The Huffman ISD board heard a presentation on upcoming needed technology devices at its June meeting. They also approved a streamlined learning management system (LMS) and heard about fall start plans for the next school year.
“Our efforts to get our technological tools in place for the up-and-coming school year are in full swing. We are working to get our devices ready for our students to be ready to begin our one-to-one initiative when school starts in August. We have also worked on getting our internet access or hot spots ready for registration, and securing a plan in preparation for a school year that will inevitably look very different from any past year,” said Dr. Joel Nolte, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
“We plan to have 2,100 laptops ready to implement our one-to-one program in grades 6-12. We also have an additional 600 laptops and 700 iPads being setup to be distributed to elementary students if we need to quickly and efficiently shift to remote instruction. Finally, we anticipate having up to 140 hot spots to distribute to secondary students as well,” added David Carpenter, director of technology.
One of the greatest challenges, they said, faced by students the past few months centered around the need for consistent learning access for both synchronous or real-time training sessions, as well as asynchronous or education that happened outside of a ‘live’ WebEx or Zoom session. The administrators found that the district lacked a centralized place to access supplementary materials and note that there was also not a suite of technologies in place from class-to-class to support the most beneficial pedagogical approach to learning.
Therefore, after much deliberation, the board decided to enter a three-year contract with Canvas over competitor tools, such as Blackboard, Schoology or D2L, to be the districtwide LMS. This option will ensure there is no more than a 5% increase during the contracted time frame, as well as a single, one-time implementation fee.
An LMS provides a single place for student engagement and attendance to be tracked, quizzes and assessments to be housed, assignments to be handed in, and content to be viewed or downloaded. Canvas will allow teachers to return in the fall with time to ramp up their personal knowledge and enable each to become a knowledgeable resource.
The Commons area of Canvas will be available for teachers to either build their lessons from scratch or to customize an existing lesson as a timesaving measure. The gradebook integration and tracking elements will allow teachers to offer the best education to every student.
Nolte added, “The tools being put into place will allow parents free access to the resources added and allow all of our educators to provide a unified approach to learning throughout the district.”
“While the educators did a fantastic job of being flexible and engaging our children, it is always a challenge to keep both students and parents involved in education through remote learning. As you know, we did not have a choice but to be flexible the past few months; however, our teachers did great at making home visits and changing course as needed,” said Superintendent Dr. Benny Soileau.
In addition to the student accommodations for online learning throughout the various grade levels, the district has also been researching curriculum vendors for textbooks. The board looked at two different vendors and decided that Pearson would cover grades 9-12 in terms of IMA/ELA, as the content meets the future digital and technology needs of the students moving forward.
All districts, Huffman included, are currently faced with many options being considered by both Texas Education Association and governmental officials for the return of students to the physical classrooms in August. Like many other school district officials, leaders have determined that students learn best when physically present at school versus online learning. Rest assured the Huffman school board and all administrators will be continuing to follow the requirements set forth by the commissioner, Soileau said.
Soileau concluded, “Whether we need to alter the current calendar, change the hours of the school day, offer alternating days on-campus, or limit class sizes, as always, we prefer to see the students face-to-face. Our staff members, regardless of role, are excited to welcome our kids back at every grade level, and we look forward to new and exciting challenges ahead.”