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Inspiring those “a-ha” moments with digital learning


June 20, 2018 - 4 Comments

Located in suburban Johnson County, Kansas (and just ten miles from Kansas City, Missouri), Shawnee Mission School District is the third largest school district in the state, with 33 elementary schools, five middle schools, five high schools, and one alternative high school, which combine to serve nearly 28,000 students. Most significantly, the district is home to more than 3000 imaginative, talented educators and staff, who with their students are using innovative collaboration technology to open a “window to the world.”

How is digital transforming teaching and learning?
Collaboration technology is changing the way educators teach and students learn in K-12 school districts across the country. Today, it’s possible for outside experts to take part in classroom discussions instantaneously, for homebound students to “join” their classmates in learning activities, for teachers to collaborate across long distances, and for parents to engage with teachers in new ways. In truth, the potential for digital learning in the classroom is limited only by the imaginations of those who use it. And this is certainly the case at Shawnee Mission School District.

Students at Shawnee Mission learn with digital technology.

Fifth-grade students at Shawnee Mission School District engage with course content, and with Ms. Jessee, using Cisco Webex.

“We have to see how they learn best, and for these kids, it’s digital technology. If I push out a document in a [Webex] Meeting space, then I know it’s on every kid’s iPad. I know that everybody’s on page 11 with me,” says Amanda Jessee, fifth-grade teacher at Westwood View Elementary School.

“We want to provide students the opportunities they need to be the people they want to be. The Webex tools that we use provide them chances to see things that maybe they wouldn’t see otherwise,” says Drew Lane, executive director of Information and Communication Technologies at Shawnee Mission School District. “If you’re an educator, it’s watching those ‘lightbulbs’ go on. That never goes away. We teach them to build, we teach them to learn, we teach them to build their own futures.”

 “We want our teachers to be educators and to expect them to be tech people is unreasonable. You put the [Webex] tools in front of people and they explore, and pretty soon you’re trying to keep up.”

 Drew Lane
Executive Director of Information and Communication Technologies
Shawnee Mission School District

Teachers note that the use of Webex in the classroom has truly transformed the way they and their students engage. Gone are the days when students looked only to their teacher for the answer, says Westwood View Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Angela Harris. “Now, they’re talking to each other, they’re building on each other’s ideas, and it’s kind of magical to watch them do that,” she adds. “I think that’s why most teachers are teachers: we want that ‘aha!’ moment, and this gives us the opportunity to see it. You can really connect with kids in a way that is not [just about] 7:50 to 3:30.”

Shawnee Mission educators use digital technology

“Shrinking” a district that spans 100 square miles, administrators and educators can also take advantage of Cisco Webex to connect with each other.

Increasing engagement for administrators, teachers, and staff
Beyond the classroom, collaboration technology has opened new avenues of communication for administrators, staff, teachers, and students at Shawnee Mission School District. New voice, instant messaging, and video functionality have helped shrink the geography of the expansive school district, which covers 14 communities and 100 square miles.

There’s more!
For another great story about classroom innovation, check out this blog post: Video in the Classroom? The possibilities are endless. This post tells the story of schools in Troy, New York, which use video in the classroom to expand educational opportunities for students. You can also watch a short video to learn more about Troy’s story.

Or, for more ideas about using collaboration technology in the classroom, view this infographic.

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4 Comments

  1. This is a great article, Donna! Educators have no choice but to instill technology in their lesson plans. Students in today's society have grown up with tablets and cellphones in their hands since they were babies. Kids are more engaged at home with their technology than they are in school where often times there is limited to no technology. School districts who incorporate technology in their classrooms will not only hold their students attention longer, but it will set them up for success earlier. Thanks for sharing :-)

    • I agree, Tyler! I love the story this post tells: students can use technology in the classroom (and in their personal lives) that they'll be seeing and using when they enter the workforce. Granted, technology will evolve between now and then, but these students will absolutely be ready!

  2. Innovation doing amazing things -- preparing future generations with the right skills and tools to be successful. Well done, Shawnee Mission School District and Cisco Systems.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Kim! I absolutely agree; students can use the tools and technologies in the classroom today that they'll see in their workplaces in the future. It's so exciting!