FHS Featured in ‘EdTech Magazine’ For Helping Students Use Tech to Advance

Fremd High School was recently featured in EdTech Magazine. The article explores how innovative technology is helping students become career ready. Read an excerpt below:

In the past, students in Steve Elza’s automotive classes at William Fremd High School in Palatine, Ill., had to take turns using a diagnostic scanning tool that cost the school up to $8,000. Today, the teens use an inexpensive device that connects via Bluetooth to the ­tablets they all carry.

“Today’s cars have 100 or more computers in them,” says Elza. “We have to have computers to work on them.” That’s just one of the ways technology is transforming automotive education at Fremd.

When the district deployed tablets, students in career and technical tracks were among the most enthusiastic adopters, says Fremd’s Technology Coordinator Keith Sorensen.

“Devices changed the automotive program the most,” he says. “Students film or take photos each step of the way. They are really good at documenting their work and explaining it.”

Elza, who also coaches the school’s Hot Rodders of Tomorrow team and was named the 2015 Illinois Teacher of the Year, says all the software the students use is online.

“When they look up a torque spec for a brake system, they use our online software and find that information right on their tablets,” he says. “They also use computers to do 3D modeling of parts.”

In addition to automotive classes, Fremd offers students the chance to learn about building construction, engineering, electronics and woodworking. This sort of applied technology instruction was once called “vocational,” and it was seen by many as a place to put students with limited academic skills.

But today, career and technical education programs prepare students for both college and the workplace. (Some of Elza’s students go to $18-an-hour jobs after graduation, while others pursue four-year degrees.) And, as many of these career paths become more technical in nature, school districts are investing in technology to help their students keep pace with career demands.

To read the full article, click here: https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2017/07/career-focused-schools-use-technology-help-students-advance

District 211 One-to-One Teachers Conference with Creators of Schoology, Offer Feedback

Schoology logoTechnology can transform a classroom. As new ideas come to light, teachers have the ability to adapt different practices and engage their students’ learning using tools such as iPads and online communication portals.

Several District 211 One-to-One Program teachers had an opportunity to conference with officials from Schoology, a popular online communication and classroom portal used in the classroom. District 211 was the only school district invited to speak with Schoology on April 8 with suggestions on how to improve workflow in the classroom.

“Schoology is becoming more and more valuable to our teachers and how their students’ communicate in the classroom,” said Keith Sorensen, director of educational technology at District 211. “After speaking with several of our teachers, I approached the company with ideas about how our staff could better utilize their product, and they were on board to directly conference with those teachers to hear suggestions.”

Teachers participated in a conference with Ryan Hwang, founder and chief product officer of Schoology, and Brad Baird, chief finance officer, so the company could hear our suggestions and District 211 could see the future roadmap for Schoology. The group was connected through a conference video call at Palatine High School while other teachers were connected through online chat forums. Overall, more than 20 One-to-One teachers participated in the conference.

District 211 One-to-One teachers expressed that although the communication portal has been instrumental in speeding up classroom workflow, they still had areas they could improve. One of those areas was finding a place to annotate directly on students’ assignments that were uploaded to Schoology. Hwang said this will be incorporated during the summer, and teachers should be able to use this feature during next school year. He also informed the teachers of what they can expect from the portal in the near future.

Another area where teachers will see improvement is connection with their students’ assignments and the way they are graded. Currently the District allows the  use of a point-based grading system. Schoology will adopt these grading scales so teachers can directly use the technology for grading and providing quick feedback to their students. Additionally, there will be ways to track learning outcomes and how assignments fit in with the District’s critical learning standards, which define what students should know and be able to demonstrate after the completion of their course.

“This conference was a great opportunity to not only provide feedback directly to Schoology officials, but to also discuss how this tool can better serve our teachers and students,” Sorensen said. “It really speaks volumes to our progress as a District and of our One-to-One Program knowing that the creators of Schoology care what we have to say.”

District 211’s One-to-One Program Video Updates

The One-to-One Program began in August 2012 when Township High School District 211 issued iPads to 1,600 students across five high schools. At the February 2013 school board meeting, the board approved the purchase of 7,000 iPad 4s for use with the student population in a true one-to-one environment. These videos are a collection of clips from teachers and students related to their experience in the One-to-One Program. Videos are by Keith Sorensen, director of Educational Technology at District 211. For more information about the One-to-One Program expansion, please read the article here.


District 211 Board of Education Approves One-to-One Program Expansion

The program will now benefit up to 7,000 students

The program will now benefit up to 7,000 students.

After a successful implementation of the One-to-One pilot program during the first half of the 2012-2013 academic year, District 211 will expand the opportunity for an individual iPad device to more students in the coming year.

At its meeting on February 14, 2013, the Board of Education approved the expansion to provide up to 7,000 students with an iPad device for the upcoming school year. The use of iPads enhances student interaction and collaboration both inside and outside of the classroom.  Current teachers and students using the iPad devices have highlighted the ability for teachers to provide students with immediate feedback as a major benefit of the iPads in classrooms.

The One-to-One Program has increased collaboration between students and their peers, as well as with teachers.

The One-to-One Program has increased collaboration between students and their peers, as well as with teachers.

“Teachers are transforming their role as teachers and devising ways for students to create, produce, and demonstrate their own knowledge and content,” said Keith Sorensen, director of educational technology in District 211. “Throughout the pilot program, teachers report that the interest level and active engagement of students in the one-to-one classroom is notably high.”

The pilot program provided 1,500 students with the opportunity to use hand-held devices to enhance classroom interaction and collaboration with their teachers and peers. There were 37 teachers in the One-to-One Program, and the expansion will allow 60 additional teachers to transform their classrooms. So far, 85 teachers have applied to be involved for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Many teachers report that homework assignments are generally more creative using one-to-one technology.

Many teachers report that homework assignments are generally more creative using one-to-one technology.

The growth of the One-to-One Program is based on student and teacher feedback, survey results, and benefits they expressed in the program. Many students noted that they received more detailed feedback and quicker responses from their teachers overall. Using classroom portals, such as Schoology, students are able to communicate with their peers about homework and ask questions if they don’t quite understand a subject. Using Schoology as a classroom portal, these discussions can continue far after the student has left the classroom.

Teachers said using the One-to-One program has changed their classroom for the better, not only when it comes to assignments and homework, but also engaging students who historically were less interested in school. This includes students with learning challenges. Homework assignments were generally more creative using one-to-one technology, as well as more collaborative.

The use of iPads enhances student interaction and collaboration both inside and outside of the classroom.

The use of iPads enhances student interaction and collaboration both inside and outside of the classroom.

The National Staff Development Council reports school districts that implement new technology often encounters a dip in student academic performance throughout the first year. However, some District 211 teachers said students in the One-to-One Program had a higher proficiency score on the District’s Critical Learning Standards (CLS) in only four months compared to those in conventional classrooms. District CLS define what students should know and be able to demonstrate after the completion of their course.

Sorensen said reaching CLS and success with the program has revolved around continued reference of the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS), which focus on six different points of instructional improvement through technology, such as creativity and innovation, and communication and collaboration. One-to-one methodology is also combined with Education Success Measures from Project RED, a national study of education technology to focus on student achievement and financial implications. Employing these methods is helping teachers reframe their classrooms and increase student success.

Using classroom portals, such as Schoology, students are able to communicate with their peers about homework and ask questions if they don’t quite understand a subject.

Using classroom portals, such as Schoology, students are able to communicate with their peers about homework and ask questions if they don’t quite understand a subject.

“Given the positive outcomes of the current year’s pilot program and both the knowledge and experience gained throughout the year, expanding the program will provide more students with the opportunity to benefit from the learning experiences made possibly by the individual iPad devices,” Sorensen said.

For more information about the history of the One-to-One pilot program, please visit the D211 Post article here. Information about the National Educational Technology Standards can viewed on its website, as well as Project RED here.

Schoology Innovates Classroom Communication, Organization, and Online Access

Schoology screenshot

A screenshot of Schoology's classroom portal.

Teachers are constantly trying to find innovative ways to effectively communicate assignments and grades to their students, while at the same time connecting with parents at home. As students become more focused on social networking and relying on internet communications throughout day-to-day tasks, it only makes sense that teachers adapt to this mode of thinking.

That is why more teachers will be using an online classroom portal this fall called Schoology. The website is much like Facebook meets Blackboard, where students can communicate with teachers and classmates, check for grades, upload assignments, and view upcoming events or important dates.

“It’s great because students know where to go,” said Keith Sorensen, District 211 director of educational technology. “When students leave, they check their grades, or they go to lunch and sometimes their grades are already posted. We want teachers to be using this, and the first step is just getting the materials online.”

Teachers can post assignments to their classroom portal, along with any materials needed to complete it. This allows students the mobility to take the classroom with them. If they have a question, they can create forums for their classmates to comment, as well as post links to websites or upload their own documents. Parents also can see a limited view version of the classroom portal, so they can stay connected with what their child is learning in class.

“Parents are always saying two things. One is, ‘what my kids are doing in school is so different from what I did’, which is true. The second thing is ‘I want to see what goes on in class for myself,” Sorensen said. “It’s great for parents to see their kids’ assignments.”

Sorensen said they evaluated several different classroom portal options, including Moodle and portals powered by Blackboard. However, Schoology was the best when it came to integrating communication and organization of materials into one site, especially with its mobile capabilities.

“Schoology has the best of both worlds, it has good calendar features, it’s like Facebook so it’s familiar, and it also has self-enrollment so students can enroll themselves into the classroom portal,” Sorensen said.

Although using online mediums in the classroom is not a new idea — Moodle and Blackboard being two popular choices in education — it’s how the site works that makes it unique. With the District starting its one-to-one initiative, Sorensen said teachers need to be looking at putting their materials online because it’s the direction students have gone. It also eliminates the need for lugging books home to do homework.

“Getting things online helps students in case they have forgotten their assignments,” Sorensen said. “This prevents anything from getting in their way because they have the assignments, they can communicate with teachers and classmates, and they post their assignments for everyone to see.”

For more information about Schoology, please visit Schoology’s Learn More page and for teachers or school districts to inquire about professional development contact Keith at ksorensen@d211.org or follow him on Twitter for updates.

Summer Construction Updates for D211

Construction Update

The swimming pool at SHS is being refinished.

During the summer months, facility improvements are made across the District, as well as several administrative changes. Summer provides a perfect time for facility improvements because classrooms are generally empty and summer school locations are determined partly around building improvement plans.

There are regular projects that are conducted each summer throughout the District, such as asphalt and concrete work. In addition to regular maintenance, each District 211 school will have wood floors refinished and carpet replaced. Grant funds were secured to replace lighting in all auxiliary gyms with more energy efficient, LED light fixtures. Also, plans are underway for the replacement of the District-wide telephone system.

A new improvement for each of the schools is installing new wireless access points, which will allow for more wireless devices to connect to the network at faster speeds.

“We’re expanding our wireless access points to allow for each person in the high schools to have three or four wireless devices on them at a time,” said Keith Sorensen, Director of Educational Technology. “Our system could handle 1,500 devices per building before, and now we will be operating at over 12,000 devices per building.”

The District keeps a maintenance schedule, which means the wear and tear at each facility is closely monitored. First and foremost, the District wants all of its facilities safe for students and staff. To maintain the most cost-effective approach, regularly scheduled maintenance helps prevent a major repair or improvement. Facility evaluations are conduced regularly, and the appropriate maintenance plan developed. This approach also allows the District to keep repairs and improvements within the budget cycle.

For instance, Schaumburg High School is scheduled to have its swimming pool refinished this summer. After this improvement and by following optimal maintenance schedules, the District won’t have to repeat this work for another 15 years.

Floors and carpeting are common items to replace each year.

Each school prioritizes its requests for facility improvements. Those requests are then evaluated by the District, according to Steve East, director of purchasing and facilities. However, East said projects are prioritized, with special attention paid to life safety work, which is required by state regulations.

Some improvements are unique to each school. Palatine High School is scheduled to get a CNA (nursing) program classroom, in addition to a grounds building that was completed by Building Construction program students this spring. At Fremd High School, the new stadium concessions stand built by Building Construction program students is nearing completion. Building construction students are also working on a concession stand and grounds building for J.B. Conant High School. In addition to its swimming pool project, Schaumburg High School will have additional life safety work done, which includes roofs, masonry, HVAC and door replacements. Hoffman Estates High School is scheduled to have monitors installed in hallways and the cafeteria, as well as the installation of new auto shop equipment.

Construction Update

A section of flooring that was replaced in a classroom at SHS.

Maintaining District 211’s facilities is a way to keep them in the best possible condition, while also making sure they meet state regulations and provide the best educational environment for students.

For a more detailed report, please visit D211’s board docs website.

New Pilot Program Enhances Curriculum with Hand-Held Devices

As the world continues to advance, District 211 is determined to prepare students for their future and to stay ahead of the curve through an education that utilizes cutting-edge technology.

One-to-One pilot program

Students in the One-to-One program will have an Apple iPad 2 for the duration of their course.

This is why the Board of Education approved the One-to-One Electronic Device pilot program at its April 26 meeting, which will allow 1,500 District 211 students to have his or her personal electronic device to enhance classroom interaction and collaboration throughout the semester.

“Our students live in a world of unlimited information—and unlimited potential—if they can get to it,” said Daniel Cates, associate superintendent for administrative services. “The One-to-One pilot program will give students endless access to teachers, and a library card to the world.”

Students will be issued an Apple iPad 2 to use throughout the duration of their course, whether it’s in or out of the classroom. Teachers who are part of the One-to-One program will have a greater opportunity to reach their students on a more collaborative basis. For example, in a “flipped classroom” environment, teachers will post a video online the night before the next class. Students can then see a narrated video and summary of the content that will be covered in class.

“Students can watch a video the night before about the upcoming lesson, this way they can be introduced to the topic before entering classroom,” said Keith Sorensen, director of educational technology for District 211. “That isn’t the lesson, though. It just helps the lesson move faster and allows for students to think about questions beforehand.”

The pilot program includes nine different departments, and teachers who will teach more than 30 different courses with a varying spectrum of student ability. Administrators emphasize this program is not to reform the educational system already in place, but is a way to transform and improve the curriculum.

Each One-to-One teacher is familiar with the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) which focuses on six different points of instructional improvement through technology, such as creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making.

Sorensen said teachers will be using classroom portals, which is a way for students and parents to access homework assignments, classroom texts, practices tests, videos, forums to communicate with peers, and any other materials needed for the course. Additionally, students can electronically ask questions to other students or their teacher through forum-type communication, and some teachers have said they will have online office hours after school for students who aren’t available after the bell rings.

“The Internet has evolved to a point where communication and collaboration are now the focus of using the web.  Instead of just reading web pages and watching videos, students are collaborating with each other to create and share information,” Sorensen said.  “They work together to make their own videos, participate in science experiments, create online journals and blogs, and solve complex problems.  There is a great deal of pride that goes into work that the whole world will see.”

The overall goal of the program is to help students learn about better methods of accessing information and collaborating with their peers and teachers. Sorensen said he hopes this program teaches students to be independent learners before they enter the classroom. Cates reflects the sentiment.

“It goes beyond giving our students an iPad—it brings the curriculum alive,” Cates said. “It takes students who have never been out of Illinois to the streets of Arab spring, to a science lab on another continent and to transport them in history. Rather than just reading somebody else’s textbook, kids generate their own understanding of the world.”

For more information on the One-to-One Electronic Device program, please view the full report presented to the Board of Education on District 211’s BoardDocs website.