The Brightest Future Possible

A Florida superintendent talks technology, learning, and full STEAM ahead.

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

CREDIT Tim Wyrosdick Santa Rosa Superintendent.pngFrom sandy beaches to rolling pines, the Santa Rosa School District is situated in a bright, sunny, and aesthetically beautiful part of the country; the panhandle region of northwest Florida near the Gulf of Mexico. The area offers a healthy and busy quality of life. Over 170,000 residents call Santa Rosa County home; many are currently serving in the Armed Services, as both Navy and Air Force bases are part of the community. Santa Rosa School District serves over 27,000 students through 33 brick and mortar schools, two charter schools and their online blended academy. The district provides students “with a high-quality education and our students consistently lead the State of Florida in academic achievement,” beams Tim Wyrosdick, the district’s superintendent (pictured).

The integration of instructional technology, project-based learning, real world problems and connections to meaningful careers is essential.

Indeed, the area’s bright and sunny disposition clearly extends to its people, to the students in its school district, and the district’s administration. “The mission of our school district, ‘Educate students for success by providing a superior, relevant education’  — drives our daily instruction in the classroom as we strive to prepare our students for a bright and prosperous future,” says Tim. With this mission in mind, Santa Rosa School District is currently in year three of their Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics STEAM Innovate Program, “a five-year transformation of our entire K-12 school district working closely through our partnership with Discovery Education, a division of the globally recognized Discovery Communications,” he notes.

Why STEAM? What’s the school’s vision for STEAM?

Tim: Research consistently demonstrates that STEAM education dramatically increases student achievement, literally eliminating achievement gaps for at-risk students while challenging gifted and talented students and simultaneously creating an adaptable and skilled workforce for the future. Simply put, Santa Rosa STEAM Innovate is not only about transforming teaching and learning, STEAM Innovate is about economic development and the creation of a pipeline from our classrooms to gratifying and meaningful careers. The STEAM Innovate program in Santa Rosa County will transform every classroom in every school to an environment rich with critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. STEAM Innovate  will provide students and teachers with authentic learning activities and projects that are relevant and meaningful to the community in which we all live and lead to a vibrant climate attractive to new business and expansion of current industry.

What’s an overview, and what are some of the details on—STEAM Innovate?

CREDIT STEAM INNOVATE.pngTim: [The program] started in 2015 and the formal training and coaching associated with [it] will continue through 2022. In 2015, we started [it] in 20 of our schools. We began with four teachers from each of these 20 schools with these teachers receiving five professional development days and 10 on-site coaching days. These 80 teachers began a five-year journey with that first training occurring in September of 2015. It 2016, we added five more schools to the STEAM Innovate transformation. These five schools added 20 more teachers to our STEAM Innovate group. So, these 20 teachers began their five-year training loop in September of 2016. This group also received five professional development days and 10 on-site coaching days during their first year of training.

Now, in 2017, we have added another seven schools to the STEAM Innovate transformation. These seven high schools have added another 34 teachers to STEAM Innovate . Like the preceding groups, this group of high school teachers will receive five professional development days and 10 on-site coaching days during their first year of training. As this group begins their first year of training, the 2016 group is entering their second year of training and coaching while the 2015 group is beginning their third year of training and coaching. Along with the incredible amount of professional development and coaching that occurs during each group’s five-year cycle, there are many supporting events that occur around STEAM Innovate . Events such as family nights, STEAM celebrations, launch events, and school visits bring all aspects of STEAM Innovate alive within our district.

What is the goal of the initiative? 

CREDIT STEAM INNOVATE image1.jpgTim: Santa Rosa School District provides students with a high-quality education and our students consistently lead the State of Florida in academic achievement. Indeed, the mission of our school district, Educate students for success by providing a superior, relevant education, drives our daily instruction in the classroom. Our goal with Innovate is to make these educational experiences even more relevant and more engaging. Through increased relevancy and engagement, we believe that we can continue to raise graduation rates, while at the same time create a well-trained, problem-solving student that meets the needs of high-tech. Our work within STEAM Innovate creates options for students as they walk across the graduation stage. What is our goal? Our goal is to provide the brightest future possible for every student within the Santa Rosa County School District.

What role does professional development and educational technology play? 

Tim: Professional development is the cornerstone of this program. The teachers participate in 25 full day trainings over a five-year period, while receiving 50 on-site coaching during the same time frame. In addition to this, the administrators receive 20 PD days during the five years, while also receiving onsite coaching. The professional development activities are the key to transforming the classroom. As we strive to make our classrooms more engaging to today’s students, we have found that the professional development activities are critical and helping us understand the needs and desires of our students.

As we introduce new technologies into the classroom, it is important for us to understand that the technology needs to be seen as a tool for accomplishing tasks. The professional development activities help us to create “Talent with technology” among our students. Our approach to technology calls for us to be device agnostic as we strive to teach our students to operate on multiple platforms using multiple tech tools in various situations. Technology is important to what we are trying to accomplish, but providing a safe culture for curiosity and “failing forward” is the most important.

How has education changed in the district so far?

Tim: What has changed in our district is not only the classroom but also the attitude of many teachers. STEAM Innovate has energized veteran teachers, provided confidence to the new teachers, and created teacher leaders out of many. The level of student engagement has increased during this first three years of STEAM Innovate . In many ways, fun has returned to the classroom, along with exploration and curiosity.

In many ways, fun has returned to the classroom, along with exploration and curiosity.

What role are local stakeholders playing in this effort? Are you working with external partners and if so, what do they bring to the table?

Tim: STEAM Ambassadors, leaders from the business community, advise the school district in this important work by providing feedback and input regarding the type of skills that are essential for tomorrow’s workforce. A long-term strategic initiative, STEAM Ambassadors are partners in this symbiotic relationship in which Ambassadors visit our STEAM Learning Labs and Schools, as well as discuss the goals and future needs of their own businesses. To sustain and expand the program, STEAM Ambassadors are sharing the message of STEAM Innovate with other community leaders, leading to opportunities for additional resources and community-based projects.

VIDEO CREDIT: Momentus Films 

During Year 3, our partners, include Ascend Performance Materials, the world’s largest manufacture of nylon; AppRiver, a global cybersecurity company; and the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System. Researchers at IHMC pioneer technologies aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. Post-secondary partners include the University of West Florida (UWF), particularly the College of Science and Engineering, Pensacola State College, and Florida State University.

The district has cultivated a robust relationship with UWF. In fact, the district and University are collaborating on two National Science Foundation grants, with plans for not only teacher professional development and recruitment of students into STEM related teaching degrees at the secondary level, but internships for our secondary students. Finally, the district contracts with the Community Outreach Research Center (CORAL) at the University of West Florida for an annual external evaluation of the STEAM Innovate transformation. Year 1 and Year 2 reports are available on our web site.

Your district has become a destination for other school systems looking to implement STEAM capacity building programs—how did that happen?

CREDIT STEAM INNOVATE image2.jpgTim: Recognizing the importance of continuous improvement and the responsibility of providing students with a relevant and high quality education, Santa Rosa County School District has traveled and collaborated with other high performing school districts throughout the country. Over the years, we have adopted many practices and strategies that we have observed in other school districts. With the launch of our K-12 district-wide transformation, we partnered with Discovery Education, and the positive outcomes experienced by our students, teachers, and the community are undeniable! STEAM Innovate sells itself. The momentum of the transformation has been significant and beyond our expectations. As school district leaders have heard or read about STEAM Innovate, they have contacted us directly and also through our partner. In 2017, the school district hosted a National STEM Symposium with Discovery Education. Educational leaders from 18 states and five countries traveled to Santa Rosa County to learn directly from our teachers and students. An international STEAM Symposium is now in the planning stages for 2018.

What are the next steps for STEAM Innovate?

Tim: Over the next several years, we will continue to grow STEAM Innovate in Santa Rosa County. As part of the STEAM Innovate training that teachers are receiving, they are also being trained on how to lead other teachers into the STEAM Innovate space. The Innovate teachers within Santa Rosa County are leading PLC’s and workshops and presenting at conferences across the state and nation. Our next steps involve us growing STEAM Innovate into every classroom within the Santa Rosa County School District.

If you could point to one major thing you learned in implementing this program, what would it be?

Tim: When we began STEAM Innovate within the Santa Rosa County School District, we thought we were transforming teaching and learning in the classroom. What we have learned now in our third year of the STEAM Innovate initiative, is that we are not only transforming the classroom, but we have transformed the living room for many of our families. Parents are engaged like never before with their students on STEAM activities within their homes. Children are taking STEAM activities that they have participated in at school back to their neighborhoods and doing these activities with friends and family. The impact that these activities have on families and homes has been an unbelievable surprise for our school district.

The impact that these activities have on families and homes has been an unbelievable surprise for our school district.

What do you think is the future of STEAM in our country?

Tim: In the coming years of STEAM Innovate , we expect the excitement to continue. The 100+ teachers that are in the Innovate program will assist in scaling up Innovate through partnering with peer teachers, facilitating PLC’s, and leading professional development which will help non-Innovate teachers to incorporate exciting engaging relevant activities on a regular basis into their curriculum. With this pipeline of problem solvers that we will be graduating, we expect our activities to make a positive economic impact in our community. Santa Rosa County will quickly become an area in which people will want to live–not just because of the outstanding school system, but also because of the high-tech job opportunities that will exist. We expect STEAM Innovate to provide students with a very bright future right here in Santa Rosa County.

What do you think is the future of education?


Tim: It is critical, no matter where teaching and learning occur, the environment must be conducive to critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration. Regardless of each individual’s career path, education must cultivate teachers and life-long learners that adapt to whatever employers and the community require. In Santa Rosa County we are also cultivating learners that possess curiosity, confidence and commitment. The integration of instructional technology, project-based learning, real world problems and connections to meaningful careers is essential. There is no prescription or magic formula; however, the engagement with business, industry, and especially our students’ families and the community must be part of the learning experience.

Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to:

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The Social Campus

Eight areas of opportunity for higher education in 2018.

GUEST COLUMN | by Phil Chatterton

cREDIT Hootsuite higher education.jpgIn the past five years, social media has become a mission-critical communications technology in higher education. It is used by many stakeholders across campus for various different use cases: student and alumni engagement, fundraising drives, athletics ticket sales, domestic and international recruitment, student services, and crisis communications.

By taking advantage of insights made available by social listening, schools can measure sentiment towards their institution, better understand student needs, and differentiate from their competition.

In fact, social media has become so ubiquitous, so quickly, that institutions are now experiencing challenges with governance, security, cost efficiencies, and cross-campus collaboration.

A recent global survey conducted by Hootsuite, with support from the Chronicle of Higher Education, provides some valuable insights into how social has affected higher ed, and uncovered eight areas of opportunity for social media in higher education in 2018:

1. Campus collaboration

Despite the high adoption of social media across many areas of campus, our survey found that social efforts are still siloed. On the plus side, there is a desire for improved collaboration – over half of higher education institutions want to coordinate with other teams on social strategy in the next 12 months. Cross-campus collaboration would help schools align their social media goals, implement better security measures, and realize more value from social media.

2. Executive support for social

Executive participation on social at higher education institutions is high, with 49 percent of institutional leaders active on social, compared to the 39 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. This is a positive sign of executives leading by example – it’s driven by a desire to engage with stakeholders and be seen as more transparent and trustworthy.

3. Social advertising

With the decline in organic reach on social media, social advertising has become a key part of marketing efforts to reach a wider audience. Our research found that 67 percent of respondents are using paid advertising to enhance their reach. Fifty-one percent expect an increase in paid ads budget in 2018—and among respondents that manage social media centrally, 62 percent expect an increase next year.

4. Social insights

Using social media data is an essential part of building a solid strategy. By taking advantage of insights made available by social listening, schools can measure sentiment towards their institution, better understand student needs, and differentiate from their competition. Unfortunately, thirty-five percent of schools are not using social media to monitor social conversations about their campus – this is a missed opportunity for some excellent insight to inform social strategies in the future.

5. Security

Several high profile institutions have been hit with social media security scandals in the past few years. Some of those institutions have spent millions of dollars on their responses and suffered huge hits to their reputation. Despite this, our research found that 40 per cent of schools still share login credentials to native social media platforms. This represents a massive risk to an institution’s brand. Two-step authentication procedures and third-party social media management and security applications are a must.

6. Sharing authentic experiences on social

User-generated content allows schools to showcase an authentic portrayal of student life on campus to their prospective students—and helps recruit top talent. Our survey respondents are seeing value in sharing these real-life stories. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed allow students to temporarily “take over” the official school social media accounts to share a student’s perspective on special events on campus. We expect this trend to continue into 2018.

7. Delivery of student services

By delivering student services on social media, schools can improve communications with students and significantly reduce customer service backlogs. Schools delivering services on social have experienced these gains. Over half of respondents said that social media helps them respond to customer service queries faster.

8. Measuring return on investment (ROI)

Our survey found that while institutions are leveraging social for revenue-generating initiatives such as meeting new student enrollment targets or driving fundraising efforts, few of them are attributing gains in these areas back to their social media strategies. For example, only 26 per cent have seen an increased number of student applications as a direct result of social efforts and just 11 per cent have seen increased quality of student applications. While these numbers appear low, it is possible this is less related to low ROI and more so not attributing ROI back to social efforts.

There’s a lot of opportunity in social for higher education—with a unified strategy, improved reporting, and centralized management, schools will be able to better understand their ROI and make the case for more investment in social media in the future.

Phil Chatterton is an Industry Principal for Higher Education at Hootsuite. In his previous role at the University of British Columbia, Phil worked with a diverse stakeholder community to develop and execute emerging technologies and the broader digital strategy.

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Tools Teachers Love

Some practical perspective from an online educator.

GUEST COLUMN | by Dominique Baroco

CREDIT FLVS.pngLong gone are the days of textbooks and chalkboards. Classrooms have evolved, and teachers are now turning to technology to develop lesson plans. This evolution comes as no surprise considering the variety of options available to students, parents and teachers. With computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones and more, learning no longer requires the standard tools of the past.

From blended learning options within a traditional classroom to online homework assignments to fully virtual education, teachers are meeting the challenge to become even more creative with assignments and keep students engaged, interested and successful. According to PBS Learning Media, 74 percent of teachers surveyed said technology is a key motivational tool for their students.

By survey, 66 percent of students measure their academic success by the achievement of their own personal learning goals, outstripping parental pride, or school awards and honors.

Meanwhile, 73 percent said technology helps teachers respond to different learning styles, and 69 percent said technology helps them do more than ever for their students.

Choosing the right tools

Using technology for the sake of technology clearly is not an optimal strategy. Teachers choose different technology tools based on various criteria:

  • What tools are available within a respective school district?
  • Will students use a desktop computer or a laptop? Are mobile devices or tablets available?
  • How will tools or programs fit into lesson plans? What purpose will they serve? Will they play a large or small role?
  • Is there a free or low-cost option?
  • How comfortable will students feel with the program?

Of course, technology does not always require internet access. There are many programs and applications that students can download and use offline, which is helpful if they are doing homework or studying in a setting where Wi-Fi is unavailable. Some include:

  • Explain Everything: Students can use this screencasting tool to record what they’re thinking as they design videos.
  • Book Creator: Helps students write stories and publish their own books.
  • The Solar System: Offers an interactive experience while students learn about the solar system.
  • iBooks: Allows student to save PDFs so they can read them offline.
  • Toontastics: Students can create their very own movies. 

Online options and customizable solutions

There are hundreds of online programs available to research, although sometimes it takes trial and error to discover which programs will be most effective in helping students learn and reach their goals.

According to Dreambox Learning, 66 percent of students measure their academic success by the achievement of their own personal learning goals, outstripping parental pride, or school awards and honors. Tools that can help personalize the learning experience and track academic success for each student better aids development.

Some teacher favorites include:

  • Safeshare converts YouTube videos to ad-free mode so that students can watch the video without any commercials or pop ups.
  • Classtools helps teachers create games, quizzes and activities for class.
  • Kahoot!: Kahoot! offers fun live quizzes that can assess students’ knowledge of a subject.
  • Desmos: Desmos is a free online calculator for math students that is identical to the $100 TI calculators.
  • Google Knowledge Graph: This offers a more advanced search bar for students seeking out answers online.
  • iCivics: iCivics is a free website that offers a variety of resources for teaching history.

As a foreign language teacher at a virtual school, I incorporate technological tools throughout the courses. I look for programs that can help personalize the learning experience and offer feedback options to help ensure proficiency and fluency. Each student learns at a different pace and in a different way, so being able to customize these programs is critical.

Some of the best foreign language online programs I’ve used in my classroom include:

  • Acapella Box: Allows students to hear a native speaker pronounce a word and practice the target language prior to submitting a voice assignment.
  • Powtoon: Provides custom animated videos for presentations.
  • DuoLingo: Offers practice with reading, writing, speaking and listening in the desired language.

Technology can offer many benefits, but obviously does not replace human interaction entirely. It’s important that students and teachers still develop a one-on-one relationship. Whether it’s in a traditional classroom or through virtual learning, that dynamic can make a huge difference with their success. However, it’s easy to see why technology has become such a valuable asset to educators. It provides a number of opportunities for further customizing lesson plans and offering personalized learning for students. The future looks bright for the advancement of education in the digital realm.

Dominique Baroco is a French and Chinese Instructional Leader for Florida Virtual School.

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The Right Conditions for Learning

To foster a culture of positivity in your school, follow these five simple steps.

GUEST COLUMN | by Susan R. Steele

CREDIT HeroK12.pngWhen I became the principal of Finger Lake Elementary School in Wasilla, Alaska, in 2015, we had about 250 students. Two years later, that figure has grown to more than 400 students—and a key reason for this surge, in my opinion, has been the positive school culture we have fostered. We are a district of choice, meaning parents can choose to send their children to any of the schools within the district. One of my goals when I took this position was to grow our enrollment, making Finger Lake a place where families would want to boundary exempt to so their students could come to school here. One of the primary ways we have accomplished this goal is by increasing the number of positive interactions our students experience each day.

Our focus on improving school culture is paying off. … We surveyed our students about what would best motivate them, and we included student representatives on our task force. 

Our focus on improving school culture is paying off. Teachers report fewer behavioral problems, disciplinary referral rates have dropped, and more parents are choosing Finger Lake for their children’s education. While our success has been a true team effort, here are five key strategies that underlie it.

Build relationships.

Strong interpersonal relationships are the foundation for positive student behavior, and changing the culture of your school begins by nurturing healthy relationships with your students. Here are some ways that our staff builds relationships with students:

  • Greet students at the door
  • Give them a handshake, high five, or fist bump on their way in
  • Know at least 10 things about each student
  • Spend time building a sense of community in your school or classroom creating a safe and fun environment where students want to be.
  • Always remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. When faced with confrontation, take a step back to consider whether that child’s food, sleep, or basic safety needs are being met.

Set clear and consistent expectations.

Make sure students understand what behaviors are expected of them, and hold them accountable for their actions. These expectations—which should include the progression of consequences that students will face if they choose not to follow the rules—must be explicitly taught and modeled.

As an administrator, the first thing I ask students who are sent to my office is: “What happened?” Then I’ll ask, “What were you supposed to be doing?” It’s important that students know how to answer this follow-up question.

Make sure all staff are familiar with these expectations as well, and hold team members accountable for enforcing the rules of behavior consistently. Even though we’re an elementary school, our students are taught by multiple teachers throughout the day. It was important that we established a school-wide system of behavior so that all staff members were using the same language and setting the same expectations for student behavior from classroom to classroom.

Our school mascot is a falcon, and so we developed a system of behavior in which we encourage students to “Show the HEART of a Falcon,” where the letters in the word HEART stand for the virtues we hope to instill:

  • Having a positive attitude;
  • Expecting success;
  • Accepting responsibility;
  • Respecting yourself and others; and
  • Thinking before acting.

Focus on the positive.

I am a big believer in the power of positive reinforcement. Students respond more effectively to praise than they do to punishment or disapproval. With that in mind, we have sought to flip the ratio of positive to negative interactions with our students.

Positive interactions are defined as rewarding or encouraging students when they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Negative interactions are defined as correcting students when they are off task or behaving inappropriately. The more frequently we can give students attention at times when they are on task, the more positive outcomes we are going to see.

To help our teachers track and reward positive student behaviors, we began using a program called Hero K12 last year. It’s an online platform that enables us to monitor all forms of student behavior, both good and bad.

CREDIT Hero dashboard.pngUsing a web browser or mobile device, our teachers and administrators can record student behavior within Hero as it happens—and they can assign consequences or rewards as applicable. We have customized the software according to our own school-wide system of behavior, so that teachers can give Hero points to students for showing the HEART of a falcon or otherwise acting positively. Students love getting positive recognition, and teachers tell me their students immediately perk up and give full attention when they project the Hero dashboard onto the interactive whiteboard.

Get your students involved.

We put together a task force to decide on a reward structure for how students can redeem their points, and we made sure to include students in this process. Even elementary students can come up with great ideas! We surveyed our students about what would best motivate them, and we included student representatives on our task force. With the students’ help, we have devised rewards that include opportunities to watch a movie, play kickball, purchase falcon gear for our Falcon Fridays, or even sing karaoke during class time.

When students know the goals they are working toward, it becomes easier to encourage those behaviors. Giving students a voice in setting those goals allows them to take ownership of the process and helps them become fully engaged in your efforts to change the culture of your school.

Celebrate success.

This is important not just for students, but for teachers to buy in as well. Change can be hard for some people, and we have tried to remove as many barriers keeping teachers from using the system as we can.

In staff newsletters, we share our teachers’ successes and highlight those who have experienced positive results from using our platform. As teachers see the success their colleagues are having and the access to fun incentives for their students, they become more likely to try it for themselves—and our success multiplies.

Last year, we set up a Google document where teachers could describe their experiences and leave questions, comments, or concerns. Teachers could see which colleagues might have questions similar to their own, or which colleagues they can turn to for help if needed. This enabled our teachers to serve as the experts for each other, rather than having to ask me for help.

Kids need recognition when they’re doing a good job. They appreciate positive feedback, and Hero helps us give that feedback and reward students in a consistent and tangible way. Too often, we correct students when they misbehave instead of acknowledging when they are behaving appropriately—and a system like Hero helps us flip that ratio of positive to negative interactions. It is refreshing to see how many positive interactions our students are receiving. We ended last year with over 50,000 school-wide points!   That is 50,000 times our staff “caught students doing good.” Our school is proof that increasing the number of positive interactions students have throughout the day makes a big difference in their behavior and desire to come to school!

Susan R. Steele is the Principal of Finger Lake Elementary School in Wasilla, Alaska.

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Global State of Digital Learning

Key findings and trends in K-12 education.

GUEST COLUMN | by Dylan Rodgers

CREDIT Schoology Global State of Digital Learning 2017.png

With each passing year, technology continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible in teaching and learning. So much so, that it’s getting harder to find schools that haven’t adopted at least some form of digital learning—blended learning, flipped learning, personalized learning, and/or other strategies that rely on digital tools to enhance the learning experience—into their classrooms.

Our research found that teachers and administrators are in overwhelming agreement: digital learning positively impacts both student achievement (95%) and teaching effectiveness (92%).

But digital learning goes far beyond providing students access to iPads in hopes of enhancing their learning experience and producing better outcomes. Like a well-oiled machine, there are countless tangible and intangible variables that must work together: from software and classroom practices, to professional development and collaboration among the many stakeholders.

With this in mind, Schoology recently conducted an inaugural study—The Global State of Digital Learning—which encompassed 2,846 education professionals across 89 countries worldwide. The goal? To reveal deeper insights into some of these variables in the form of data, trends, and strategies, and to shed light on the current state of digital learning in K-12 education.

Here’s what we found:

Key Insights of 2016-2017

Among the many benefits of digital learning—enhanced learning experiences by enabling teachers to better tailor learning to their students’ needs, aiding in the tracking of student progress, saving teachers time, etc.—our research found that teachers and administrators are in overwhelming agreement: digital learning positively impacts both student achievement (95%) and teaching effectiveness (92%).

Other key findings we uncovered include:

  1. Time is the Top Obstacle to Effective Digital Learning: Despite the enthusiasm and confidence in digital learning results, more than 43% of respondents noted that lack of time was the biggest obstacle to integrating technology and more than 40% noted a lack of devices. Other top challenges included inadequate hardware (29%), lack of access at home (26%), and difficulty creating lesson plans (25%). It must be noted that respondents could choose all answers that apply for this and certain other questions in the survey.
  2. Professional Development Isn’t Modeling Best Practices of Digital Learning: According to our findings, the large majority of professional development being offered is via single-session and periodic events. Very few respondents cited having asynchronous learning, blended courses, or on-demand PD options. Couple this finding with the fact that 46% of respondents with an LMS say they don’t use it for professional development, and it suggests that the most effective teaching strategies are not being carried over from the classroom to professional development (let alone being modeled using the pinnacle tool teachers are leveraging in the classroom).
  3. Static Instructional Resources are Still the Norm: Schoology’s survey also revealed that the most used instructional resources are, by far, static, or provide a non-interactive, one-way flow of information (i.e. PDFs, Word Docs, Videos, etc.). This may suggest that institutions are digitizing traditional learning rather than enhancing it. While there is a place for these “static” resources in learning, the decision to replace a textbook with an eBook without serious thought behind how it will make the material more interactive, totally defeats the purpose of digital learning.
  4. Collaboration May Be Key to Solving Professional Development Challenges: Eighty-one percent of respondents consider collaborating via professional learning communities (PLCs) and personal learning networks (PLNs) to be effective for professional development. Interestingly, professional development is the number one challenge for administrators, and faculty collaboration is their number one priority.

Digital Learning Trends That Emerged

When considering the state of digital learning, the technologies and tools an institution chooses to implement can have ripple effects throughout the organization. So according to our survey, what trends are impacting schools and districts most?

  1. LMS and Positive Effects: Of the nearly 3,000 education professionals who took the survey, 46% said they have an LMS. Of respondents who noted that students at their institution are “very engaged,” 89% said an LMS is in use most days, if not every day, of the week. This may indicate that careful and consistent LMS use can lead to the highest rates of student engagement. And as we know, better student engagement means increased student achievement.
  2. Mobile Device Use is Becoming More Prevalent: While the debate around mobile devices in the classroom rages on, a winner seems to be emerging: nearly 80% of schools and districts use them at least monthly, with nearly 50% reporting using mobile devices daily.
  3. Most Common Instructional Strategies and Practices: Digital learning takes many forms—gamification, flipped learning, etc.—but which instructional strategies are practiced most? Differentiated learning leads the pack (75%), with blending learning (54%) and individualized learning also vying for top spots (45%). And as for which instructional strategy was considered the most effective? Our respondents answered blended learning, followed by differentiated learning, and then personalized learning.

Education is a far cry from what it used to be, thanks to the dedication of many creative education professionals and rapid technological development. Although this new study highlights many digital learning successes, it also brings to light some larger issues around the strategies and priorities of educational institutions around the world.

All in all, these findings serve as an opportunity for the education community to come together and continue to transform how students learn, how teachers teach, and how institutions as a whole prepare the next generation for success.

Dylan Rodgers is Editor-in-Chief of The Schoology Exchange, at SchoologySee all the findings from Schoology’s Global State of Digital Learning survey in their free ebook.

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