Pickerington schools embrace technology


By Lori Smith
Staff Writer

The Pickerington school district prides itself on utilizing technology in education, and it has the track record to prove it.

“We’ve been able to speak all over the place, everywhere from the White House to Harvard University,” said Brian Seymour, director of instructional technology, as he spoke to the Pickerington Board of Education during their May 7 meeting.

He said other school districts often contact Pickerington, wanting to know how to set up a successful technology plan like theirs. The district has received numerous awards for its use of technology, is invited to share their successes at many conferences, and was recently named the International Society for Technology in Education distinguished district for 2018.

“Every single one of those awards we have, we had to apply for them,” Seymour said, explaining how it measures the district’s success. “That’s my external validation that we’re moving in the right direction.”

Seymour explained how the district continues to invest in vital technology, allowing students in all 14 schools to participate in a 21st century learning environment. In 2017, for example, the district went “one-to-one,” providing a Chromebook or tablet to every student in the district, which changed the way teachers teach and students learn.

“Gone are the days of computer labs, for sure,” Seymour.

Starting with the 2018-19 school year, all students in the Pickerington district will be able to “check out” access to an Internet hot spot. There will be 200 available for students who do not have Internet access at home, and it will cost the district $45,000 for the year. Although 96 percent of the district’s students say they have Internet access at home, Seymour said, the concern is the remaining students will fall behind. Even though those students can currently do their school work on the Chromebooks and submit it once they get Internet access, problems do


“This makes it more excuse proof,” Seymour said.

The remote hot spots will be offered to students on the free- and reduced-price lunch programs first, then on an as-needed basis to other students within the district, he said.

The instructional technology coordinators for the various schools gave a report to the board about technology.

•Jennifer Furey, elementary school instructional technology coordinator, said the district’s technology plan was designed to increase skills not seen in the standard curriculum. She said they are focusing on the 5Cs: communication (using Google Classroom and Seesaw); collaboration (such as group work in coding science toys); creativity (like making eBooks or using StoryBirds), connectiveness (connecting classrooms around the world); and critical thinking (learning computer science and developing computational thinking).

•Stephanie Howell, middle school instructional technology coordinator, explained how technology positively impacts the classroom and the role of the teacher.
“Every student has a voice,” she said.
Students are talking with experts, there is increased engagement and motivation, and increased student choice. According to Howell, the students get immediate feedback, all students have equal access to the curriculum, and parents are more connected to the classroom. She gave an example of how a student contacted an Olympic athlete and the class was able to have a conversation with the athlete via video chat.

•At the junior high school level, Instructional Technology Coordinator David Hayward said they are building life-long schools through digital methods. For example, at Ridgeview they did an “escape room” exercise where students had to break into a box and solve a series of clues. In regard to creativity, the junior high students have taken over the morning announcements with WeVideo. Hayward said they have a green screen and use Chromebooks to present the day’s announcements.
“They’ve taken over it and are running with it,” he said. “They’re doing a great job.”
Students in art class are thinking about who they are and how to represent themselves through digital media.

•High School Instructional Technology Coordinator Jena Cooper said the additional technology allows the high school teachers to begin moving forward to a different style of teaching.
“We’ve started to make a huge shift to a blended learning style,” she said. “If you give them devices and don’t change the way you teach it can actually be detrimental.”
At the high school level, she said, they are doing mini-lessons, where the teacher is able to work in small groups with students to meet their individual needs. Students are working at their own pace, using videos to re-watch lessons where needed or fast-forward if mastered.
“That’s a huge time saver and great for our students,” she said.
They are also using a variety of digital content to keep students engaged and adjust to different learning styles.

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