As part of its digital transformation, the Washington School District is looking at purchasing a learning management system, or LMS, to be implemented districtwide.
The new online system will support communications among teachers, students, parents and administrators, according to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Judy Straatmann.
And would increase the effectiveness of teachers and students, she said.
It’s also an important step in the district’s iBelieve initiative which began this past fall to instruct, inform, innovate and inspire the school community through the use of educational technology.
Currently, as part of an optional program, high school students are being allowed to connect to the Internet through a variety of personal devices, including laptops, tablets and smartphones. The district eventually wants to provide an environment where each student has a device.
How It Works
The LMS is a software or web-based application which provides a way for teachers to create and deliver content, store digital assignments and assessments so they can be used in the classroom when teaching, and even enable them to set up online groups to share best practices.
Straatmann said students would be able to submit and manage their homework online, while getting feedback from their teachers, view a video from a previous class to review for a test, take part in online discussion with their teacher and classmates outside of class and much more.
“There are so many possibilities with an LMS,” she said. “For example, a teacher could introduce a new concept in the classroom and immediately have the students take a pop quiz digitally and instantly know if they are getting it or if more review is needed.”
Straatmann said in other school districts, teachers are videoing their instruction or lecture which students can view both in and outside of class, which allows for the instructor to spend classroom time going deeper into the concepts introduced.
For those students who are further ahead and ready to move on, they could watch a video in class while the teacher spends time with students who need more help.
“It’s definitely a way for the teacher to meet the needs of all kids in the class,” Straatmann said.
Determining which LMS to utilize, and there are many on the market, Straatmann and a team of teachers, administrators and tech staff members are researching all of their options.
The team has narrowed its search from about 20 systems to four, and currently is focusing on two — Schoology and Desire to Learn.
Presentations on all four systems, including Moodle and Lumen, were given last Friday by the vendors to a group of teachers, representing fifth grade through high school, tech facilitators, instructional coaches and administrators.
“Schoology and Desire to Learn have really risen to the top and now we’re giving time for these folks, as well as our teachers who are piloting various tech programs in their classrooms, to really explore the systems and see if they like them,” Straatmann said. “We want to have one system that all teachers would be trained on to provide continuity for staff and students.”
A recommendation to purchase could come as early as April to the school board, she said.
“Then we would begin the training process, which will take some time,” she said. “Exactly how each teacher would use the system will look differently depending on what they teach, students’ access to technology and other factors.”
The district also has formed a partnership with the Mooresville Graded School District, a K-12 school district 20 miles outside of Charlotte, N.C.
Mooresville undertook a major digital conversion in 2007 and is now considered one of the leaders in transforming schools through technology.
A team from Washington will visit Mooresville April 15 and in mid-August, Mooresville teachers will come here for two days and train staff.
The team traveling to Mooresville will include Straatmann, school board member Kevin Blackburn and three principals and three teachers.
At Mooresville, students frequently work in groups, and they use one of dozens of interactive learning platforms instead of textbooks. Rather than lecturing, teachers act as facilitators, circulating among groups or leading students in interactive lessons.
That district’s success has earned it numerous accolades and it has been featured in newspaper and magazine profiles across the country.