Collaborating with IT and Instruction to Ensure Continuous Instruction in Any Learning Environment

(Image credit: Future)

With COVID-19 showing no signs of slowing down, it is likely that few schools if any will get through the next school year without some form of remote learning. The key to the success of these programs will be an effective collaboration between the technology and instruction departments. 

To help districts address these questions, Dr. Kecia Ray recently talked with thought leaders about how districts are bringing together their technology and curriculum departments to build effective plans to ensure students will receive quality, consistent instruction to ensure learning success in any learning environment. The webinar is part of our "New Year, New Normal" series. 

Watch the on-demand version here 

Key Takeaways

Understanding usage. “When we entered remote learning, we had to make sure our students were engaged, so when thinking about the various platforms, we had to understand our usage first,” said Shawntee Cowan, Chief Technology Officer of Duncanville ISD in Texas. The tech department had to determine if the devices that were distributed were effective, or if the ones students had at home were better. This study of data supported the district’s efforts to upgrade devices for all students, and also helped to determine which platforms and apps were providing a good return on investment. “One of the pieces we talk about all the time is ROI,” she said. “Many times we purchase the same thing over and over, and now that we have a platform [CatchOn] to track that, we’re not double dipping.”

Learning data lessons. “The work we were able to do in the spring was a foundation for the fall,” said Dr. Silvia E. Martinez, Director of Curriculum & Instruction for Duncanville ISD. By using data collected in the spring during remote learning, the district was able to close communication gaps between teachers, students, and parents, and among staff, which provided a strong start for everyone this year. 

The power of partnerships. “We are not alone and we know we have partners who will work with us,” said Martinez. In addition to vendor partnerships, collaboration between departments has been critical. “We’ve had to work vertically as well as horizontally,” said Cowan. “We know that all the instructional materials are tech-based, so if we’re all not working together, we’re not successful.” Curriculum and technology have had to work together, she said, so intentional communication and collaboration has been a huge win for the district. 

Monitoring at-risk students. “By monitoring what our students are doing, what apps they are using, and what their screen time is like, we can see who is at risk and who is engaged,” said Monica Cougan, Manager of Strategic Relationships & Initiatives for CatchOn, an ENA affiliate. By being able to use data to detect trends and improve usage, districts can make shifts quickly in platforms to better ensure student success.

Cougan also suggested that districts create data plans with the following strategic objectives.

(Image credit: CatchOn)

Cougan discussed how the CatchOn platform works in terms of tracking student online engagement and platform usage, and how CatchOn works with districts to create customized solutions.

Communicate, communicate, communicate! “You don’t need to be a techie to open the conversation about improving your technology integration,” said Martinez. “If that communication dynamic doesn’t already exist, be the spark to create it.” She recommended departments continue to work together, and stay strong. “Refresh, renew, and know there are tools to reach out for support,” she said. “You’re not alone in this. Be innovative, be creative, and enjoy the journey!”

Lunch 'n Learn with Tech & Learning 

This report is part of Tech & Learning's District Leadership Lunch ‘n Learn Roundtable series, hosted by Dr. Kecia Ray. In this series, districts from across the U.S. share their strategic plans, the challenges they are facing, and the creative solutions they are using to support students and teachers. Access previous webinars and register for our upcoming events here

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Ray Bendici is the Managing Editor of Tech & Learning and Tech & Learning University. He is an award-winning journalist/editor, with more than 20 years of experience, including a specific focus on education.