By: Laura Orozco
Due to its small-schools model that allows teachers to really get to know each student, Frisco Independent School District is one of the fastest growing in the United States. Technology and e-learning systems are a big part of this success.
Frisco ISD, located about 30 miles north of Dallas, is one of the biggest school districts in the United States and enrolls more than 55.000 students distributed in 9 high schools, 16 middle schools, 40 elementary schools and 3 special programs schools. Its mission is to know every student by name and need, and to be able to this, the use of digital tools and e-learning systems is vital. E-learn Magazine spoke to Ashley Nelson, Professional Learning Coordinator at Frisco ISD Administration, to learn more about it.
E.L.M: The FISD grows better than any other school district in the country. What is the key to this success?
A.N: Yes, the District has grown 7-30 percent annually since the early 1990s and typically adds 2.500-3.500 students each year. Frisco ISD has a strong vision in the midst of this unprecedented growth to maintain a small-schools model and the district’s leaders have remained committed to schools that are personalized learning environments. Our schools typically serve more than 700 students in grades K-5 (from kindergarten to fifth grade), middle schools serve around 800-1.000 students in grades 6-8 and high schools serve up to 2.100 students in grades 9-12. This keeps the leadership of each school in tune with the personalized needs of that slice of the community and each student in it.
A.N: Our mission in Frisco ISD is to know every student by name and need. This philosophy drives our day-to-day efforts to understand each child’s unique circumstances, his or her strengths and weaknesses, and the role we must play to ensure each student learns at high levels. Our teachers work in Professional Learning Community (PLC) teams that strive to know where students are in relation to their learning targets and then to respond accordingly, offering additional support to students who need it, while enriching curriculum for students who already have mastered content or concepts. Our goal is to ensure that all students not only meet the standard, but grow in their skill set.
E.L.M: How do you use digital tools and e-learning systems to get to know each student deeply?
A.N: We focus on student learning and results. Our goal is to model best practices using various types of digital learning tools that can be used in the classroom. We want teachers to integrate technology with intent and purpose, focusing on lessons and learning experiences that include collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, communication, and digital citizenship skills.
E.L.M: Is Moodlerooms a big part of this strategy?
A.N: Yes, because it is one tool that we use for many purposes, such as communication and collaboration. Moodlerooms also supports our Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and flipped classroom initiatives.
E.L.M: More specifically, how do you apply e-learning systems in your education process?
A.N: We always stress that anything we do is instructionally focused. Digital Learning Coaches work with teachers to help them learn new digital tools and where the tools can be applied and used to enhance and personalize student learning. We model for our teachers how to use the platform to support student learning and we provide support as teachers continue to grow in their use of the platform focusing always on student learning and results.
E.L.M: Do you have a general e-learning system, or do you let every institution to choose the system they want to use?
A.N: Every student and teacher in Frisco ISD is provided a Moodlerooms login to access and interact with content hosted on our Learning Hub. Each teacher is provided support and assistance in their use of the platform, and it is up to the teacher to decide how and if they will use it with their students.
E.L.M: How are the Learning Managing Systems improving your education strategies and the results you have as a district?
A.N: We utilize Moodlerooms for online, just in time learning for our staff. Courses are created to help support teacher and student learning. In addition, we utilize Blackboard Collaborate to host online PLC (Professional Learning Community) collaborative discussions. Blackboard Collaborate is a tool that helps us be consistent with our communication to the various campuses. Curriculum and Instruction rely on this communication to share updates and also get feedback from teachers in our effort to continuously improve our instructional practices. We also model best practices in our staff professional learning courses, and in turn our teachers incorporate these strategies in their student online courses.
When the main objective for a school is to get to know every student by name, e-learning strategies help accomplish this mission. This is why Moodlerooms fits perfectly with the FRISCO ISD mission as a school district. The e-learning tool facilitates participation, discussion through forums, interaction between professors and students, and it also allows keeping track of the progress of each individual that enters the digital classroom. Since kids and youths spend more and more time in virtual spaces, Moodle enhances what one teacher can provide during ‘face to face’ interaction.
*Ashley Nelson – Professional Learning Coordinator at Frisco ISD Administration.
*Photo by: AFP Laura Buckman