This article first appeared on On Common Ground News on January 26, 2018. Rockdale County Public Schools is an itslearning customer.
“Wintry weather may have shut down roads, businesses, and school buildings recently, but Rockdale County Public Schools (RCPS) teachers and students didn’t miss a beat as they continued teaching and learning online and at home with Independent Learning Days the week of Jan. 17-19. Rockdale students will not be required to make up the days since instruction continued during that time online and at home.
During designated Independent Learning Days, when inclement weather prevents students from being safely transported to school, teachers use online learning platforms to give assignments and communicate with students via regular methods such as itslearning, Remind101, ClassDojo, etc. If students do not have internet access at home, they are given two days to complete and submit the assignments once they return to class.
“I am very pleased with our Independent Learning Day implementation thus far. Our teachers did an excellent job posting and communicating meaningful assignments with students,” Interim Superintendent Shirley Chesser said. “Our initial usage report of our learning system shows that most students are receiving their assignments and are working within the online platform from their laptop devices. We are excited to see the many positive posts and comments from teachers, students and parents on social media that affirm this is a viable alternative to Inclement Weather Days.”
RCPS saw more than 11,700 students and 1,100 staff members log in to the itslearning platform over the Independent Learning Days – the same rate as standard school days.
Teacher Wendy Davis said Independent Learning has been an easy process for her and her fifth graders at D.L. Sims Elementary since she and her fellow teachers normally incorporate technology into their lesson plans. During the Independent Learning Days, she uploaded her assignments the night before or early in the morning and students and parents communicated with her through Remind101 or itslearning, usually starting around 8 a.m.
Davis’ fifth graders were learning about World War II and their assignment was on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech.
“I didn’t know if they were going to do (the responses) on paper and pencil, but a lot of them utilized the technology and saved the document via OneDrive, “Davis said. “My scholars are sending me messages with their work. They’re enthused about their assignment and their results were quality, not just a rushed task. They really thought about what I was asking them.”
Charley Mcallister, who teaches World Literature at Salem High School, said the majority of her students have been logging in during the Independent Learning Days.
“I am about 90 percent digital in my classroom, so it’s not a big transition for my students to go home and do the same work,” said Mcallister.
Janareau Murray, who teaches third grade at Pine Street Elementary, said she loves using the itslearning digital platform and had a good experience with the recent Independent Learning Days. She did have to remind parents on the first day, “It’s not busywork. These are actual assignments we’re teaching in class.” After that, participation went smoothly, she said.
Murray emphasized familiarity was important to the success of the assignments. Her students were doing the same activities they would be doing in the classroom, except communication took place through the inbox instead of in-person. In some ways, that made it easier. For example, one student messaged that she was struggling with a concept and Murray was able to quickly send a video that helped the student understand.
RCPS parent Chris Brunson – the father of an 11-year-old and 13-year-old at Gen. Ray Davis Middle School and 15-year-old at Heritage High School – said he’s been pleased with the results of the Independent Learning Days.
“…It definitely has not been a day off. It has proven to be very effective. It was as if they were still in the classroom because they were held accountable,” Brunson said.
The key, said Brunson, was the availability and engagement of the teachers. “As a parent, if your child had a question and you were stuck, you were able to email the teacher and get a response back within 10, 15 minutes.”
Rosemarie Kydd, whose daughter is in the fifth grade at D.L. Sims Elementary, agreed. Kydd was able to stay home during the first Independent Learning Day but brought her daughter to work the other two days where she was able to stay busy with school assignments.
“It’s been great,” said Kydd. “I love it because the kids have something to do. They’re not caught up with watching TV, wasting time. (My daughter) really embraced it. She called up her other friends… they were each reading a paragraph at a time doing (English Language Arts). I’m very impressed.”
The success of Independent Learning Days has been long in the making. The RCPS Learning Reimagined initiative started more than four years ago and not only rolled out One-to-One technologies with school-issued devices for students, but also transformed the way teachers use technology. For more information about the Learning Reimagined initiative at RCPS, please visit www.rockdaleschools.org/learningreimagined.
For more information about Independent Learning Days, visit www.rockdaleschools.org/independentlearning.”