June 8, 2018

Creating a personalized learning curriculum foundation

Using Boardworks as a foundation for a curriculum that enables personalized learning

Frontier CSD comprises a suburban area of approximately 39 square miles in the southern portion of Erie County, along the shores of Lake Erie, in the Town of Hamburg. The district aims to prepare students with academic and life schools, as well as a sense of value for service and community.

The challenge

Frontier CSD sought an integrated technology solution that would ease the development of personalized learning curriculum

At Frontier, we are focusing on strong curriculum development and meaningful tech integration. However, as my colleague Tom Murray says, 3D printers do not make you innovative—it’s what you do with 3D printers that make you innovative. The “why” behind using technology is much more important for learning. The same goes for the latest educational push: personalized learning. Personalized learning really just ties best teaching practices together—using solid instructional technology combined with a worthwhile curriculum and strong data analysis.

At Frontier, we have been looking for that instructional technology piece to make personalized learning a priority in our schools. However, with every educational innovation—personalized learning, tech integration, et cetera—we put more and more on teacher’s plates, and we never take anything off. We are looking for something that will help teachers start at a better place so we can make personalized learning much easier on them.

The solution

Boardworks provides teachers with a high-level starting point for tech-based curriculum development

I have seen many other products, but no other technology content solution has ever stood out to me like Boardworks. Boardworks is cost-effective, it gives our teachers and curriculum leaders a leg up in terms of planning, it’s engaging for students, and it fills a technology void. It really is an incredible tool. Boardworks is going to be a big part of Frontier’s curriculum writing and tech integration to take us from good to great.

With Boardworks, teachers don’t have to stress out about creating curriculum materials from scratch. By giving teachers these resources, we are giving them a strong foundation, a really high level starting point. With Boardworks, all teachers automatically have curriculum content that is interactive and technology-based, no matter what their subject area is. In giving them this great tool, we actually take a burden off their plate for once.

Boardworks is easy-to-use, editable, crisp, clean, and creates an immersive experience for students. As a classroom tool, it’s closer to the virtual reality that students experience in video games outside of school. It runs in PowerPoint so it’s easy to use, but it’s a really high-level PowerPoint—not something that people would create on their own.

Implementation

Boardworks’s easy-to-use format makes it easy to integrate technology and personalization into curriculum planning

When we first started talking about must-haves of a lesson, we were talking about bell ringers and activating prior knowledge and communicating a student-centered goal. Now, we’re advancing those must-haves. At Frontier, we are moving more towards an individualized learning management system where the teacher can put all their pieces for the lesson on the platform along with an assessment, and Boardworks fits into that model perfectly. For example, in the Boardworks lessons, you can generate infinite examples for each problem, so teachers can pull from that for a quick formative assessment, or they can edit examples at each student’s level. It’s hugely powerful.

We are going to roll out Boardworks with our curriculum folks over the summer so they can incorporate it into their curriculum writing. It will provide a really strong, high-level baseline. I know teachers are going to be excited by how much time it will save them, especially our tech-savvy teachers—they are going to be able to take the presentations, incorporate some videos or additional resources, and then right there they will have a great looking template to use.

Results

Frontier expects that Boardworks will enable teachers to create a 21st-­century learning environment

Individualization and differentiation have been important concepts in education forever. Now, with a higher standard of personalized learning, the question is, how do we make sure that every student is being empowered to learn as fast as they can and as slow as they must? Of course, when we talk about these things, it’s usually teachers doing the work. Well, that takes a lot of time, and that takes creating a lot of different content to reach different students. It’s impossible to start all of that from scratch.

With Boardworks, we give everyone really high-level content designed for different learning styles and differentiated levels. We start everyone from this same advanced baseline, and then from there, teachers can tweak Boardworks to each child’s needs. It’s about filling a curriculum planning gap, but also making sure that every single student is empowered to learn at his own pace and to meet his own needs.

In reality, Boardworks helps fight some of the factory-style education that Sir Ken Robinson talks about, where everyone sits in rows and everything is taught by rote. If you don’t have the right materials and tools, that’s the model that we’re stuck in, and the students in that system are not set up to succeed with 21st century skills; they’re not going to be creative thinkers, they’re not going to be pushed. Having tools like Boardworks saves the teacher so much time, energy, and frustration trying to figure out how to personalize learning and incorporate technology. We will know Boardworks has helped us progress in these areas when we see the improved achievement data and hear positive comments from teachers and students. We expect Boardworks will have a huge impact.

About Dr. Richard Hughes, Superintendent

In 2017, Dr. Hughes was named Outstanding Superintendent of the Year by NYSCATE (New York State Association for Computing and Technologies in Education) for his work as a leader in technology integration and advancing the achievement of all students.

"With Boardworks, all ­teachers ­automatically have ­curriculum content that is interactive and ­technology-based, no matter what their subject area is. In giving them this great tool, we actually take a burden off their plate for once."

Dr. Richard Hughes, Superintendent

"[Boardworks] is about filling a curriculum planning gap, but also making sure that ­every single student is empowered to learn at his own pace and to meet his own needs."

Dr. Richard Hughes, Superintendent