During the past two years, the Oak Ridge school district has been making new strides in our Access Oak Ridge digital learning initiative by putting Lenovo Yoga laptop computers into the hands of every student in grades 5-10.
Our vision in this initiative is “to empower all Oak Ridge students with equitable access to digital learning opportunities, and to innovate, design, collaborate, and ultimately succeed in local and global communities of the future.” Within this vision, we believe that learning should be student-centered, with technology that enables exploration of content with greater depth and breadth.
Our aim is to continue to grow Access Oak Ridge to provide opportunities that lead to substantial benefits for both students and staff. Fostering innovative thinking expands the classroom beyond the school walls for our students.
Prior to embarking on the Access Oak Ridge initiative, dedicated information technology (IT) staff and instructional technology coaches had been preparing our students and teachers with digital tools and software for more than a decade. In 2014-15, our instructional technology coaches worked with a team of teachers to research and select a learning management system, or LMS, to securely house all of our online content for courses such as soft copies of textbooks, course readings, designated internet content links, software, and videos, as well as student and family progress monitoring (course grading). The LMS the teacher team selected is Canvas by Instructure.
The Access Oak Ridge initiative began with grades 5-8 at Robertsville and Jefferson middle schools in November of 2015. We are happy to report some powerful changes we have observed in the first two years.
“Since we began the Access Oak Ridge digital initiative, we have noticed a tremendous increase in student interaction,” said Garfield Adams, Robertsville Middle School principal. “Students are able to collaborate through Canvas and edit projects from other group members. This engagement has increased student learning and has truly converted the way our students use thinking and problem solving. It has also given our teachers the ability to incorporate problem-based learning, or PBL, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning. We continue to create PBL and STEM projects such as Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, Gun Control, The Habitat for Humanity Project, and our CubeSat launch. These are just few of many projects that would not be possible without research and teacher feedback through the Access Oak Ridge initiative.”
Putting interactive lessons in the Canvas environment is a central focus of our vision for blended learning. Canvas has allowed teachers to create lessons that go beyond the regularly scheduled day. Parents also have the ability to use the learning management system to communicate, organize, and keep up with student progress. Many postsecondary schools use this blended learning approach, so an added benefit is that navigating this environment is a college and career readiness skill.
“In our first year of Access Oak Ridge, the most rewarding success has been observing the change that has come about in our students’ outlook on school,” said Phil Cox, Jefferson Middle School principal. “Access Oak Ridge has allowed for the creation of lessons for student engagement never before conceived. Mystery Skype sessions across the Atlantic to Ireland and other countries have become a reality. Students have used the Access Oak Ridge STEM learning approach to problem-based learning to design a new Oak Ridge for the 21st century, digitally redesign the ancient world, collaborate on digital platforms, and create their own content. These essential skills and tools create a platform that allow equitable opportunity for all students.”
Oak Ridge High School distributed devices for Access Oak Ridge to students in ninth and 10th grades the week of October 17, so this initiative is still in its infancy. However, we can see tremendous student and teacher growth through the creation of assignments in Canvas. By the second week after our student device rollout, 761 participants had viewed 22,228 pages of interactive content in Canvas. By winter break, these numbers nearly doubled, showing 1014 participants had viewed 43,673 pages of interactive content in Canvas. Students completed 71,408 quizzes and 15,311 assignments online in Canvas in our first semester of use.
“We are off to a great start second semester as students and teachers become more familiar with the tools to integrate this instructional software support into class,” said Stephanie Thompson, vice principal at Oak Ridge High School.
The charts at the top of the page depict the increase in use of our Canvas learning management system, or LMS, since its adoption in 2015. Dips in usage you will see there occurred in June and July of 2016 when school was not in session.
This press release was submitted by Holly Cross.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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