedia Learning from Cobb County School District. “These awards share incredible examples of innovative thinking. The knowledge we’ve gained at this Gathering event will guide our work as we continue to strive for excellence in teaching and learning through digital platforms, tools, and practices.”

The national awards were made possible through sponsorship from Ruckus Wireless. As schools like these go truly digital, they need resilient WiFi. With so many types of mobile devices integrated into a student’s learning process, schools need a WiFi network that can handle a high density of devices with speed and reliability.

LeiLani Cauthen, the CEO and Publisher of the Learning Counsel, shared when she spoke at the Gathering that, while on the road this year visiting 29 different cities she observed more schools running “smack into the issue of digital curriculum coverage models,” and “face-planting into the issue of classroom implementation.” She said that every city had Superintendents and other school administration staff worried about how to get every teacher transitioned more fully, taking digital learning objects “out of the shadows” and into core curriculum use.  While it is common to find districts with decently established infrastructure and devices, 1-to-1 (one device for every student) or BYOD (bring your own device), what is happening with teachers is far from well executed with regards to software oversight. “By survey, teachers are spending upwards of twenty-five percent of their time just trying to find content to fit the additional changes in standards and testing. In the meantime, technology and digital content collections continue to grow into realms that individual teachers and even IT Departments can’t hope to keep up with,” stated Cauthen. “With our Special Reports and the discussions we hold in every city and at the  national Gathering, we help define and guide leaders, have all attendees discuss their best practices, share solutions, and make sure to appropriately laud superlative districts for their hard work. At the end of every event we have everyone thank each other for what they have been doing – because we find that these executives rarely get that pat on the back from their own peers in other schools and districts who know exactly what leaders go through in K12 education. At the Gathering we especially make a big deal with a lot of glitz and glam for the best-of-the-best who fly in from across the U.S. It’s our great honor to do that for these hard-working schools.”

Photo Gallery from the 2016 National Gathering

The recipients of the Learning Counsel Digital Curriculum Strategy Award for 2016 included:

Broward County Public Schools (Ft. Lauderdale, FL): Awarded due to their work to develop specific grade-level content (in the lower grades) and courses with appropriate full scope and sequence (in the higher grades) that ensure a high-quality, rigorous, standards-based curriculum for any teacher, in any classroom, at any of their schools. The district is also working to personalize learning with open educational resources and innovative publishers by curating and procuring adaptive curriculum that can identify levels of student capability and prescribe pathways for learning that meet the unique needs of each student. This approach is showing great gains in learning for Broward students.

Buckeye Union High School District (Buckeye, AZ): Awarded for their district-wide Get Connected initiative aimed at transforming teaching and learning. Get Connected is about “connecting” stakeholders to create a dynamic learning experience for today’s 21st-century learner. In the second year of the initiative, teachers can more effectively facilitate instruction and personalize learning in real time, manage curriculum and assessments, gather and evaluate valid and reliable data, collaborate with their peers both locally and across the nation, deepen and enhance the learning process, and engage Buckeye’s digitally connected students.

Cobb County Public Schools (Marietta, GA): Cobb County was awarded for their “Cobb Commitment to Student Success,” initiative which promises that teaching and learning will include the Cobb Teaching and Learning Standards, balanced instructional practices, student progress monitoring, and learning engagement strategies. In support of the Commitment, the district redesigned the content acquisition process, formerly known as “textbook adoption,” to allow for more flexibility in selecting core and supplemental resources including Open Educational Resources (OER), customized publisher packages, and locally developed resources.The new process and policy requires providers to adhere to interoperability standards to ensure integration with the district’s digital learning environment, the Cobb Teaching and Learning System, or CTLS.  As Cobb County continues to create and curate digital content, district leaders work to develop CTLS into a personalized platform for all stakeholders by aligning content and assessment data, assigning attributes to users and content, and establishing predictive analytics. The achievements of their students are a living example of the initiative’s success.

Forsyth County Public Schools (Cumming, GA): Awarded for their Bring Your Own Technology Program. This initiative has led to new thinking about the tools students use. Forsyth County Public Schools has seen dramatic increases in engagement and outcomes by allowing students to choose the tools they want and need to direct their own learning. Hardware and software tools chosen by students in this way is like how many commercial organizations now operate, which means that Forsyth students are being prepped to arrive with the job skill of adapting how they are individually using technology in a greater environment saturated with tech.

Katy Independent School District (Katy, TX): Awarded for their advanced work in creating a single sign-on portal that can be accessed anytime, anywhere, on any device. Students access interactive content for consumption and rich media tools for contribution, creativity, and problem-solving. Katy ISD fosters an environment that inspires students to have a voice in their own learning through online collaboration, technology focus groups, and real-time digital feedback through blogs and virtual classrooms.

North Dakota Center for Distance Education (Fargo, ND): NDCDE was awarded for their work to ensure that all K-12 students in North Dakota are provided equal access to high quality education. This is characterized by choice of courses, content currency, personalized learning, pedagogy reflecting the latest science, and assessment that seeks to measure mastery (competency). The result of this work is students consistently prepared for careers, continued education, and lifelong learning.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools (Salisbury, NC): Awarded for their outstanding work in a low-income district to provide all 17,000 3rd-12th -grade students with MacBook Airs or iPads for take home usage through its instructional transformation initiative. This initiative has allowed for the introduction and implementation of a comprehensive literacy framework, digital curricula, tech books, K-12 online digital citizenship curriculum, teacher-made instructional tools, and virtual professional development offerings. Through their instructional shift, driven by a strong strategic plan, Rowan-Salisbury Schools was recently removed from North Carolina's Low Performing School District listing.

Seminole County Public Schools (Sanford, FL): Awarded for their commitment and passion to providing 24/7/365 equitable access to rigorous instructional content. Because of their thoughtful efforts, Seminole County students, teachers, and parents enjoy a robust suite of digital curriculum offerings anchored by a single sign-on portal, including blended and fully online courses in a learning management system, and access to dynamic web-based content from anywhere in the world. The result of this commitment to transformation are students with increasingly bettered competency and outcomes on assessments.

Tampa Preparatory School (Tampa, FL): Awarded for their vision to create a flexible learning environment. Every classroom is equipped with innovative technologies and ergonomic furniture with the mobility of bumper cars, which gets students out of their seats and learning in new, creative ways. These “Active Learning Environments” (ALEs) reflect our changing world and are in line with what the Learning Counsel says is the end-point of the transformation with “Expositional Centers of Learning”, where teachers and textbook content are no longer the sole sources of learning – the environment is a sort of learning mechanism itself. With multiple touch-enabled projectors in each ALE, walls are transformed into interactive presentation spaces.

Union County Public Schools (Monroe, NC): Awarded for having the largest 1:1 digital learning program in the state of North Carolina. With the expansion of 1:1 into grades 3 through 5, there are now more than 34,000 Chromebooks in the hands of students from grades 3 through 12. Their transformative initiative has also focused on the professional development of teachers to provide students with a personalized learning experience to increase student motivation. They refer to this as the “My Size Fits Me” learning culture. In the last school year, the district had one of North Carolina’s highest cohort graduation rates, exceeding 93%.

USD 331 Kingman-Norwich (Kingman, KS): Awarded for their District Strategic Success Plan. Eight years ago, the district proposed a goal that all students would have access to current technology, with always up-to-date, high-quality digital resources that are actively being utilized. This goal was the vital component of the District Strategic Success Plan and drives district expenditures on technology. The district is advancing on its goal spectacularly and proving that its investment is paying off for its learners and instructors.

Vancouver Public Schools (Vancouver, WA): Awarded for Vancouver’s digital curriculum integration strategy, which is grounded in its instructional framework, the “5 Dimensions of Teaching and Learning,” from the University of Washington's Center for Educational Leadership. From this foundation, digital curriculum integration decisions serve the VPS Vision for Learning, promoting student ownership of learning through communicating, creating, collaborating, and critical thinking. Teachers at VPS serve as designers of engaging and rigorous student learning experiences.

Twenty-five years in the trenches of news media and marketing. As Editor at the Learning Counsel, Cebron lives in the “eye of the storm” in this rapidly transforming space, reporting on leading schools, innovative administrators and industry which are shaping the future of teaching and learning.

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