Leveraging Digital Resources
Five years ago, Indianola Community School District (ICSD) made “Effective Technology Growth and Integration” one of its strategic goals. The previous fall, Indianola High School had just embarked on a digital learning environment, issuing MacBooks to teachers and over 1,100 high school students. During the second semester of the 2018-2019 school year, each eighth grader received a school-owned Chromebook to use at school and home, and this school year sixth and seventh graders received Chromebooks. Elementary schools have Chromebook carts, wired labs and iPads (PTOs have donated many iPads). The district also received a Department of Education computer science grant, which allowed staff to receive additional training, including Code.org training for elementary teachers to teach coding to their students kindergarten age and older. Indianola Middle School has a maker space, where students create their own apps and podcasts. Indianola High School has Project Lead the Way (PLTW) computer science classes and many other opportunities available. Indianola Middle School also offers a PLTW Gateway to Technology class.
ICSD Online Learning Program
Many improvements have been made to district technology infrastructure, which is not something people necessarily notice, and there is also a great deal of staff training taking place. A couple of years ago middle school and high school staff began receiving training on blended and flipped instruction, and a number of high school teachers have become certified online educators. AEA Learning Online, the district’s Teaching and Learning Department and the district’s IT Department have all collaborated with district teachers and administrators to create Indianola High School’s Online Learning Program. See a program overview below:
The Online Learning Program allows students to enroll in locally developed online courses that are rigorous and aligned with district and state standards. The primary goal was to personalize learning and provide flexibility for students who have medical needs, anxiety or just a preference for this type of learning. Indianola High School has been serving approximately 60 students in self-paced online coursework this school year. Flex courses, which blend traditional face-to-face instruction and online work, and online facilitated courses will be next up. Increasingly, traditional courses are being blended and flipped by teachers, meaning some class activities like lecture or presentation are delivered digitally, freeing up more class time for cooperative learning and discussion. As more and more curriculum is purchased as digital content, teachers and students are becoming very well versed in using technology.
In this time of COVID-19, online learning, or continuous learning, is getting lots of attention. Technology is an important tool for ensuring that social distancing doesn’t mean lack of connection. ICSD teachers and students are able to connect through Class Pages and Unified Classroom in the district’s Powerschool platform. The district is communicating with families through the district website, district messaging system and ICSD Facebook page. Of course, personal connection is needed, too, whether that’s a grab-and-go lunch available at four different sites, a food pantry at three different schools, a parade organized through a neighborhood, a podcast created by a teacher for students or many other efforts. During this pandemic, teachers continue to attend to their own learning around technology integration, and the district is working to ensure equity in access and opportunity. The current challenges have highlighted the role of technology in continuous learning and have led us to recommit to proud traditions and unlimited possibilities.
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