Remote Learning

How to Support Students and Families through Technology and Innovation

Within Fullerton School District’s Innovation and Instructional Support department, our focus is to meet the needs of our staff, students and families by providing the right mix of technology and support.

As one of the first districts west of the Rockies to implement a 1:1 laptops program, we’ve continued to prioritize the intersection of education and tech–identifying new ways to support our community. This approach has served us well — and has helped create a culture of innovation throughout the district.

Since most of our amazing educators were already very comfortable using technology and integrating technology into their daily teaching, we were able to quickly pivot to remote learning at the beginning of the pandemic. As our cabinet met daily during the early stages of the pandemic, we focused on purchasing technology for our teachers that would not only enhance teaching with masks on, but that would enhance teaching after the pandemic. Audio amplification of teachers' voices was an immediate thought, and a very quick purchase for our district.

We ensured all teachers had laptops and iPads for remote learning; gooseneck arms to hold the iPads for class demonstrations; classroom televisions; Apple TVs; and all the audio, video and Internet cables and adapters needed to ensure they could teach remotely, teach remotely and in-person at the same time and teach in new ways in a full in-person class. We needed to ensure everyone was ready to hard-wire in case wireless had problems. We ordered portable batteries and chargers for every on-campus student to ensure those in other areas of campus would always have a charged device and ordered headphones with mics for all students who would be on campus or in a home environment with multiple students learning at the same time in a shared space. Teachers still use audio amplification and other tools to facilitate both in-person and remote learning — ensuring every student can hear every word. We also provided long-term substitutes to combination class teachers and TK and K teachers as we realized that zooming in those situations would be extremely difficult without support. Fullerton innovates in HR as well as in our department.

Through collaboration, proactive planning and innovation, Fullerton School District has implemented sustainable changes to best meet the needs of our students, staff and community.

Proactive Planning

The pandemic has provided the opportunity to reflect and plan proactively, versus reactively. Required changes, like pivoting to remote learning, helped us identify areas where we could provide additional support to staff, students and families.

From March 13th of 2019 to the end of school in May, our department facilitated over 300 training sessions with teachers to bring them up-to-speed on various technologies–ensuring they were set up for success from the start. We also rolled out instructional audio systems from Lightspeed, which helped us overcome potential barriers to learning — like muffled voices — and keeping students engaged during classes taking place over Zoom. The audio solution we chose allowed teachers to roam the room as the pendant microphone system fed directly into the zoom through the laptops.

I’m a huge advocate for instructional audio, because it’s a classroom solution that’s not just easy to implement — it’s also been proven to benefit students and teachers. Having this type of system in place has been a tremendous asset during the pandemic, but also one of the best technologies a district can invest in for any type of teaching.

Collaboration

Throughout the pandemic, interdepartmental collaboration has helped our district overcome timely challenges — like Zoom bombing — and make the most of new opportunities — like pandemic relief funding. Our Educational Services department led the charge in ensuring newly created online curriculum would be available that was rigorous, but also in developing a full synchronous and asynchronous summer school program within an amazingly short time frame.

Feedback from staff has helped us determine what strategies are (and aren’t) working. In turn, we’re investing in solutions that we know our teachers and students will put to good use.

We were one of the few districts that I know of who provided five-day instruction for students who needed a full week of on-campus experience as a full day. We had at-home distance learning, two to three days on campus hybrid learning, or five full days on campus where students on their “off” hybrid days would come to the MPR, gym, library or outdoor rented tent structures to attend their video conferences so parents could work. We also worked with local community groups like the boys and girls club and local churches where we would provide Internet access and teachers or caring adults to watch over students in community facilities that could house large numbers of students while socially distanced. The five-day full-day learning model was the dream and directive of our incredibly innovative Superintendent who always has student needs in the forefront of his decision making.

Innovation

The pandemic was an opportunity for districts, including ours, to get creative and try new strategies for engaging students and their families.

Here are just a few district-wide innovations that resulted from the pandemic:

  • Using Zoom to provide more opportunities for families to connect with students’ teachers, including parent-teacher conferences. Video conferencing was also used to facilitate board meetings, community meetings, and a community listening tour surrounding issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Worked with our local public access television station to broadcast district updates and educational resources. We contracted with Discovery Education to post some of their content to local channel 3 for students without home Internet access, and we built a television studio where our Innovation team worked with district teachers to produce content for local cable from 8–3 every week day.
  • Students were provided with Internet hotspots to ensure every student in the district could access the content and the video conferencing lessons with their teachers.
  • The Educational Services department created an amazing curriculum and summer school program where students could log in and complete curricular activities as enhancements to the curriculum and throughout the summer.
  • Created videos of “how” we could do both live and online teaching at the same time to help teachers feel more comfortable with the new way of teaching.

While the pandemic has continued to throw some curveballs our way, I’m proud of the ways Fullerton School District is supporting and meeting the needs of our community. By prioritizing innovation and continuous improvement, I’m confident that we’ll continue making sustainable changes that support our mission — working collaboratively to provide an innovative, high-quality education to every student.

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