The Road to Apptastic is Paved with Good Intentions

Gwinnet County Schools, Dallas ISD and Tucson USD talk about their Journeys

At this year’s National Gathering in Dallas, some of our nation’s top instructional technology minds grappled with being Apptastic and creating a seamless experience for their learners. Each of these educational leaders is working in large districts, and you’ll be surprised at what they are doing to modernize the learning journey for their students (and staff).

Jack Kelanic is the Chief Technology Officer at Dallas Independent School District. His district is driving major changes. “We just had a kind of the triple whammy in Dallas ISD,” said Kelanic. “Last year we implemented the three big systems that you all probably have, and you wrestle with every day. “We implemented a brand-new student information system, a very modern cloud-based platform with a new user interface and some advanced interoperability capabilities and we implemented a new learning management system as well. That's where we really start to get excited. In fact, our instructional division rewrote the entire curriculum from the ground up and embedded that in the learning management system. Now we are at the point that we are starting to federate all of those instructional resources and it's really unlimited in terms of where we can go with our instructional content.”

“At the same time, we implemented a digital assessments platform,” said Kelanic. “This year we're a bit more focused on identity and access management. It’s not a terribly sexy topic, but when we think about the future of personalized learning, it turns out that it is actually very important to know who everybody is and how they want to engage with us and what their preferences are.”

James Butler, Director of Instructional Technology at Tucson Unified School District, is finding surprising success in vendor programs. “We have about 85 campuses,” said Butler. “We just completed a rollout of Office 365. So now all our students have Office 365 accounts. We have trained the teachers. We also have three schools in the Verizon Innovative Learning Program. For those of you who may not be familiar with it, each sixth, seventh, and eighth grader at the schools who are accepted into the program receives an iPad, a data package for the iPad and a case for the iPad. All the teachers get iPads and there's $33,000 towards employing an instructional coach whose sole job is to administer the program and provide professional development for teachers to successfully administer the program. Once upon a time we used to have a process whereby if a teacher wanted an app, she would fill out this form and just send it to Technology and if it worked on our network, then okay, we'll install the app.”

“The Verizon Innovative Learning Program, through that process, has taught us to say, ‘Okay, wait a minute, let's back the truck up a little bit and let's be a little purposeful about this,’” said Butler. “Let's have the teachers vet the app at the school site with permission from the principal who, as the instructional leader, checks off and says, yes, I want this. I approve this app. Then we move forward with whether it will work on the network, and then the app is approved. It works much better than forming a committee once a month with people who are overly busy anyway.”

Tricia Kennedy, the Executive Director Instructional Development and Support at Gwinnett County Schools, is looking ahead to a time when technology is leveraged to deliver what’s needed to every learner. “And as far as the workflow, I really love what Leilani (Cauthen) says about simplicity,” said Kennedy. “I live in a very complex environment at the district, but just think about what our teachers do. Shouldn't this be the workflow that the technology can help us with? Our teachers know their standards. They know what the expectations are for students to demonstrate our standards. They then identify or create assessments in a variety of formats that will help them know when their students have learned those standards and can demonstrate those standards at the mastery level needed. They give the assessments, they look for the gaps, and then they go out and find additional instructional activities that can fill those gaps even for individual students. And they're doing that every day, but they're doing it themselves and they're doing it by curating their own content and setting up their own lesson plans. Wouldn't it be awesome if the ‘Amazon of education’ could help them in all those steps so that all they had to do was be the instructional experts and deliver that to their students? That would be the utopia that we're looking for.”

The Entire Discussion is Yours with Just One Click

This is a fascinating discussion with an unusual amount of value you can use in your own school or district. You’ll want to click on the video below. Like these districts, you’ll be well on the way to being Apptastic.


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