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A Move to Support Student Voice and Choice

Finding an LMS that best suits your district’s instructional philosophy and the personal learning needs of every student

Written by Andrea Winters. Published by The Learning Counsel.

When administrators realized only 15 percent of our 41,000 students were using the district’s learning management system (LMS), they knew it was time for an overhaul.

Around the same time, we put into place a new strategic plan that emphasized engaging students through an array of personalized opportunities and experiences.

We knew this new direction would require a platform that would help all of our students and our expanding ESL population, which encompasses 57 different home languages. In an effort to reach those digital natives and decrease learning gaps, we organized a cohort team from across the district that began searching for an LMS that ensured that no student was left behind.

The Overwhelming Choice

As a first step, the district came up with a list of non-negotiable criteria that answered the question, “In our dream world, what would our LMS do for us?” The list of must-haves included:

  • A clean, K-12-friendly interface
  • The fewest numbers of clicks to access important information
  • User-friendly icons
  • A searchable learning objective repository and
  • The ability to import multiple types of learning (videos, free LTI learning tools, multimedia, etc.)

We started with 15 systems and narrowed it down to five. Three vendors did demonstrations in front of 85 committee members who, in turn, selected itslearning as Clear Creek ISD’s new LMS in May 2015.

 

Rapid Implementation and Quick Adoption

By June 2015, our district was already administering professional learning to all of its principals and district administrators. One month later, the district held an administrative retreat and comprehensive conference-style professional learning on the new system. Teachers were trained in August, and the system was live and ready to roll out for the new school year. We felt it was important for our teachers and administrators to utilize the LMS for the first time as learners rather than as facilitators or teachers. That had a big impact on our log-ins and helped speed up implementation.

By going beyond the traditional features of a LMS, the platform allows the district’s teachers to easily plan and manage their curriculum. This saves time and drives efficiency by allowing all stakeholders  – teachers, curriculum managers and parents – quick and easy access to courses, resources and student progress. It also facilitated a new level of teamwork. We find that it encourages best practices around course design and pedagogy through modeling and collaboration.

Giving Learners a Voice and a Choice

Our students have easily transitioned to the education platform as well. With an average unique user log-in of nearly 30,000 per day – and with the average user logging in four times daily and using it for 40 minutes per session – our district’s new LMS is already proving itself as a 21st century learning platform. When I see how long students are logged into the system that tells me that they’re using it for learning and not just as an information repository.

For the district, itslearning has become an integral system for offering “voice and choice” to teachers and students across all grades. When students log into the system, they can actually choose how they want to learn a specific objective. Plus, our teachers can give students many different options for engaging with the content and showing proficiency based on key learning objectives.

Educators who are currently sorting through the vast number of LMSs currently on the K-12 market should bear in mind that different systems offer different features and to different degrees. For that reason, each district has to focus on which features are able to support their ‘must-haves.’ In our case, that strategy enabled us to find a system that best suits our district’s objectives and instructional philosophy and, most importantly, supports the personal learning needs of each and every student.

Andrea Winters is the Director of Learning Technology at Clear Creek Independent School District in Texas. She works in a cross functional team to implement a 1:1 learning technology initiative. Clear Creek ISD serves over 40,000 students, 3,000 teachers, and 13 city municipalities. Andrea supervises 28 campus technology integration specialists, trains teachers, staff, and students on how to enhance learning using technology.


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