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Technology for Teaching | News

Georgia District Heads into Broad, Multi-Phase E-Learning Initiative

Starting next August, teachers in Gwinnett County Public Schools will use Web-based software as part of the district's multi-year digital learning initiative called eCLASS ("[e]-Content, Learning, Assessment, and Support System").

The district, Georgia's largest, has partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and its Pinpoint e-learning system, which compiles student data, including test scores, and provides teachers with tools that allow them to create personalized learning plans and assessments for students. The Pinpoint system is integral to eCLASS instructional component, allowing teachers to track the nearly 163,000 students in the district in a streamlined way, according to the district.

Gwinnett's school board approved the five-year, $9.5 million contract with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in a September meeting. The board had tested out the product in the preceding months.

The instructional component is the first in eCLASS the district will roll out, according to a question-and-answer document on the district's site. Starting in August 2012, five clusters within the Gwinnett school district will begin eCLASS, said spokeswoman Sloan Roach. Each cluster has five to six elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school, she said.

The Pinpoint software will change teachers' computer homepages. Once teachers sign in, they will see their students' names and academic information in a dashboard-style format and will be able to "drill down" to see individual student test results and ideas about how to improve students' weaknesses, according to the question-and-answer document on the district site.

The district and the Massachusetts-based education company plan to continue their partnership beyond Pinpoint, according to information released by the company.

Schools need to develop comprehensive learning plans after assessing students as a whole, said Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks in a prepared statement. It's important that students can access learning materials anytime and anywhere, he said.

"What we're trying to do is expand the walls of the classroom and foster collaboration and provide technological tools to students who have never known a world without technology," Roach said.

eCLASS will eventually reach beyond instruction to help teachers communicate with their colleagues and view online staff development sessions. The district's human resources department will also take part in the initiative, using the system to manage staff, according to the question-and-answer document.

Gwinnett is also working on a "bring your own device" program, Roach said. Students have to power down when they come to school, but the district would like to change that and see students use their computers, tablets, and smart phones for learning in the classroom, she said.

About the Author

Jessica DiNapoli is a finance and technology reporter based in Westhampton Beach, NY. She can be reached at jessica.dinapoli@gmail.com.

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