Harford County Public Schools in Maryland is undergoing a digital transformation where all of its learning resources will be integrated into one portal – a place where students can learn with technology and engage deeply with content. They have chosen the itslearning platform as this ‘all-in-one’ solution.
Martha Barwick, Coordinator of Instructional Technology, explains Harford County’s process, “We’re in our second year of implementation and are being very slow and intentional. We are piloting our first courses now, after spending last year developing the digital curriculum.”
What distinguishes Harford County from many other districts is that they are writing the curriculum in itslearning before teachers start using the platform. Martha reports, “Remarkable things are happening based on the work of the curriculum writers. When teachers first see itslearning, it’s already been populated with resources.”
Martha Barwick (back row, left) and Harford County curriculum writers.
Harford County is developing their digital curriculum within a framework including standards, model lessons and digital resources for teachers. Teachers will have these resources at their fingertips, as well as an easy method to share them with students.
“We want to model for our teachers what is possible in the world of digital learning and blended learning, then we want to give them some autonomy to use what’s most applicable to their students, while meeting the standards. We’re finding in our implementation that teachers appreciate the foundation of digital content and lesson ideas that are being provided to them.”
Harford County has created a single sign-on environment with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Discovery Education, and other digital textbooks. This means they can embed links to these resources, creating a seamless learning environment. When students click on the links they don’t have to retype their username and password.
A student-centered environment
Martha notes, “We’re finding that technology is automatically transferring our classroom environment from teacher-centered to student-centered. itslearning helps students ask questions and come up with problems that they want to solve on their own. The platform provides wonderful ways to embed resources, which give students a greater sense of voice and choice and provides relevant real life examples – making them more engaged.”
Embedding Web 2.0 tools
Martha says the itslearning pilot classes are doing a great job using a wide variety of materials in conjunction with itslearning. Students and teachers embed multiple tools into the platform, including:
- Office 365 documents
- Digital textbooks
- and other Web 2.0 tools
Using Padlet electronic sticky notes (embedded into itslearning) to brainstorm.
Technology as a tool – not the focus of instruction
Martha summarizes, “It’s less and less about technology and more about teaching and learning. Technology should be a tool, but not the focus of instruction. itslearning helps keeps the focus on learning goals and standards. We’re excited to be partnering with itslearning on this journey toward digital transformation!”