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Into the light: Why Forsyth County Schools chose itslearning

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Possibilities, a solution – what itslearning represents for Forsyth County Schools, says district IT manager Dr. Tim Clark (@byotnetwork). Disconnected data, limited options, incompatibly with BYOD – some of the challenges with the district´s old LMS. The list goes on. Now that Forsyth has itslearning, talk has turned to blended learning, the flipped classroom, ease of navigation and learning materials in one place. The list goes on. “There are so many possibilities to grow within the platform, yet it isn´t overwhelming,” Clark says. Read our illuminating interview with Dr. Clark below.

Clark: ‘We are excited to begin using itslearning to improve our abilities to extend our students’ learning opportunities within Forsyth County Schools.’

How has online learning developed in Forsyth County Schools?

Forsyth County Schools has been using a learning management system for all of our students in grades K-12 as an additional mode of instruction since 2007. The use of an LMS enabled us to blend face-to-face and online learning opportunities, and eventually it provided the means for us to implement our own virtual school within the district. Our LMS grew to house the online learning communities for the teachers in our schools to collaborate and communicate about instruction and as a platform for sharing resources.

What challenges did Forsyth County Schools face in terms of IT infrastructure before choosing itslearning?

We had an increasing demand for our LMS to extend beyond solely delivering instruction into a social and collaborative space – a learning community. We also had another challenge – disconnected silos of data regarding student information and performance that did not communicate effectively with each other and were unable to provide teachers with just in time information to assist student learning. Forsyth County Schools has also been an international leader in the area of Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT), also referred to as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and our LMS was unable to work across a variety of device platforms. Finally, to support our BYOT initiative, we have begun using a suite of web-based tools to facilitate digital age learning. Many of these tools were requiring the users to log in from multiple screens on school-technology and handheld devices.

How do you think itslearning will address these challenges?

I think that itslearning will provide us with the necessary house for the different learning communities that exist within the school system. Not only will it provide blended learning opportunities and a platform for our virtual school, it will also enable our teachers to share resources and develop online courses seamlessly. Itslearning is device agnostic, meaning that our students will be able to access their online classroom on district-provided technology resources but also on their own personal devices from home or at school. This accessibility will enable teachers to transform the learning process in their classrooms by “flipping” instruction and focusing on student-created collaborative projects. Eventually, we think that itslearning will enable us to provide a personalized learning plan for each student so that teachers will be able to recommend assignments based on a student’s specific learning needs, interests, and abilities.

You see itslearning as a helpful tool in your BYOD initiative. Can you elaborate about this?

The goal of our BYOT initiative is to empower students and teachers with the personal technology tools to transform instruction. We want to move from traditional teacher-directed model to one that is student-centered. We do not want teachers to focus on technology; rather, we want them to present students with the learning standards and challenge them to research those topics and explore new ways to show what they have learned with their own devices. The role of the teacher has to shift in this type of learning environment, as they learn alongside students to discover new content, applications, and strategies. Since itslearning is device agnostic, the teacher can facilitate instruction more effectively by communicating with students, creating communities to collaborate on projects, designing discussion forums and blogs for sharing student work, and assessing completed projects with polls and rubrics.

itslearning will be launched fall 2013. How do you think it will be received by teachers and students?

We reviewed and vetted many online learning systems before selecting itslearning, and it is the learning platform that meets the needs of the administrators, teachers, and students within our district. I think that teachers will be thankful for how easy it is to plan instruction within itslearning. There are so many possibilities to grow within the platform, yet it isn’t overwhelming. Our teachers have been currently identifying learning objects aligned to standards, to prepare for our migration to itslearning. Uploading new content and lessons and rearranging the pace of instructional activities is a simple “drag and drop” process within the platform. The students and parents will benefit from the organizational structure of itslearning and maintaining all of their materials in one location. Itslearning is so easy to navigate that I think our users will be surprised compared to their experiences within our past LMS. We are excited to begin using itslearning to improve our abilities to extend our students’ learning opportunities within Forsyth County Schools.

About Forsyth County Schools

 What:  Public school district based in Cumming, Georgia, USA
 Number of students: 36,000
 Grades:  K12 (kindergartens and primary and secondary schools)
 Number of staff:  4,100 full-time employees and 1,500 substitutes
 Schools:  20 elementary schools, nine middle schools, five high schools
 District motto: Quality Learning and Superior Performance for All


What sorts of challenges does your current LMS present your school with? We want to hear from you, so please share in the comment field below!