As information and communication technologies become necessary tools for teaching and learning, schools are looking for solutions that create consistent teaching and learning experiences for students and educators. At the Evergreen School Division, opening communication among teachers, administrators, students and parents was key in developing a strategy to create a connected education environment.
With the plethora of software solutions available for schools, a considerable amount of time and research is spent on choosing the right technology to implement at schools. As school administrators work to increase communication and engagement in their education environments, they may consider these strategies:
Research and development
Teachers are focused on their classrooms and optimizing the learning experience for their students. Therefore, they often do not have the time to find the right tools that will help them manage their classrooms. A research and development approach to determine what works well for teachers, administrators, students and parents can be a good way to begin a conversation about what the school actually needs from its technology or software. We chose an LMS that helps with classroom management and communication and shared the information about the product with our schools. Initially, use of the product was invitational. We then compiled feedback from our pilot school to determine whether it could help improve teaching and learning in our other schools. Testing the product in one or more schools helps gather valuable feedback based on user experience from staff and students before a decision is made regarding implementation within the rest of the division.
More often than not, teachers and schools are using point solutions that will only serve one function, when what they really need is one integrated solution for the entire division. We found that one of the major frustrations of staff was using many different tools they needed to use in one day. By using different tools and software to manage their classroom and daily tasks, the technology is ultimately disrupting the connection between teaching and learning, leaving teachers with less time to engage with their students and the rest of the education community. By connecting education tools into one platform, classroom management and responsibilities are streamlined. Tasks like updating assessments, attendance, communications and course planning no longer act as a barrier, but create a productive and well-informed educational community based on improving the teaching and learning environment for all.
Communication and collaboration
One tool not only helps to streamline classroom tasks for teachers and administrators, but also opens a line of communication between all stakeholders. When we implemented the LMS, our division was working toward improving communication for everyone. The software is self-contained and allows for communication with students, parents and the surrounding community. By improving communication, schools have a unique opportunity to create a space to share internal and external news, facilitate parent conversations and collaborate with their students and fellow teachers. While face to face meetings and email are still effective and necessary ways to communicate, we can now incorporate a tool that utilizes new technologies to help manage conversations built around education, as well as give teachers a place to develop their own professional learning communities.
A successful product implementation relies upon how students will use the technology in and out of the classroom. Giving students a modern tool to help manage their daily tasks and activities, as well as a place to collaborate with their peers and teachers, increases a student’s willingness to participate and be engaged in their classes. Students in our district increasingly do their schoolwork outside the classroom and use their time in school for social contexts that facilitate group work and one-on-one time with teachers. Offering students the option to access information from outside the classroom also increases engagement and creates a “flipped” learning environment, allowing students to keep up with their work even when they aren’t in school.
Creating a connected teaching and learning environment is important in contributing to the effectiveness of our teachers and classrooms, as well as helping students achieve academic success. When modern technology is incorporated into schools and used effectively, the educational environment changes. This challenges teachers to teach using modern tools and creates new ways for students to learn.
Paul Cuthbert has been an educator for 33 years. He is currently in his 12th year as the superintendent and CEO of the Evergreen School Division in the Interlake region of Manitoba, Canada. Evergreen uses Edsby to create a connected teaching and learning environment. Cuthbert also serves on a number of national and provincial advisory councils such as the Canadian Education Association Advisory Council, the National Principals Leadership Institute and is a former president of the Manitoba Association of School Superintendents.