Our latest MORE momentum webinar focuses on technology, instruction and virtual learning in 2020 and beyond. We discuss the tangible aspects like infrastructure and devices, the instructional aspects like designing learning and the tools to do that well, and the relational aspects like student engagement and teacher support. Each guest offers a unique perspective as we explore the past, present and future of these new waters we are charting.
Our guests include:
- Jesse Garn, Executive Director of Technology, Midway ISD
- Dr. Becky Odajima, Director of Innovation and Learning, Midway ISD
- Wes Kanawyer, Principal at Woodgate Intermediate School, Midway ISD
- Russ Johnson, CEO, True North Consulting Group
- Kerri Ranney, Vice President of Educational Practice, Huckabee
We’ve broken out each question for MORE Momentum #7: Technology + Instruction below. You can view the webinar in its entirety by clicking here.
Introduction + Past
Let’s start by looking back at March 2020 when schools closed for the school year. School districts had about a week to prepare amidst significant change. What did that look like in Midway ISD and what did your teams do to solve the challenges you faced?
One of the first things we had to do was mobilize technology to each student in the district and address connectivity (which remains one of the biggest challenges). We also had to support staff, students, devices and services from a remote location to homes across the district. Being a district with an existing 1-to-1 technology initiative helped us deliver instruction. We also focused on professional development to help teachers understand the online tools, resources and learning management systems they’d be using on a daily basis. We released about 100 hours of PD. Our curriculum and instruction team simplified instructional requirements, which helped teachers and parents in this situation.
At the campus level, our number one priority was student wellbeing and ensuring fundamental needs were met. We know that when anxiety goes up, performance goes down—that is true for adults and students. The goal was to lighten anxiety levels, simplify the process and then push out content.
Across the state we saw a lot of innovation in district technology teams. Districts fully embraced collaborative tools so they could maintain engagement with students and staff, but they also had to create new ways to support these tools in remote environments. Districts knew they still had the job of delivering instruction and delivering it to high expectations; this led to exploration of asynchronous PD as well as the #bettertogether movement that opened up new partnerships between school districts and business organizations.
Let’s look at summer 2020. School districts are working feverishly to develop plans to open schools safely in the fall while meeting the needs of families while they deal with this pandemic. What are some of the solutions from the spring that you’re carrying forward into fall?
Instructionally, we are looking at the essential curriculum standards and the best way to deliver them to students. We are implementing a hybrid learning model for students who cannot return to school and supporting the transition for students, teachers and families whose delivery method for learning could change throughout the year. Student interaction is still important, even if learning is taking place remotely. We are re-formulating our approach to interaction and even assessment.
We are also utilizing technology to keep students connected to their peers and developing methods for synchronous instruction that can occur with virtual and at-home students concurrently. At the same time, we are looking to maintain virtual collaboration between teachers and across campuses. Professional development will never be the same, and we are looking at ways to evolve our efforts.
At the site level, we will have to work to build rapport with new students and families across the district. We will front-load the year with tech proficiency and relationship building.
On the technology side, we have realized more flexibility within our support model. We have also become more comfortable with being uncomfortable and are more flexible mentally. School districts state-wide are remaining focused on connectivity and filling the gaps where needed. We are also seeing the success of content capture in higher ed trickling down into K-12 as school districts incorporate asynchronous learning into curriculum.
Let’s look to the future. What are some of the challenges you already foresee that you’re just now beginning to tackle?
Even once we overcome this virus, we will likely see hybrid learning remain for many different reasons. Some of the main challenges of this environment will be: improving accessibility to fiber networks and community WiFi; cybersecurity threats; and our ability to secure devices and data in an environment that we don’t always control.
We also have to prepare teachers for this hybrid model of learning and set a new standard for best practices in pedagogy. While we hope we never have to close schools so unexpectedly like we did this year, we’ve learned that we need to create a contingency plan in case we ever need to move to a fully virtual learning model again while maintaining consistency.
#InnovationRevolution and the Power in Collaboration
In education, we preach the power of collaboration, and this crisis has continued to show us the importance of collaborating with our colleagues, students and communities. We have found collaborating with different districts in the area to be beneficial as we are able to give one another encouragement and best practices. Our district began using the term #InnovationRevolution to publicly share ways we can all be innovative during this time.
About MORE Momentum
Huckabee’s MORE Momentum series highlights how our educational partners are investing their time, energy and focus to keep the momentum going during this unprecedented “pause.” We will explore themes related to bonds, planning, design and safety and security, among other topics that impact Texas public education. Follow us @HuckabeeInc on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linked In, or complete the form below to get a first look as new content is released.