In Florida, Student-Centric Learning Means Learning for Every Student
It’s amazing how school districts can come together around a common theme. That’s because at the heart of almost every district, there are dedicated educators ready to do what they can to increase the opportunities for their learners.
When districts come together to share ideas, that’s when the magic happens. At the Learning Counsel’s 30 Digital Transition Discussion Events held around the country each year, administrators from different districts join in a panel discussion and share their successes as well as their ideas for change. This year in Orlando, three of Florida’s finest administrators met for a discussion that produced some surprises, and a host of ideas that could benefit every district in America.
Mariel Milano is the Director of Digital Curriculum at Orange County Public Schools. When asked about being student centric, Milano said, “From our perspective, when we talk about digital learning in Orange County, we always say it's for all students. But what does that really mean? We had to kind of eat our words to some extent where we had our alternative education schools go 1:1, when we had our ESE self-contained schools go, well, what 1:1? I think it was humbling in some ways because we had to really think about what does it mean to have accessible content in the deaf and hard of hearing school? What does it mean to have Internet access in a juvenile detention center? All those things are very complicated, but we're committed to having it for all students. Accessibility and personalization go hand in hand because all assistive technology was one of the first areas in which we personalized things for kids. If you're a 1:1 program and can't encompass bringing that assistive technology on board, then it's really only for some kids.
Caitlyn Distler, Coordinator of Learning Technologies at Volusia County Schools agreed. “We saw a huge increase in accessibility for a lot of our students. We have our Volusia assistive adaptive technology team, and they work hard to ensure our students who need accommodations have appropriate technology, but now we're able to perform and provide that in our basic deployments. In the past, it was additional hardware or software that was needed and that was something that might make them stand out from their peers and draw attention to their accommodation. Now they're working side by side with their peers. I'm using the personal tools that I need for my learning to make sense, and you're using yours. And we don't know any different. This is how we work, and this is the environment that we've created.
Connie Kolosey, Director of Media, Texts and Digital Learning for Pinellas County Schools, said, “In Pinellas, we have not pursued, in most cases, a 1:1. It is a matter of learning how to use the technology that is within the classrooms. But as technology evolves, so many of the platforms we are using are providing accessibility tools. Helping teachers to understand what's available for them and that whole PD pace piece and finding the why for the teacher to reach out and grow as well. I would say the district leaders and the district curriculum leaders know their curriculum and know how things are done, but they haven't necessarily broadened their perspective into what's available and what can be done with technology. And of course, they're the ones putting the resources together in a lot of cases.
Distler, who continued the thought, said “For us, it’s going back to the basics and focusing on what's relevant in a few different avenues. One of those avenues is what's relevant for our teachers and really focusing on their personalized professional development. I know today we've talked a lot about what it looks like for students, but it's just as important to model it for teachers. So, leveraging our learning management system to ensure that they have the ability for personalized PD and also empowering them to use their professional learning communities.”
These three Florida administrators, all with different job titles from different districts, found a remarkable number of similarities along with their differences, and agreed on strategies that can apply to your district as well. To see this very important discussion, simply click on the video below.