[Editor’s note: This story is Part 2 of our 3-part series on Lessons Learned in 2016. Check back tomorrow for Lessons Learned by Educators. Click here for yesterday’s article from Superintendents.]

The best educational leaders are lifelong learners. They are constantly expanding their knowledge, refining their skills, and looking for creative ways to help kids learn. As these four principals look back at 2016, they recall the most important ed tech lesson they learned this year—and look forward to inspiring their staff and students anew in 2017.

discipline

Technology Usage Lowers Discipline Referrals

Based upon my district’s 7 Keys to College and Career Success, E.A. Cox Middle School has embarked on a transformational journey to turn around the school. Through the Leader in Me and an RTI2-B partnership with Vanderbilt University, the school is transforming its culture and addressing unrealistically high behavioral issues that inhibit learning. Attendance has improved and discipline referrals have decreased.

As part of the process, E.A. Cox Middle School focused on literacy, math, and lowering discipline referrals, which adds a social-emotional learning aspect to our plan. With myON, more than 12,000 books have been read and students have spent more than 4,000 hours reading. Lexile levels are climbing, and students are more engaged and motivated to read more now than ever.

Through DreamBox, more than 33,000 math lessons have been completed with a 29% growth among active students. One-third of the students are enrolled in advanced math and English. Student engagement is high. Parent and community support are strong. But this is only the beginning. Problem-based learning through Discovery Education and NextLesson are changing the way students learn and teachers teach at Cox Middle and across the district. Dr. Tim Webb, principal of E.A. Cox Middle School in the Maury County School District (TN)

student performance

Every Student Deserves a Voice

Looking back on 2016, one lesson shouts as the loudest of them all: the power of the human voice. Whether it is students negotiating the details of collaborative projects or debating the merit of Skittles versus Hershey’s in our candy bar election, or teachers posing a thought-provoking query and reassuring their students that we are all here together to build a better world, it is the human voice that reigns king.

As a principal, I search for tools that give voice to everyone on campus. We have talking devices for nonverbal students, word prediction software for learning-disabled students, and a megaphone for staff to yell “1-2-3 Go Mountain View” every morning. Adding to our collection, this year we’ve added classroom audio systems by Lightspeed Technologies. The systems allow educators’ voices to cut through the noise of a traditional classroom to increase student engagement and behavior, and give soft-spoken students a chance to be heard among their peers.

Lessons are at the heart of each and every day for educators. We imagine lessons, develop lessons, and deliver lessons for our students. Through Twitter chats, book studies, conferences, and more, we as educators devour lessons of our own. Embracing the power of the human voice and giving everyone an equal opportunity to be heard was my greatest lesson this year. Jennifer Goldman, principal of Mountain View Elementary in the Simi Valley School District (CA)

(Next page: Principals’ lessons learned 3-4)