Best Overall Implementation of Technology — Cristin Kennedy, Director, Instructional Technology, Cobb County Schools, Georgia
During the pandemic, Cristin Kennedy, Director of Instructional Technology at Cobb County Schools in Georgia, led her team in developing and implementing a personalized LMS for the district of more than 100,000 students that met the needs of students, parents, and teachers with comprehensive features to address instruction, planning, assessment, and communication.
“It was a challenge, but very rewarding as well,” Kennedy says. “It took a lot of hours to manage the big overhaul. The pure scalability of it—making sure we had a system for teachers that teachers wanted to use was critical. Our system was developed by employees of Cobb who have been in the classroom and had experience with digital instruction. In addition to that, every three months or so the system is enhanced based on teacher and leader feedback.”
Intentional Professional Learning
The district went remote during the spring of 2020 and then kicked off the 2020-21 year 100 percent virtual.
“During the pre-planning of that school year we had the opportunity to do professional learning that was very specialized for primary and secondary teachers, and specialists,” she says. “We focused on the key elements of what they really needed to start the year. We then built on those skills and enhanced the system using their feedback.”
Breaking it down was the key to its success.
“We didn’t just say, ‘Here is everything that you ever needed to know,’” Kennedy says. “We would specify a period of time and then it was, ‘This is what you’ll need from here to there and let’s master that.’ So we were very intentional with the professional learning.”
Training was done live, face-to-face, as well as on demand because there are a lot of teachers who are early adopters and were willing to use their own time and their own energy to master skills.
Kennedy hired 27 full-time coaches from her team. The key quality she looked for was someone who wanted to be in the classroom.
“The number one way that teachers and students learn is by seeing and doing,” she says. “If they are face-to-face, we can go into a classroom and model it, maybe do learning walks, so other teachers can see and pick up tips. The asynchronous option they can access at any time. So they might be in a professional learning community period and the teachers are watching it together, then talking about it and planning something around what they learned. You have to be very intentional with professional learning, because everyone’s needs are very different.”
Exciting Things to Come
The district had been a BYOD district, however, the pandemic accelerated the process of providing devices to students. In the past year, all middle and high school students were given access to a Dell Window device for learning, creating, and collaborating. Next year, every single classroom will have a 2-in-1 Dell laptop so students can Ink and they can create.
“The need to share computers or the ‘I can’t do this, because I don’t have tech in my classroom’ just isn’t an excuse anymore,” Kennedy says. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for our students to be future-ready and start learning very basic skills that then can be built upon as they progress through their path at Cobb County schools.”