posted on January 15, 2016
(Beloit, WI) Hillary Gavan, Beloit Daily News
From looking at pictures of someone tarred and feathered in World War I to making a video of a book report, School District of Beloit students are taking advantage of new learning opportunities made available by technology.
Since the school district adopted an initiative to put an iPad in the hand of each student in the district, many classes are going paperless and adopting other innovative technologies.
At Fruzen Intermediate School, for example, the school is using Schoology, a learning management system called the “Facebook of education.” Teachers use the digital learning environment to assign quizzes and assignments, as well as launch discussions and more.
Schoology allows teachers and students to work on the same virtual documents. When a student, for example, creates an assignment, it can be sent to the teacher who will give feedback and return it to the student. Giving more immediate feedback can help engage and challenge students.
At Beloit Memorial High School, teachers like Matt Flynn use Schoology in AP history class. On Wednesday, all of his students were hooked into the same worksheet and accompanying documents that Flynn was working on via the SmartBoard. He also had accompanying historical photos such as a man who was tarred and feathered as late as World War I.
Flynn said Schoology enables students to hook into their curriculum 24-7. With students able to do their work remotely, absences also become less of a hurdle for struggling students.
Michele Kruse, a fourth grade teacher at Fruzen Elementary School and an innovation coach, also has gone to a mostly paperless classroom thanks to the iPads and Schoology. Because Schoology has made grading papers and organizing more efficient and streamlined, Kruse said it allows her to focus on developing deeper relationships with her students.
It also allows students to be more creative. For example, her students create movies instead of writing traditional book reports.
“They are expressing learning at a higher level, and they love it,” she said. “It puts learning in kids’ own hands.”
She said some students who may struggle in certain areas often discover they have a knack for technology. It gives them a boost of self esteem and motivates them to teach other students their newfound skills.
“It empowers them,” she said.
Britta Gagner, instructional technology coach, said Schoology helps teachers collaborate across the district, especially if they are teaching the same subject in different buildings.
“It's really unified all the intermediate schools,” Gagner said. “In addition to having common assessments, we have common essential learning targets.”
Schoology also allows teachers to do their grading online resulting in fewer papers getting lugged home.
Teachers and all staff members are creating their own learning goals with technology and receive regular coaching on how to use the new technology in their classrooms.
Kruse, for example, hosts mini lessons at Fruzen every week in 15-minute sessions to train other teachers in Schoology.
Gagner said students have the option to use paper if they want to. Flynn noted he still does testing with paper and pencil.