3 Innovative Ways EdTech Can Build Positive School Culture

May 25, 2017
School Leaders Now

Changing a school culture from okay to wow is possible. The surprising thing might be that tech can help. Here are three innovative ways a powerful Learning Management System can help to improve your positive school culture.

1. Move to Project-Based Learning (PBL)

“When are we going to use this?” is a question commonly asked by students of all ages. It’s a valid point. Helping students apply their learning in real-world ways is known to increase engagement and testing scores

Joshua Giebel, a math teacher at New Tech High School in Columbus, IA., does his best to tie all learning authentically. By using PBL, the question of why something matters never even enters students’ minds. Joshua recently taught geometry by asking kids to solve a furniture problem. The footpads on his classroom chairs broke everytime kids leaned back in them. “Using the breakage problem as a focal point for the lesson, we talked about the arcs of circles, arcs on segments, sectors of circles, tangents, and all of the properties that go along with finding the center point of an object. Then, using an AutoCAD program and a 3D printer, students redesigned the chair footpads.”

Joshua’s students not only learned geometry standards for the quarter, they learned why the standards matter. They also gained experience with some technology tools they could apply to real careers. This was both motivating and engaging for the students.

But Joshua’s lesson was not without challenges. Managing all the details and standards addressed was an issue. The solution? He and his students are now using a centralized technology platform called itslearning to submit journal assignments, do their reflections, and create and store presentations. The kids can still use tools like Prezi and Google Docs, but they store all of their materials in one digital location.

TRY THIS! Host a Hackathon—one full day when your whole school is using their knowledge to solve a single school-centric challenge. The solutions should utilize standards across the curriculum. Showcase their process and solution at an all-school assembly.

2. Increase Student Engagement

Recently Dean Wright, a third grade teacher at Columbus Signature Academy in Columbus, Ind., shared ideas for a social studies project with his students and let them decide what to do. He knew they’d be more motivated if given a choice. The students chose to sell homemade goods at a local farmer’s market and Dean figured out how to incorporate many different standards into the project. Adding his LMS, itslearning, into the mix upped the student independence by allowing his kids to work on pieces of the project and share progress digitally.

Dean’s students couldn’t wait to get in his classroom every day and get to work. That level of learning engagement and community connection contributes to a positive school culture. Using educational technology to promote independence gives teachers and students the tools they need so they can do the teaching and learning.

TRY THIS! Have students use a five-point scale to rate how sure they are about an answer they’ve given. This helps keep kids thinking about what they know, what they think they know, and the difference between the two. The more they think, the more engaged they are.

3. Build Growth Mindset

As a high school science teacher in Millis Public Schools in Massachusetts, Stephanie Copice spends a lot of time introducing students to content they’d never seen before. In the past, she used textbooks, classroom lectures, and science labs to achieve this goal. Any students who didn’t “get it” either had to approach her for extra help or wound up floundering as the rest of the class moved on to the next lesson. Conversely, students who did “get it” had no avenues for working ahead. Then Stephanie started using her LMS to track where students were and put enrichment options into place for students to work through independently. The class began to grow—each students’ needs were being met and learning was constantly accessible.

Successful students have the mindset that they can always grow and change. EdTech can help build that mindset by giving students choice over their learning paths, continuous feedback on their effort and stamina, and personalized materials based on their skills and interests. 

TRY THIS! Have the students at your school create a Wall of Growth. Each grade will be asked to create one poster that symbolizes “Math” or whatever subject you choose. They all get the same directions, but when posted in order by grade, everyone can see how the idea (and knowledge) grows each year.

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