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Marshalltown digital learning plan focuses on teaching with tech

T-R FILE PHOTO –  Increasing safety and security for students learning online is one of the many goals of the new Marshalltown Schools digital learning plan.

Several months of planning led to the creation of a digital learning plan for Marshalltown Schools, and school leaders said the plan will benefit students, teachers and administrators.

The plan focuses on promoting technology use among students, instructing teachers on how to best use technology in the classroom, expand computer science and coding instruction, among others.

“Anytime you spend the kind of money that we’re spending on technology and software and enhancements and infrastructure, you want some way to measure it and keep yourself focused,” said district Director of Instruction Lisa Stevenson. “Overall, we’re trying to really focus on increasing accessibility for students and staff while promoting equity.”

For students to get the most out of tech in the classroom, teachers must understand the devices and platforms being used. The district’s digital learning plan calls for mentoring and training in technology integration for new teachers, professional development to aid in tech use and more.

One major way in which technology is having an increasing impact on academics is through tests, such as the revamped statewide standardized assessment given for the first time this spring.

Day-to-day student learning programs, like Lexia Reading CORE 5 and ST Math are also digital.

“One thing we want to make sure we don’t have happen is we don’t want a student’s level of digital literacy to impact how well (students) perform on an assessment,” said district instructional design specialist David Stanfield. “Any opportunities we can give students to practice taking digital assessments or the types of tools or questions they have on those, we want them to become comfortable with that.”

He said students who are comfortable taking tests online will feel less nervous when they face an impactful assessment, such as a state standardized test.

District Director of Technology Josh Wesley, who has led an effort to add Chromebooks and other digital devices to classrooms around the district, said students must be safe while using online and digital platforms for school.

“We also need to take a look at protections for students, data privacy and security,” he said.

Wesley also said the district should consider adding wireless internet hotspots for extracurricular travel to aid student learning.

The district is moving closer to a getting a mobile digital device in the hands of every K-12 student and teacher, Wesley said.

The district’s digital learning plan was inspired by a similar plan at the state level. Stevenson said the process of making the plan included input from local business leaders and student perspective.

She said the digital learning plan is a part of the district’s overall five-year strategic plan and will be revisited regularly.

“Our goal is to have this be a standing item quarterly at our leadership meetings next year,” Stevenson said. “I think this builds a really strong foundation for what we’re doing and keeps that investment that we’re making focused and centered.”

For more on the Marshalltown Schools digital learning plan, visit https://go.boarddocs.com/ia/mcsdia/Board.nsf/Public, click on the June 3, 2019 meeting agenda and scroll to item 4.03, where a full presentation is available.