Wondering how your school can use technology to improve communication and collaborative learning? We, and our friends at Rise Vision, facilitated a discussion with a panel of K-12 educational technology leaders, who covered their experiences using tech for student engagement. Our featured speakers included Robert Gulick, Director of Technology, Washington Local Schools; Monica Myers, JLSD Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment, Jackson Local Schools; Scott Boyer, Systems Coordinator, Cornwall-Lebanon School District; and Jason Murray, Technology Coordinator, Cornwall-Lebanon School District. Keep reading to see some of the top takeaways from this talk!
At many schools, there are certain sets of students that tend to get recognized more frequently, like high academic achievers and athletes. By creating programs that recognize students that don’t necessarily stand out in the crowd, they’re pushed to the foreground to get the recognition they deserve. This engages a wider-reaching portion of the student population.
One way of doing this? Cornwall-Lebanon school district has a “Wings of Engagement” program. Whenever a student or teacher sees a student doing an act of kindness, they fill out a form. Drawn at random for recognition, Jason Murray, the District Technology Coordinator points out that “It creates this whole culture of just being able to do nice things to one another and being recognized for the little things.” Using Rise Vision, students are celebrated on screens throughout the school. This program has led to a decrease in detentions and after-school suspensions, as well as an increase in student participation and engagement!
Schools tend to have a variety of sports programs, but these don’t engage all students. By creating new clubs and activities based on student interests, students can find something that truly resonates with them. Jackson Local Schools has implemented over 50 clubs at their high school, and if they don’t currently have what a student is looking for, they can propose it. This process has created new clubs like the Animal Club and Equestrian Club. Now, students are getting to decide what their engagement at school looks like for themselves.
At Cornwall-Lebanon, they’ve also focused on new clubs centered around student interests – including pickleball, lego building, coloring, and paper airplanes! These allow students to get together with fellow peers after school and hang out based on a common interest.
Test scores should not be the only focus of student learning – fostering new ideas and creations is just as important. As Bob Gulick, from Washington Local Schools, points out, even a kindergartener can create a Google Slide – and using an Airtame device, a teacher can allow students to connect to the screen and show off their work to the rest of the class.
At Cornwell-Lebanon, the middle schoolers have a class where students have free rein to choose their assignments. Their final products are then presented in the main lobby of the school, where other students can view them. At the high school, they’ve shortened each period by 5 minutes to create a new “activity period” at the end of the day, when clubs can get together and students can engage with one another. Jackson Schools has a similar program, where a few minutes are shaved off each period to allow for a Student Advisory period every Friday.
As Jason Murray points out, at Cornwell-Lebanon, “We keep technology as quiet as we can because we want them to focus on the engagement rather than the technology.” In their district, the focus is on making their tech as user-friendly as possible. By talking to students and reviewing their goals, administrators can see which technology fits the bill that allows them to achieve their goals efficiently while also feeling comfortable using it.
Their elementary, middle, and high schools have TV studios where students produce their own morning announcements, creating elaborate productions that get the entire student body involved. The students are learning technology to stream, but their focus is on the creation. Now, students are using these skills to stream everything from plays, to poetry readings, to athletics.
Improving student engagement cannot be achieved without having teachers and staff on board for the process. Having the proper knowledge of how to engage students is vital as well. At Jackson, a Schoology school was created for all educators, consisting of 10 courses that included topics such as “How to use Screencastify” to “Project-Based Learning in a Blended Learning Environment.”
“It’s not just teachers and principals. It’s bringing in all of our teacher aides, instructor aides, everyone that’s involved. This included custodians, cafeteria workers, office staff, ” says Jason Murray, “What we try to do is everyone has to engage with the students, and this is something that we take a lot of pride in. The high school has even divided up a list of students to every working member of the high school, and that’s to check in on them every once in a while.”
Bob Gulick takes a similar approach. “If there’s anybody who has direct student contact, then we need to have that person ready and able to engage and be part of the support network. It starts with the bus driver. The concept is that the whole team is there.”
Ready to put these lessons into practice yourself? Discover how to get started with Airtame and Rise Vision by filling out the form below.