We truly believe in our purpose statement to provide an effective, challenging, and engaging education for every one of our students.Our district understands that the solutions to our challenges are not always obvious. We understand that our strength is in our outstanding staff and the relationships between our students, staff, parents, community, and school leaders.2015-2016 has been a banner year. From the success of the Institute for Innovation to the hard work of our LMS committee to the phenomenal speeches made by our students during TedX Youth, great things are happening in our schools! eDays continue to provide a valuable e-learning experience for students and staff while providing a venue for professional development. The creation of the "Technology Bundle" to meet the needs of our students and the parent, district, a community partnership that made it possible has made a significant difference in the lives of students this year. As planning for 2016-2017 continues, all indicators point to another great year!
Innovative 2015-2016 Solutions
Challenge: Superintendent Dr. Richard (Dicky) Barlow, wanted to ensure that we honored the privacy and security of student data.
Solution: A data governance committee was established to draft a Data Governance Policy for review and later passage by the Board of Education. The policy included an appendices of procedures. For 2015-2016, training was provided for all staff and will again be provided each year thereafter. A set of online data governance forms were created including a form for staff to request that online resources be reviewed. Each review is documented on our website for transparency purposes. The data governance committee meets on an as needed basis to review requests for additional permissions in our student management program, products and systems requiring student data, requests for data exports, etc.
Challenge: Provide students with the opportunity to visualize, design, and hold their own creations and futures in the palm of their hands. Improve students' special knowledge and competitiveness in their future job market.
Solution: Build a Maker Space, a center for tinkering, creating, and building. The MBE Maker Space includes 3D printers, access to Tinkercad software, and multiple Lego walls for K-6 students. We hope to replicate in other schools in the district.
Challenge: Create unique and tailored learning environment for all learners. As the CES planning team was pursuing this goal for students, they became convinced that they should do the same for faculty learners.
Solution: CES translated the 4th Monday PD sessions into teacher directed small groups designed to meet individual teacher’s professional learning goals. The Imagine It teacher learning groups grew out of the desire to customize learning for every individual in the building.
Challenge: With the increase of devices both through district provided and BYOD, staff were concerned about classroom management and the ability to easily project student work for class discussions.
Solution: The implementation of Hapara through our Amplified IT partner will allow teachers to view student screens and also select student screens to project.
Challenge: With budget limitations, funding is limited to encourage teachers to try innovative ideas.
Solution: The teacher creation of the Institute for Innovation whereby staff can submit ideas through an application process for funding for scalable innovations. The applications are evaluated by a group of their peers. Those that awarded the grants must conduct research, blog about the experience, and present the project and research at the Summer Learning Conference.
Challenge: Enrollment data for new students and the registration and data verification process for existing students was time consuming and the turnaround time for up to date information lagged. We found ourselves needing parental permission and acknowledgements for everything from field trips to athletics and media releases to FERPA. The packet just continued to grow!
Solution: Mountain Brook Schools partnered with InfoSnap to move the processes completely online. 100% of enrollment procedures, data verifications, permissions, acknowledgements, and payments are now online.
Challenge: The need for video continued to grow due to school broadcasts, flipped learning, online PD, eDays, etc.
Solution: Mountain Brook Schools partnered with EduVision to implement MBTV online. This solution includes the ability for live and saved video and a relay that allows staff to video from a smartphone or ipad and send to his/her own online channel. In addition, we are currently investigating a solution with Bleachers.com that will take all athletic events online using virtual camera men!
Challenge: Our district continuously seeks authentic ways to give student voice on real world issues.
Solution: An elementary school counselor and the junior high technology coordinator, with support from the district and local school principals were able to secure licenses to conduct a TedX Youth event at each school. The events were so successful and student talks so inspiring that Suzan Brandt, technology coordinator for the junior high, applied and was selected to attend Ted Global. By attending, she is now qualified to organize larger Student TedX events for our district!
Challenge: Stakeholders believe that the massive number of passwords required to access resources are prohibiting the seamless integration of technology into all instructional areas.
Solution: The implementation of Classlink to not only going to allow for single sign-on but also provide a one stop solution for staff and students to access network and cloud storage locations.
Challenge: Incorporate coding into an already packed elementary schedule to harness technology to create and produce rather than to just consume.
Solution: After researching different options and attending Alabama Education Technology Conference (AETC), the Crestline Elementary (CES) 4th grade teachers determined that the Sphero would be a perfect addition to the exploration rotation for their grade level. [Exploration is a time during the day that all students in the grade level rotate through each teacher led station and are exposed to topics that allow for creativity and exploration within the curriculum.] Students have been learning to code with Sphero, but it has turned into so much more than coding. Students have had to use several skills in all areas of the curriculum to complete the tasks and challenges. They’ve also incorporated STEM challenges as well where they problem solve, design, and engineer solutions to a challenge presented with Sphero (navigate through a maze, design a working chariot, carry a weight across a pond, etc.).
But how do we reach all students? The CES PAGE (Enrichment) teacher is sponsoring a Coding Club after school so that all students have the opportunity to code. They love the creativity, problem solving, and self-paced timing available in SCRATCH. Starting elementary students in coding gives them a base knowledge so that the secondary schools can continue to develop the students’ experience, knowledge, and applications of coding.
Challenge: Put into practice, the Brookwood Forest Elementary (BWF) belief that students of all ages need more customized learning opportunities to reach their fullest potential and utilize their special talents.
Solution: Mountain Brook High School (MBHS) and BWF have created programs such as iClub and iLearn that allow high school students interested in careers in education to partner with BWF teachers and facilitate small groups of young learners. iLearn students work one on one with elementary students to provide individualized instruction in areas of need. High school students involved in iClub plan and implement interest activities for the BWF students.
Challenge: Observation and analysis of current environment led staff to believe Mountain Brook Elementary (MBE) was ready to move to the next level with job embedded professional development.
Solution: School technology coordinator partners with one teacher at each grade level to improve 21st century skills. The goal is to make peer experts, create expertise throughout the building, and improve student experiences with 21st century tools.
Challenge: CBES wanted to create a unique place for students to learn! The challenge was to make it fun, inviting, comfortable and to fully equip the room with technology to foster collaboration and engagement.Solution: The Bend’s Den. The PTO rallied and supported the project to transform a regular classroom into an elaborate room with all the amenities! A double glass door entryway was added to provide openness and to promote an inviting environment. Inside the Bend’s Den, an amphitheater area with an interactive projector allows teachers and students to be actively engaged for activities, presentations, and learning opportunities. The furniture includes tables and colorful chairs that are mobile and easily configurable for various needs. There are dry erase boards for student groups to use to collaborate or to report out to larger group as well as large dry erase boards on rollers for teachers to use to write instructions. A second projector is strategically located for large group presentations and an area with an HDTV is located in a corner for smaller group settings. Included in the Bend’s Den is a charging area for electronic devices. Laptops, Chromebooks, and iPads are available in the room for collaboration and engagement in the learning process.
Challenge: At Mountain Brook Junior High, staff felt students interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math were missing an opportunity to explore engineering. Specifically, students did not have the option to continue learning about robotics and coding/programming after leaving the elementary schools.Solution: Project Lead The Way (PLTW) was implemented at Mountain Brook Junior High during the 2014-2015 school year. PLTW provides a comprehensive approach to STEM education. It is an activity, project and problem-based curriculum which allows students to explore engineering, bio-medical and computer science curriculum while gaining skills in communication, collaboration, critical-thinking and creativity. The PLTW teacher also organizes MBS Robotics, which allows students interested in additional programming and engineering skills to design, build, and program robots. Mountain Brook Robotics was so successful the first year that two teams competed at the World's Championship. For the 2015-2016 school year, Mountain Brook Junior High has added a second PLTW teacher to teach additional classes due to high demand. Currently 87 students are enrolled in the program including two elementary schools as well as the Mountain Brook Junior High.Challenge: Expand challenging opportunities for students to study problem solving, logical reasoning, and implementing solutions to problems. Increase the opportunity for students to study engineering, drafting, and computer science including coding drones and droids.Solution: AP Computer Science-A emphasizes the development of computer programs that correctly solve a given problem using the Java programming language. Students learn to design and implement solutions to problems by writing, running and debugging computer programs using algorithms and data structures. Additionally, students work with drones, droids, and learn to read and understand large programs and recognize the ethical and social implications of computer use.
Computer Aided Drafting is designed to appreciate the evolution of the graphic communication industry, value the personal and social significance of graphic communication, and develop communication skill by learning basic drafting techniques and procedures. The course investigates career-related fields such as Engineer, Architect, Draftsperson, Construction trades, Graphic Arts, and Landscaping.
Two additional courses will be offered for 2016-2017. AP Computer Science Principles which focuses on foundational computing skills and was designed to help students understand the relevance of computing skills to their college and career plans. Engineering Your World where students will learn and implement the engineering design process including problem solving, invention and intellectual property rights.
Challenge: A device for every child is not a challenge for many districts. However, our challenge was far more reaching. 1) Our learning community didn’t want just a device, they wanted students to have the opportunity to equitably access instructional content (based on adopted curriculum) in a safe, supported, compatible, managed environment. 2) Because our district is funded by property taxes and qualifies for almost $0 federal dollars, funding for technology is local and the budget did not allow for the total of the expense of the technology bundle needed to meet the challenge.
Solution: We presented the challenge to a committee of teachers, students, parents, board members, PTO leadership, technology leaders, and community supporters. The needs were outlined and comparisons of functions and prices completed. A plan for support, management, and safety was developed. The community developed a partnership plan for funding that included equal funding from the school district, community partners through the MBCS Foundation, and parents. We decided on a three year lease for 1100 Chromebooks, Gaggle scanning of student emails, Google Drive and One Drive storage, a maintenance partnership with Dell and our district technical staff, and Internet filtering by iBoss. We are now adding Hapara for classroom management and ClassLink to manage a SSO solution for available resources and easy access to cloud and internal storage.