Dynamic Curriculum Support for a Rural School District
Case Study Background
Plainview School District serves approximately 131 students across two public schools in Kiowa County, Colorado. Plainview School District is categorized as Under 50 Funded and supports 115 homeschooled students.
Dana Unruh, Superintendent
Dana Unruh, Superintendent for Plainview School District in Sheridan Lake, Colorado, is in her third year as Superintendent of the district. We spoke with her about the impact that Boardworks has had on her schools, providing time-saving resources to new and inexperienced teachers for in-person, hybrid, and online applications.
Unruh spoke at length about the specific challenges faced within a rural school district that has limited resources and the role Boardworks has played for them in filling those gaps and supporting student needs.
“We have a long-term substitute who entered without a specific background in science. Boardworks allowed us to provide a tool for his toolbox that he could work with and utilize to fill gaps in lessons to help get kids to understand key concepts. Now, he develops his lessons with the paperback curriculum, and for the technology integration component, he leverages Boardworks. It’s helped him not feel as overwhelmed and to avoid burnout when there is a large amount of material to prepare.”
“New teachers are often thrown into the fire. When they walk into a full classroom, students expect teachers to know what they are talking about. So to have a tool that provides that extra support ensures they don’t burn out so quickly. With ongoing staff and teacher shortages, I had to sub in for our math class recently, and while I love math, it was immensely powerful to have a technology tool in place when I entered the classroom. The students were already familiar with it and were able to stay fully engaged with the lesson instead of waiting for me to adapt to the lesson. We were able to work through it with moment-by-moment manipulation seamlessly as a result.”
“Before Boardworks, the time needed by our teachers to create new content was expansive. The two teachers who use it the most are my history and math teachers in the high school. My history teacher aims to stay engaged with the students, so he would take hours to create Kahoots and online games and the powerful interactive PowerPoints to encourage kids to interact and stay engaged. He and our math teacher would spend most of their nights and weekends preparing these lessons. Boardworks has taken that heavy lift and made it much more manageable. My math teacher hasn’t left town in five years and was able to spend spring break in her cabin because she wasn’t so far behind going into the break. Boardworks is allowing them to be people again, outside of school.”
Unruh spoke about the user-friendliness and accessibility of Boardworks for both students and teachers and the reason it has been a good fit for her district.
“The biggest asset of Boardworks thus far and the reason it has been so effective in addressing our challenges is how easy it is to use and integrate with existing curriculums. If you can’t get technology to integrate with what you already have, it means throwing out thousands of dollars in the curriculum you’ve invested years in adopting or setting the technology aside, leaving those educational gaps in place. Boardworks lets us integrate those online pieces and fill some of the existing gaps in our curriculums.”
“We’re a very small school district, so we can shift students to hybrid if needed. Recently, a student whose grandparent was in hospice care traveled to Illinois with his family, but instead of missing those days and the work he needed to stay caught up in class, we were able to shift him to hybrid and he did his lessons online. He stayed up to date during a difficult time, ensuring he didn’t end up in summer school when he would be working to help support his family. Being able to offer such an option had an immediate economic and educational impact on this student and his family.”
Dana Unruh, Superintendent
Unruh and her staff evaluated Boardworks and determined it would effectively integrate with their existing processes and curriculum.
“We called a high school staff meeting, introduced Boardworks, and shared it with everyone on the team. The teachers were immediately excited, and even our most experienced teachers were able to quickly see how Boardworks could benefit their classes. Having those cornerstone teachers in the high school buy into it encouraged newer teachers to see its value and start using it.”
“Our schools are so small that we have dual classrooms. Kindergarten and First Grade are in one room, Second and Third in another, and so on. Boardworks gives teachers more ability to work with those smaller groups when they need to provide direct instruction while others in the same class perform independent work.”
Boardworks has provided Unruh and her teachers with a supplement that is easy to use, accessible, and in line with their current standards, supporting the entire district.
“It’s a screen-based society, and Boardworks fits into that mindset perfectly. The moment we turn on our Promethean Boards and tell the students to log in, they’re immediately engaged. Teachers can interact with students, working together with them and avoiding a lecture-based classroom setting. Before, a teacher would be at the board with her back turned to the students, drawing out problems. They’re not looking at the kids. They’re not talking to the kids. They’re talking to the board. Now, teachers have the tools to face students and engage with them through technology. It went from a one-person math party to full classroom engagement where everyone is involved in an active conversation.”
“Some of our students are working well ahead of their grade level. For example, we have a fourth-grade student who is doing seventh-grade work in one subject. Before he might have needed to go to the seventh-grade math class, interacting with junior high school students, but now he can stay with his class and his teacher, using Boardworks to engage with work appropriate to his level. He can have that very specific differentiation so that he can fully understand those concepts, all within the same context and space as his classmates.”
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Johnson City School District
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