Missouri Educators Showing Strategies for Education Success
At a recent Learning Counsel Digital Transition Discussion event held in Kansas City, district leaders from around the state participated in a Top Educators’ Panel discussion, sharing new innovations and new common-sense strategies that are meeting with much success in the Show Me state.
Ivy Nelson is the Education Technology Manager for the Belton School District on the south side of Kansas City. Belton is a small district with six traditional schools, a STEAM academy, an early childhood center and the Scott Educational Center, an elementary school which uses the BOSCO Program. According to Nelson, “we focus a lot on the four Cs while using the technology that we have for students to be creative and to make things. In one of our conversations earlier, we talked about how many apps the district has vetted and has in its system available for teachers. There are hundreds and hundreds of apps, but some of my favorite to teach teachers how to use are those where students can create with them and you can use them in any grade level or subject area.
“You can have students making things and answering questions and tie it into your project-based learning and all of those initiatives that you're wanting to do. But have students actually make something and then put it out there in the world. There are a lot of great apps like ChatterPix or a storybook creator that are not video creation apps. They're safe for young students and parents like them because their kids’ faces aren’t blasted wherever you want to share them. Kids can still tell their story and put it out for the world to hear. Very cool.”
Deborah Ketring is the Chief Information Officer for the Rockwood School District. If you are unfamiliar with Rockwood, go to St. Louis and take a left. Rockwood is in St. Louis County, but it is very much its own district, serving more than 22,000 students while leading Missouri and the rest of the country with a thoughtful transition into a digital ecosphere. Ketring describes herself as “not on the education side,” but her contribution is obviously affecting education in a positive way. “I am not in the education side, but I have instructional technology specialists who work for me and they're focusing on the content and the creation and working with teachers to ensure that they know how to use those tools,” said Ketring. “Another piece that I see that technology can help with, we're very involved with the data collection and helping our research department collect that data and analyze it and present that to the teachers so they can understand what tools are working, what's working in their classroom, things that maybe are providing a little more interactivity and engagement.
“I think the thing that I and my counterpart in learning and support services is most excited about is the development of what we call Cross Team. We meet for four hours as a combined group of data and research analysts, curriculum content area specialist, professional learning team and the instructional technology team. And we have, over the last 12 months, started really aligning all our work. We're embedded on each other's teams and whatever we're doing, we're making sure that it's aligned with what we call the way forward, which is our MSIP plan. We're focusing and trying to get everybody on the same page all at the same time and going in the same direction. We are working on a data governance, data privacy, data security policy. We've never had one that was specific to those things. We are in the process of developing that and plan for implementation. We will take it to the board this June and then implement it following board approval. I think for our district, that is probably one of our most important things because right now it's the Wild West with apps and trying to get that word out. There is no policy behind it. I think this will give it the teeth that it needs. We need to be able to say, is it curricular in nature? Is it meeting these requirements, and really hone in on those things that are beneficial for our students and our teachers.”
Nick Cusumano, Director of Instructional Technology, Fort Zumwalt School District, in the Northwest corner of the St. Louis metro area. Cusumano is excited about the district’s new rollout of their coding program. “Going into next year, we will now have K-12 coding curriculum available to all of our students, which I'm very excited about. Also, coming up, we’d like to build online hub resources for teachers, students and parents that will be more accessible.
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The Missouri Top Education panel continued, laying out multiple student-focused ideas shared in detail with a how-to approach. Missouri’s education leaders lead with passion, but also with a kind of Show-Me pragmatism that ensures positive outcomes for their learners. You’ll enjoy this discussion, and you’re sure to bring home ideas that you can plug into your own school or district.