More than students are in a learning phase at the Vermillion School District in this early phase of the new school year. Teachers and staff are also receiving lessons on how to use new technology in their respective school buildings.
With the different devices, I started out the year just providing some training,” Ashlie Jacobs, the Vermillion School District’s curriculum tech integrationist, told the Vermillion School Board at its Monday meeting.
“Going from a Mac to a PC -- there’s a little bit of a (learning) curve to it and we’re making sure that teachers can use their curriculum and their products that they’ve always been using on any device and know where to find things and know where to click,” she said. “That training was a big part of the first week.”
New technology has been introduced in kindergarten through second grade classrooms, she said.
“We want to make sure that they (the teachers) can access their curriculum right there when 20 eyes are staring at you, you aren’t trying to figure out how the board works,” Jacobs said. “We’ve been having ‘Tech Tuesdays’ every week to make sure they are feeling comfortable and confident.”
Classroom training is also going on at the middle school.
“That’s an online learning management system that allows kids to get their assignments, upload their assignments in more of a paperless classroom,” she said. “That will be trickling into the high school, too. We have some teachers who are very fluent in using it so we’re trying to make sure I support the ones that are coming up and wanting to be comfortable in it but have no support to do it.”
Those training sessions have been well received by the district’s teaching staff, she said.
Jacobs has also worked recently to make sure all teachers at Jolley and Austin elementary schools are comfortable in the two schools’ STREAM labs.
“We want to make sure all of the teachers are comfortable going in there and utilizing all of the great tools we have and bringing curriculum in topics into a hands-on environment so that students can learn in a different way,” she said.
Jacobs said she has been working closely with Kim Johnson, principal of Austin Elementary, to learn about the district’s elementary curriculum.
“We have a lot -- there are a lot of different vendors and I’m just learning the online pieces,” she said. “We really haven’t begun to dabble in all of it, but we’re looking to see if there are online points that we are missing in areas where we could be providing more support for our teachers and sending out to parents and students at home.”
Jacobs has been working to get students and teachers ready to utilize various subscription areas that require the use of user names and passwords.
“We’re making sure that teachers have all of the information they need to use those subscriptions,” she said. “We have a single sign-on program that we’re working on and there are some kinks in it yet, but we’re getting there. Everyday it’s getting better. Mr. Kruse has really been putting a lot of work into it.”
The sign-on program allows students to access curriculum items at home without having to email their teachers to ask about their usernames and passwords.
“The program is called Clever, and they (the students) go into a site and … it saves their usernames and passwords,” Jacobs said. “We can do that on our own devices -- we can obviously save our usernames and passwords, but they don’t bring their Chromebooks home.”
She said the Clever program works seamlessly with some programs and not so seamlessly with others.
“We’ll continue to work those kinks out,” she said. “It’s really nice in a K-5 setting … yes, it’s a little bumpy yet, but we’re getting closer every day.”
Jacobs said she currently is working to find more IPad apps to incorporate more project creation.
“We’re really working on becoming producers of information rather than just consumers and have the kids show a reflection of what they’ve learned in classes,” she said. “That’s something that I look forward to doing in the next couple months.”
Jacobs’s role is a new position in the school district and she said the staff has been extremely welcoming.
“It’s a new position and I’m used to having to break down barriers and I haven’t had to do that,” she said. “You can tell they’re very eager to have me come in the classroom and help with stuff.”
She’s been welcomed in high school, middle school and elementary school classrooms, Jacobs said, as she helps teaching staff work on various projects that involve technology.
“It’s been really fun to work in the various buildings,” she said, “and I really think it’s going to be a great year,” she said.
Superintendent Damon Alvey thanked the school board for finding resources in the district’s capital budget to allow the spending needed to move technology initiatives forward.
“It’s going to see some long-term growth, but more importantly, adding a position that has created some support for staff,” he said, referring to Jacobs new role, “ -- you’ll maybe have to garnish their feedback on site sometimes and ask them directly … but people have been excited and very thankful to have another resource. From our staff, thank you for those considerations.”