The Edison Local School District is focused on getting its students college and career ready. The Richmond, Ohio-based schools have invested in a number of new technologies over the past five years that offer students unique educational opportunities. Every classroom has a SMART interactive whiteboard and students have access to carts of Chromebooks to prepare for statewide online testing.
When asked about the district’s vision for technology, Kim Wadas, assistant superintendent says the goal is for technology to be “totally integrated.” And in many unique ways it is. Take for example, the district’s GradeCams, a combination of an app and a document camera that automatically scans and grades student homework, quizzes, etc.
“The teachers really like it. It’s instant feedback,” Wadas says.
It turns out, students like it too. Rather than waiting a week for their teacher to score and grade their work, students know right away how they did on the multiple choice section of an assignment. Teachers still have to grade extended responses or short answer questions by hand, but GradeCam certainly speeds up the grading process.
It’s not just the tools employed by the Edison Local Schools that makes the district stand out, it’s really the district’s approach to education. Its high school recently launched a blended learning pilot with juniors and seniors. They now take a portion of their classes online, meaning they are home for either the first two periods or the last two periods of school one day a week. The school’s goal is to prepare students for online learning before they go off to college.
“You can’t really go to college or have a career anymore without having to take an online class,” Wadas says. “We’re trying to teach students how to manage their time and see how content is different online than it is in the classroom.”
Teachers deliver the online classes through Blackboard. If the blended learning pilot is successful, the district hopes to expand online learning to its entire high school.
“For now, we wanted to try it with a few teachers to see how it goes. We didn’t really want to jump all the way into it yet,” Wadas says.
In addition to online learning, Several teachers within the district have flipped classrooms. A few math teachers have been using the format for about three years now with Edmodo as their learning platform. Although Wadas was completely comfortable with the idea of an alternative classroom format, parents were another story.
“We met some resistance and we still do,” Wadas says. “It’s getting them to understand that things have changed since we were in school.”
In a flipped classroom, students do what is traditionally considered homework in class and take in “lectures” at home. The lectures can take any format, but most teachers use short videos they post online for students to watch. The benefit of a flipped classroom is that the teacher is able to walk around the room as students attempt an activity like solving a math problem or working together to analyze a reading. The educator is present during active learning and is able to answer questions, provide assistance and deliver feedback as needed.
Edison Local is also a big proponent of collaboration. Students use Google Apps for Education in tandem with the Chromebooks to work together, share documents and complete class assignments. The devices are such an integral part of some classes that students walk into the room and immediately grab a Chromebook the way they would a pencil or notebook. It’s just another educational tool and an extension of the sort of learning environment the district has created.
While there has been support for technology integration from the top down, Wadas says it’s really the teachers who deserve the credit.
“Our teachers are a huge part of this,” she says. It’s their willingness to learn new things and take that leap that moves our students forward.”