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Georgia’s largest district launches all-digital learning platform

Gwinnett County hopes to make learning "more real and relevant to a student population that has never known a world without technology," said the district.

Georgia’s Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) has taken a huge step forward in its move to an all-digital education for its students: The district has partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) to implement a single sign-on platform for delivering curriculum, assessment, analytics, professional development, parent information, and more.

The platform, called Pinpoint, is an “integrated education suite” that can be tailored to meet a school or district’s unique needs and goals. GCPS officials say it will allow the district to go textbook-free, saving money and allowing for more personalized student learning.

HMH says that while other providers offer “discrete tools” for assessment, analytics, or tracking and reporting on student information, Pinpoint is a “truly cohesive, integrated solution designed from the ground up to connect all critical components of our education ecosystem.”

The suite includes tools for curriculum, assessment, teacher gradebooks, student information, scheduling, analytics, professional development (delivered directly from the platform), online tutoring for students, and access for parents. Because it’s a fully integrated solution, teachers and students don’t have to log in and out of various applications all day; they can log in once for all of their educational needs. (Watch a video describing Pinpoint’s features here.)

Highlights include the ability for teachers to access a student’s full academic history, as well as the ability to access core curriculum lesson plans and video resources for their classrooms. These curriculum resources are correlated with the Common Core State Standards that have been adopted by 45 states.

Pinpoint is customizable to meet schools’ current needs and scalable to meet their future needs, says HMH. This means that a district can choose how and when to implement a Pinpoint module, because each module operates independently or as part of an integrated holistic solution to improve instructional practices and learning outcomes.

“To see our students succeed, we must recognize the need for personalized learning in an age where students expect and receive content 24-7 in new and impactful ways,” said J. Alvin Wilbanks, GCPS superintendent.

“There exists a critical need for schools to assess the child as a whole, and then develop a comprehensive learning plan that delivers content anytime, anywhere, using a variety of methods and technology. This requires a solution that is sustainable, expandable, and developed in collaboration with a long-term partner. For this, GCPS turned to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.”

GCPS has been working with HMH for years, and during a meeting in 2009, Wilbanks shared his district’s vision for the project that came to be known as “eCLASS.” According to HMH, Wilbanks challenged the company to work collaboratively with his staff to craft a solution that was not focused on technology but could “define next-generation learning and significantly improve student engagement and outcomes.”

After issuing the challenge, the eCLASS (Digital Content, Learning, Assessment, and Support System) initiative was born–a multi-year program to create a learning environment that would expand the walls of the classroom.

GCPS decided that Pinpoint would be the “engine” that drives its personalized learning initiative. Because teachers will have access to real-time data on each student’s progress, they’ll be able to devise personalized learning plans and assessments that incorporate HMH’s programs, says the company.

According to GCPS, the district will deploy its eCLASS initiative in 33 pilot schools—a mix of elementary, middle, and high schools—beginning with the 2012-13 school year.

eCLASS is a multi-year project, and different modules will be phased in over time.

“By conducting the pilot at all levels, we are positioning the district for a successful rollout that we can sustain across grade levels, and over time … GCPS hopes to make learning more real and relevant to a student population that has never known a world without technology,” said the district in a statement.

Funding for Pinpoint, eCLASS, and other technology improvements will come from an extension of the special-purpose local option sales tax. After deployment, the costs for maintaining this initiative will be included in the district’s budget.

HMH will help the district implement Pinpoint and will work closely with the district’s IT team so that “Pinpoint is tightly integrated into their existing environment and that they can support and extend the environment if and when they choose,” the company said.

“While it is very easy to focus on the technology, our focus is really on the teaching and learning,” said the district in a press release. “We are very excited about the launch of our eCLASS initiative and how we can use technology and data to better support our classroom teachers and improve student achievement.”

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