Technology Promotes Personalized Learning

Technology Promotes Innovative Teaching, Personalized Learning
Posted on 03/09/2021
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DLD2021 Wordle“It’s not just about filling our teachers’ toolboxes with lots of technology tools. Just because we have this new tech tool or that new tech resource, doesn’t mean we have to use it. Instead, the focus is on learning over digital. We look at what we need to teach, and then look for any tools that can help each student learn,” said Heidi Adams, one of Lakota’s Innovation Specialists.

The 10th Digital Learning Day on Feb. 25 celebrated just that: innovative teachers and the power of instructional technology to personalize the learning experience for every student.

“I can't believe #DLDay has been happening for 10 years! I feel like I've had 10 years’ worth of digital learning just in the past year with VLO,” joked teacher Lauren Seal. “But it is so empowering to be able to bring learning to kids in a new way.”

Lakota has been dedicated to instructional technology for years, laying a strong foundation with the formation of Team Inspire (instructional support team) and the #WEareEmpowered Initiative (providing Lakota students with a personalized learning, future ready journey through instructional approaches and new learning opportunities, purposefully supported by technology). 

“The main role of our Instructional Support Specialists is to help take learning to the next level, to empower teachers to have the skill set to do that,” said Krista Heidenreich, Lakota’s Director of Digital & Professional Learning. “Over time, Team Inspire has done just that.”

Innovation Specialist Jennifer Neubarth agreed. “Now our teachers can innovate and think outside of the box on ways to personalize learning for the students.”

Heritage ECS teacher Jenny Hutzelman said, “A positive that I have experienced from this year’s journey is that I have been forced to think outside the box. What better way to teach my students to think about problems in an unconventional way than to model it for them on a daily basis!”

Advances in technology allow Lakota teachers to differentiate and meet the needs of individual students. If more passages are needed at a certain reading level or if additional time is needed to complete an assignment, it’s all built into the Canvas learning management system. 

Hopewell ECS teacher Whitney Sagraves is also using technology to provide personalized instruction when her students need more support. “I had a kiddo that had a hard time transitioning into kindergarten from preschool and we were able to help him view himself as a reader by watching the VLO videos I had created for the beginning of the year. He can now participate and understand how reading workshop goes in the classroom. I’ve also been able to collaborate with first grade teachers to help them find the kindergarten phonics and reading lessons to help them support their learners who need extra support.”

First grade teacher Asha Ruiz added, “I really love having all of our ECS literacy assessments on the Seesaw platform. The ease of use is incredible. It is so nice for intervention teachers to access that data so easily and collaborate on goal setting for students.” 

Teachers are finding the Seesaw platform is also a great way to connect with families to help continue the learning from classroom to home. VLO teacher Lauren Seal loves seeing how technology is allowing families to get involved in their student’s learning. She’s seen siblings doing physical education classes and grandparents doing STEAM lessons. “It’s heartwarming to experience each child's ‘village.’” 

Liberty Junior Innovation Specialist Kristina Linberg loves how technology is allowing her students to learn through virtual visits to places like the Holocaust and Humanity Center. Many classes have had the unique opportunity to speak with experts like NASA scientists and best-selling authors.

The challenges of the past year have highlighted the way that technology can bring about instant collaboration and connectivity. Lakota staff members have been able to grow their networks and connect not only with each other but with other districts.

Innovation Specialist Caitlin Huxel added, “The collaboration that has manifested in SO many ways is beyond inspiring. There's no way that goes away with the pandemic.”  

And collaboration and connectivity is not just among staff members. Students are helping each other, working together to become better problem solvers. 

Student-teacher connections are being strengthened as well. Woodland teacher Jennifer Sharp said, “I teach VLO and I have never felt so connected to students before.” Jenny Garwood, a teacher at Independence added, “A student I taught in VLO first semester sent me a Google Doc so we could ‘chat’ today. The best part of technology is the way it can foster connections.” 

One key benefit of the past year has been the increased national focus on closing the gap on educational inequalities to ensure that all students have access to high-quality digital learning opportunities. Programs like Lakota’s 1:1 device program and the recent BroadbandOhio Connectivity grant are going a long way to put digital learning tools in the hands of every student.

The 10th Digital Learning Day celebration has given teachers a chance to reflect on the role that technology can play in education.

Lakota East teacher Liz Gosky stated, “This journey has taken me out of my comfort zone. It forced me to stretch and learn new skills and make new connections to survive. Without discomfort there will be no change. As I reflect, I am amazed at how far WE have changed what school can look like.”  

Heritage ECS teacher Melissa Gregory summed it up well. “Technology just allows our students to get more excited about their learning and help them be ready for real world situations. It fosters creativity and imagination. Technology now allows us to communicate with other students in other countries but also allows parents to get a glimpse into our classroom. Students are going to be ready to make a difference in the world and many will enhance technology even more with jobs they will someday hold.”

Chief Technology Officer Todd Wesley has helped oversee the advances that Lakota has made in the area of technology. “Digital Learning can expand opportunity, level the playing field and, when purposefully applied, make life changing impacts,” said Wesley.  “But the key is focusing on that empowerment and learning, not the technology. Our staff gets that and it truly is something to celebrate!”