“Our biggest goes is to try to teach them to be global citizens,” Royster says. “We want to teach them the difference between real and fake news. We want them to facilitate that discussion, and this allows us to see through their eyes what they’re doing, all in one aspect. It brings to light teachable moments for our classroom teachers that they might not otherwise have.”
2. The district uses Google Expeditions for virtual field trips. “Teachers truly understand how to use it to bring experiences to kids, and to give them background knowledge about things they’re learning about.”
Reading instruction is a big focus at the elementary level, but students might not all have the same background or experiences to relate to reading subject matter.
“We use these virtual field trips to give kids the background knowledge to help them understand the context of what they’re reading. Sixty-seven percent of our district is on free and reduced lunch–not all of our kids get to travel, see, and experience things. We take them everywhere to give them these senses and experiences they might not otherwise have,” Royster says.
3. The district is a very big Project Lead The Way (PLTW) district. PLTW creates engaging and hands-on classroom environments and helps students develop in-demand knowledge and skills.
Royster says the Career and Technical Education Pathways program built into the district’s high school enables many students to graduate having earned part of their professional certifications in various fields, such as business and marketing, health science, and information technology. In fact, one student who had an automotive parts manufacturing internship through PLTW was offered a salaried position after his supervisors saw how talented he was with CAD software.
5 things this district does to elevate digital learning
4. Workforce-relevant learning is emphasized, and students are encouraged to explore pathways that link classroom learning to professional goals. “We’re partnered with quite a few companies around here and we try to focus on things that are workforce-needed,” Royster says.
For example, students looking to enter into agriculture gain experience on a working 18-acre district farm. They use GIS mapping with iPads to mark planting time and data for each crop. The data is uploaded to the web where growth and progress are tracked.
5. Teachers are continually encouraged to learn new ways to incorporate digital learning strategies into their instruction. “Every October I hold a big technology expo in the district,” says Royster. “Teachers pick six courses to go through, and it’s a day-long conference put together and built completely by teachers.” Conference sessions are teacher-created and teacher-led, and they all focus on ways to incorporate technology and digital resources into classrooms.