Hundreds of Keller district teachers became students at the Keller Digital Learning Platform Summer Conference June 19-20 at Timberview Middle School.Teachers and administrators learned how to better incorporate technology to engage students in the classroom and parents in the community. This fall, the district is rolling out the Keller Digital Learning Platform, or KDLP, a district-designed site to allow students to connect with teachers, collaborate with each other, get additional help and enhance their understanding.“I think the kids are going to be able to be much more interactive in the classroom,” said Joy Chappell, a second grade teacher at Hidden Lakes Elementary. “Kids today are used to having the answer at their fingertips. If we don’t have that at school, we’re going backwards.”Educators learned how to use KDLP and how to incorporate Twitter, QR (Quick Response) codes, the collaboration application Edmodo, webinars and more into instruction.Michelle Howard-Schwind, the director of organizational improvement, said that textbooks are now a thing of the past. The Texas Education Agency no longer funds school district purchases of textbooks but instead supports online resources and trainers to help districts make the transition. In the past, district officials asked teachers to volunteer for extra duty in learning new technology and training their colleagues, Howard-Schwind said.“Now that we have trainers to focus on this, it’s really going to impact students,” she said.Campuses plan to start allowing students next fall to bring their own technology to school to use when appropriate. At the beginning of the year, schools will survey parents to ask what devices students have available. While many kids have smartphones, some who do not may have access to an iPod, a Nook or some type of tablet computer. Administrators plan to refurbish old teacher laptops for student use while some campuses will ask for parent donations.Donna Crane, a second grade teacher at Whitley Road Elementary, asked her parents to donate old smartphones and received a good number. While the devices could no longer make calls, they could go online.“It’s not about using technology all the time. It’s about using it when it’s the right tool,” said Maria Collins, a KDLP trainer.Collins said she left classroom teaching at Trinity Meadows Intermediate School to become a trainer because she had learned a lot about what to do and what not to do with technology. Trinity Meadows was the site of some early KISD pilot programs for mobile devices.Educators will give students plenty of guidance on how and when to use technology. Collins said teachers can monitor what is on each student’s computer during an assignment with a tool called LanSchool and lock out certain websites or applications that prove to be distractions. It allows the teacher’s screen to appear on all the student screens during a lesson and communications with all or single users.Teachers and administrators will also be able to communicate with parents more by inviting them to join a collaboration group where they can see all assignments, participate in a Twitter chat or do video conferencing.Will Haley, a second grade teacher at Ridgeview Elementary said he was looking forward to using the Edmodo application.“I think it will be a really good way to communicate with our students and parents outside of school,” Haley said.
Sandra Engelland, 817-431-2231 Twitter: @SandraEngelland