Minidoka Case Study: The Answer to Effective Technology Professional Development
Located in south central rural Idaho, Minidoka County School District (MCSD) has an enrollment of over 4,000 students and is staffed with approximately 250 certified teachers. Early in the availability of personal electronic devices, educators recognized the value and influence technology would have in student learning and professional development. MCSD took initiative to invest time and resources to implement technology within select classrooms and provide support and training to educators in its use. This vision caught the eye of state and local officials and granted MCSD with a groundbreaking initiative of 1:1 iPad deployment to Paul Elementary. This initiative allowed district leaders to recognize the transformation from a traditional classroom that is teacher-centered to a student-centered learning environment promoting creativity, critical thinking, and technological skills. It also promotes advancement of teaching methods and materials to engage students in their learning and facilitate teachers’ presentation and progress through the curriculum.
Seeing first-hand the significant change in student engagement, staff collaboration and community perceptions towards learning incentivized the district to purchase additional technology at each of the nine schools throughout the district. Each subsequent year, funds received from the state, supplemental levy funds, and funds donated and raised were used to purchase additional and/or replacement devices. As of Fall 2016, 3,000 electronic devices (iPads, Chrome Books, laptops) are in the hands of Minidoka County School District students. MCSD has most recently begun an implementation of laptops to high school freshman students in the fall of 2016. Updating devices, increasing their availability to students and faculty, and providing ongoing meaningful professional development have been the primary focuses in the technology advancement within the MCSD.
Professional development (PD) is key to the effective integration of technology into the curriculum. Realizing the value of PD, the district began searching for and trying different methods, which would provide teachers with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively use devices in the classroom. In order for technology to be successful in the classroom, it is essential teachers receive adequate, up-to-date, and relevant PD.
Minidoka County School District was introduced to Kyte Learning, a professional development platform focused on technology. Kyte Learning fulfills needs for technology PD by allowing teachers to participate in differentiated, personalized, on-demand professional development. Courses include video tutorials, which show everything from how to use the electronic device, application functions, digital resources, and tool implementation practices for the classroom setting. Videos are small bursts of information ranging from 30 seconds to three minutes, and are presented by active educators who can relate to the teaching environment and have first-hand experience and insights to technological practices in the classroom. Teachers are able to repeat videos while simultaneously applying their learning. Teachers often struggle with knowing how to use the technology in an education setting, but courses provide teachers with practical classroom examples and scenarios for more personalized application.
Teachers are no longer required to physically/personally attend trainings that progress through content and material inefficiently. Teachers are able to receive PD on topics that are specific and relevant to them.
Implementation of the Kyte Learning platform involved completion of an in- person introduction and training on the platform functions, menus, and a brief tutorial and overview of what Kyte Learning offers. Building level integration specialists provided training and support on using the program. MCSD does not have funding to provide full-time technology support within each building, so stipends are given to one teacher at each building to act as a technology integration specialist (TIS). This title includes additional duties beyond their regular classroom responsibilities. TIS are current educators that provide training and support in implementing technology and best practices in the classrooms with first-hand experience and knowledge. These individual use Kyte Learning to support their efforts in technology integration support.
As the use of Kyte learning progresses in the MCSD, different methods are being utilized. Technology Integration Specialists (TIS) use Kyte Learning courses as a method to introduce content before face-to-face professional development occurs. The TIS assigns a course to staff, who are then required to complete the course in preparation for the in-person training. As a result, participants have background knowledge on the technology tool and can ask specific questions related to the content at hand. It also provides an opportunity to reinforce the learning of topics and applications that may be foreign or challenging for first-time users. The archived training sessions and courses then become a resource teachers can refer back to at their leisure and as the need arises.
In conjunction with the local community college, MCSD offers one continuing education credit for coursework completed through Kyte Learning. Fifteen hours of coursework completed are equivalent to one continuing education credit. This credit can be applied toward teacher’s required recertification credits. Teachers must receive a passing grade and complete all videos within a series to receive credit. The district uses allocated Title IIA Professional Development funds to pay for the credit for interested teachers. This incentivizes staff members to complete additional training through Kyte Learning on their own time. The additional training provides recertification for teachers and instills added knowledge and comfort in applying technology to their curriculum. This benefits the district’s mission of increasing the effective integration of technology, resulting in empowering students for success.
MCSD has found Kyte Learning to be a powerful professional development tool. This well-developed platform has helped provide much-needed PD for staff members with varying needs. Teachers have provided positive feedback on the value of Kyte Learning. One teacher reported, “Listening to other teacher’s explanations has helped me see how I can use technology more fully in the classroom.”