Sherman Central School

by

OVERVIEW
Sherman Central School is a small rural district comprised of 444 students. One building
houses Pk-12, with a teaching staff of 52. For 9 years Sherman has been rated Biggest Overachieving District in Western New York by Buffalo Business First. Our students rank high on state assessments and our graduation rate is 94% or above for the past 3 years. We have 1:1 iPads in grades 3 – 12 and classroom sets at the lower grade levels. Every classroom has a SMARTboard and most classrooms have a laptop cart.
I am the PreK – 12 Principal and have the best job in the world. Originally, I was hired in the district for the second-best job in the world… Fourth-grade teacher. Six years ago, as a fourth-grade teacher, I implemented the first classroom set of iPads. I watched this implementation first hand change the teaching and learning in my classroom. I had nine -year olds using and implementing terms like embed, upload, and sync! My lesson on crayfish came alive for students when they created videos teaching about crayfish parts with Showbie. Student learning increased, and my workload decreased. More importantly, students were excited and learning in a way that I never had the chance to. I’ve watched the technology use in our district skyrocket. I then moved to the position of fifth and sixth grade ELA teacher and then to Committee on Special Education Chair, Curriculum Coordinator, and Chief Information Officer. I grew up in a family of educators and chat daily with my mom who has been an administrator for 17 years. I’ve seen students come back and say that she changed their lives. I want to do that, but I also want to change the way education looks for students. Every single day when I come to work I know that my kids in Sherman needs me. They need this school. Many of our kids live in poverty and we can be the catalyst to break this cycle. If we can change the way education looks we can change
the way students’ futures look, making that future brighter and better. In order to change the way education looks, we HAVE to change how professional development in the workplace looks and functions for our teachers. I am focused on making this district, that gave me my shot as a 21-year-old rookie teacher, the best place it can be for students, families and faculty.

GOALS

Our students are excelling on state assessments and leaving us at graduation with lofty plans, and then they fail to realize their dreams. My goal for Sherman Central is to make this school a SMALL school with a BIG Impact, so our students can change the world. The fact that we are small and can offer more individualized instruction should allow us to better prepare students for their future as long as we utilize technology in the RIGHT way.

Technology can help us give our students all of the same opportunities that students in bigger, wealthier districts have. Without technology it is true that a small school can be limiting in its opportunities. Technology can help level the playing field for our teachers and our students; technology can bring equity to public education.

Making Sherman Central School a small school with a big impact is two fold. First, our students need to graduate as citizens that can achieve in TODAY’S job market with real world skills (not cursive handwriting). Our kids need to have the opportunity to code, utilize online platforms for learning, create and manage websites, explore social media, and become digital citizens. This will allow them to make an impact on the world as graduates of Sherman Central by securing better, higher paying jobs. Students in small districts like Sherman sometimes can’t imagine all of the possibilities in the world. Instead their plans and dreams for the future can be limited to the jobs they see in our community. Our successful use of connections through technology can expand the world as Sherman students see it.

Our teachers are starting to buy in and our technology use is slowly moving from glorified digital notebook to tool of innovation. Technology is a tool that can push the learning outside of the four classroom walls, if only we use it correctly.

HOW

So, if the goal is to make Sherman a SMALL school with a BIG impact we have to give our students the skills they need. These skills involve computers and technology. In order to give students these skills we must solve a few problems.

One of problem is expecting teachers to teach and utilize something they don’t understand. In order for teachers to implement technology effectively to improve learning, they have to not only understand the technology they have to be able to change their typical pedagogy. Sometimes we’ve asked our teachers to step into the realm of facilitation without helping them develop a true understanding of the technology first. That’s an uncertain and risky task for a teacher. The promise of transforming learning for students is unlikely to succeed.

Our teachers work hard. They’re proud of our success and take great ownership over our responsibility to every student. If we ask a Sherman teacher to do something, they do it. So when we implemented iPads, our teachers took on the task the best way they knew how (I was one of these teachers). We scanned our module pages for hours. We uploaded them to our website and even went so far as to get Notability on all student Ipads. Of course kids would love this! They got to use cool colors in the app! Students very quickly saw through this and realized their Ipads were just a new version of a workbook. They were right. We didn’t go far enough. Not even close.

To give students the skills they will need tomorrow, we need them to engage deeply and to own their learning. We need our students creating, expanding their thinking and collaborating. We need the technology to have a purpose and to enhance the learning and the instruction. This is not an easy task. While the technology is there and the education is there, blending the two together is a monumental task for even the most advanced tech user.

In order to expect a shift in teaching, teachers have to be given the skills to do that. Teachers need professional development that is modeled in a way that we want their instruction to be modeled. The professional development needs to allow teachers to work when, where and how they want to work. If that means I have a 5th grade teacher who is more open to new material in her PJs with a glass of wine, I’m okay with that–I don’t feel the need to control every aspect of her learning.

This is where Kyte Learning came into play. We needed a program that helped teachers blend technology and education and allowed teachers to learn in a way that suited them. Presenting teachers with the traditional speaker lecture model of professional development is antiquated especially when we were asking our teachers to present their material in new ways.

One of the best things this company did was give us an implementation expert. Our Kyte Customer Success Manager worked with our team to set goals for teachers and rewards just like you would if you were a good classroom teacher with your students. Teachers were asked to complete two hours of Kyte Learning and implement what they learned in their room with the principal or curriculum expert present (this was KEY). If this was completed before our March 17th conference day they could have the afternoon free to work in their rooms, something for which our teachers have consistently asked. We also allowed for choice. If teachers preferred not to do Kyte Learning modules as a way to learn, we provided them with the traditional model on the PD day.

To roll this out we held a faculty meeting with teachers and explained that they would be getting an email from the company the following day and that they could use it or not. We continue to let teachers select what programs they want to learn about on Kyte Learning. To limit them to a few choices that we want them to learn goes against the whole premise. This platform allows teachers to learn what, when and how they want. Which as long as our teachers are continuing to grow, why do I care if they are learning about YouTube or GoNoodle?

The next step was imperative to our success with implementation. We as admin became the Kyte Learning cheerleaders and took to Twitter. My mom taught me a valuable strategy with teachers (though I’ll never admit that to her). She leaves a note to the teacher in the room she has just informally observed on what she noticed and what she wondered about. This is what we do too, only it’s on Twitter. By putting it on Twitter we accomplish multiple goals: the teacher receives positive feedback and validation for taking a risk, other teachers can steal the idea, the community and board can see the cool stuff we are doing, other teachers get a constant reminder of what they are supposed to be doing, we encourage teachers to use technology, students see themselves and connect with their teachers and admin, AND the company takes notice and sends you awesome SWAG. We tweeted about this SWAG and gave it to our teachers when they hit milestones—they love it!

At the beginning of the school year, two of our teachers were on Twitter. We now have 29 teachers on Twitter at the halfway mark of the year because we Tweeted about them. Who doesn’t want to read about themselves? This is important because even if teachers are just stalking their counterparts, they are utilizing technology to connect with their peers. They are gaining ideas that make them better teachers, thus making the PD ongoing. Our teachers are connecting to each other, to us and to our students and families.

We now have teachers completing between four and seven hours of Kyte Learning, instead of the two we asked for. It has become a friendly competition in the staff to get a new piece of swag. Also, teachers no longer have to wonder what we are thinking when we leave their room. They know what they did was awesome and that we not only appreciate them we want the world to appreciate their awesomeness.

SUCCESSES

We are only halfway through our first year of implementation. Currently 92 percent of teachers have completed their two hours on Kyte Learning and 90 percent have implemented something they learned on Kyte Learning. Several teachers have completed 4+ hours, one of whom is at 7.5 hours. This means that we have 90 percent of teachers teaching multiple classes a day using what they learned. In order to see how this has impacted students, we looked at the number of students in the high-quality technology enhanced lessons that we personally observed and found 100 percent of our students have received this instruction. That means 100 percent of students got a lesson that integrated technology in order to enhance understanding and engagement since we implemented Kyte Learning in November. Can traditional professional development, a one size fits all approach where ALL teachers are asked to sit and get in a one-shot day even come close to those implementation numbers?

To demonstrate more specific details of our implementation, two teachers and the way they implemented such technology into their classes which made a world of difference come to mind.

Emily Eckwahl is our middle school health teacher. Students learn about drug use and side effects during their 8th grade year. Instead of students researching this and writing a paper about what they learned, Emily created a Youtube channel. Students then created public service announcement style videos around drugs in small groups. On the day I observed, students were tasked with rating their classmates’ videos the first time they watched them. They were then asked to fill in a graphic organizer with information from the other students’ videos when they watched it a second time. There was not a single discipline problem, as students were so engaged they were standing up and could not stop discussing. The learning for our students was evident on Ms. Eckwahl’s assessment to check for understanding.

Elyssa Adams is a high school Math teacher. She is an advanced tech user in our school. However, she wanted to start using Twitter more in her classes than she already was. She watched the Kyte Learning videos and took the quiz given on Twitter. This rekindled her use of Twitter for professional development. She then connected with a teacher in Ohio who was using Flipboard for his statistics class. This led her to get her statistics class and me on Flipboard. Students now read real articles, post to a class magazine, comment on these articles and discuss the data presented in them. Students are using real world data that interests them rather than contrived textbook data. This teacher epitomizes why technology is so powerful in making Sherman a small school with a big impact.

WHAT’S NEXT

Our goals for the future are to keep everyone rolling with Kyte Learning. Teachers are learning and devouring the topics but we need Kyte Learning to expand. Maybe some day

professional development on pedagogy and classroom management could FINALLY be offered in this way. We need more content and we need to motivate our teachers to keep using this program for professional development. I am not being paid to write this case study. I am writing this purely because I want to showcase my school and I want Kyte to grow. This is a professional development model that fits today’s teacher. This is a model that aligns with what I want teachers to do in their rooms. However, the leadership piece is necessary for it to succeed. Our implementation was successful because of Our Kyte Customer Success Manager and the positive reinforcement from our administrative team.

We also are revamping our professional development policies. Learning needs to be ongoing for teachers. Sherman teachers are going to conferences all over the United States, we are upping our game with in-house professional development, and are working hard on Kyte Learning. We are giving our teachers a choice in their own learning. We need to keep connecting beyond our school walls and working as a team to make Sherman Central School a small school with a BIG IMPACT.