“If education is the priority, this is the most efficient way to do that now. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it.”
David Crockett freshman
By COLLIN BROOKS
When it comes to technology, 2015 was a year like no other — and many of the Washington County students who were introduced into the new blended learning model through the Canvas program are hoping it is something they never have to give up.
“A textbook is a lot bulkier than just a little Chromebook. It’s bulkier and not as efficient, I think, because with a computer you can just search whatever and have all kinds of different answers for whatever question you have,” David Crockett High School freshman Alexis Freeman said.
Freeman is currently in Warren Lewis’ 9th grade English class, which is one of four blended learning classrooms in the Washington County School System and is one of two at David Crockett.
Blended learning uses handouts and technology through school-provided Chromebooks and the Canvas system to teach students in a more advanced style.
Canvas is a learning management system that reaches beyond the capabilities of a traditional classroom by connecting students with extra resources online. It provides a way for students to connect with classmates and teachers through discussion boards, email and announcements. It also helps parents stay up-to-date with current and upcoming assignments.
The school system picked up Canvas in May 2014, when Washington County’s Secondary Schools learned that four teachers had been selected for the Innovator Educator Grant Award. Four teachers, including Lewis, Dr. Deborah Bailey (Algebra I), Cheryl McHone (Algebra I) and Abigail Kincaid (English 9) were selected from 50 teachers within Tennessee.
They were able to take what they learned and implement it into a blended learning classroom. The IEN Grant classrooms purchased Chromebooks to provide one-to-one technology for a blended learning model and WCDE implemented the program with the Canvas Learning Management System. Installing those two things allowed the teachers to provided curriculum and assessment design designed to meet the skill level of each learner and provides acceleration for the advanced learning in the class.
With four teachers, two each in both Daniel Boone and David Crockett, about 480 9th-grade students have been able to experience the blended learning each year and it’s an experience that they want to continue, according to Response to Intervention Supervisor Dr. Ginger Christian.
“When we were awarded the grant and spoke with students and teachers about the continuation, a 9th-grade student said to me ‘please do not make us go back to the way we use to learn,’ ” Christian said. “So making sure that we are making the provision for 9th-grade students who have access to technology, to have access to technology again in 10th grade really helped the district team make decisions on the focus of our current 5-year strategic plan.”
Seeing the results of the the first couple of years of their blended learning classrooms, the school system has put together a five-year strategic technology plan, which Dr. Christian shared with the Herald and Tribune.
Year one, next year, school officials would expand Canvas to all 8th- to 12th-grade students and add devices one-to-one to use during the school day in English language arts.
The second year of the program, the Washington County Department of Education is hoping to expand the one-to-one devices for all math classes from 8th to 12th grade. If that were to be implemented, that would mean that the school system would not have to buy new textbooks for either English language arts or math as soon as devices are provided at a one-to-one ratio for the students in the classroom.
With the ever-changing math curriculum and standards, which will change in 2017-2018 school year for Tennessee curriculum, it would be easiest to have a device that could change with it.
“To provide limitless resources, often free resources, the purchase of one device for every child, provides textbook applications for every content area in the high school,” Christian said. “So speaking to intervention, we add devices so we can bring limitless instructionally appropriate text to students. But devices can and will, absolutely, be able to close the gap with we had to purchase textbooks.”
In the third year, the addition would come to social studies and science in the high schools and the addition of the technology in 7th grade.
“Our vision is to increase ACT scores and as a result increase scholarships for students ensuring that our students are college and career ready. Every ACT point adds additional dollars for students.”
Dr. Ginger Christian
Washington County RTI/Curriculum Supervisor
The fourth year will see 7th grade mathematics receive the technology and it will also see the expansion of the devices in the career and technical education classrooms at the high schools. The final year, will provide the devices in the sixth grade.
The cost would come at about $7,500 per classroom, which would provide 30 Google Chromebook laptop computers along with their charging stations. However, the kick back for students and parents will come at an astronomical rate.
“Our vision is to increase ACT scores and as a result increase scholarships for students ensuring that our students are college and career ready,” Christian said. “Every ACT point adds additional dollars for students.”
She used ETSU as an example mentions that a 21 on the ACT provides $16,000 but a 22 adds an additional $8,000 for students over 4 years. A 27 provides a total of $32,000 with the Hope Scholarship.
“When 100 students realize a 27 that is $3,200,000 for that graduating class in projected scholarships,” she said. “When 200 students score a 27 we now have a return on the investment of $6,400,000.”
However, some of the other important values can’t have monetary costs associated with them, according to Christian.
For instance, one of the precalculus teachers at David Crockett videos her lesson and places them on Canvas so students are able to watch that lesson again at the end of the day. That helps both students and parents.
“This tool has been a lifeline of support for students and parents,” Christian said.
Lewis, who is a 9th grade English language arts teacher at David Crockett, says that the improvements and eagerness of his kids in the classroom has been overwhelming, but he said the true value won’t be visible until years down the road.
“It’s one of those things that we won’t understand how well it has succeeded for years,” Lewis said. “But response has been very good from the students.”
David Crockett freshman Ian Shockley said that it’s also been an easier way for him to learn.
“I think this kind of technology is just really helpful for keeping things organized and it’s easier to get stuff done by just typing it and submitting it,” Shockley said. “It is definitely easier than using a textbook and I think this is just the way it’s going to be in the future.”
It also makes it easier to keep up with homework and the old adage that “the dog ate my homework,” isn’t plausible anymore, according to freshman Aisling Hagan.
“You can’t lose your homework, really, because it’s always saved online in Google or another site,” Hagan said.
Freeman agreed with her classmate and said that it makes it a lot easier to catch up if you happen to miss a day. She also has the Canvas application on her iPhone, which allows her to receive push notifications when assignments are coming up or grades have been posted. She said that it may not be the cheapest way for the system to provide education, but it is easily the most efficient.
“If education is the priority, this is the most efficient way to do that now,” Freeman said. “It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it.”