Technology director and past Consortium for School Networking chair Mike Jamerson takes a lot of pride in his district’s efforts to integrate universal design principles with technology.
It’s one of a number of initiatives Jamerson has been leading at Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., in Columbus, Indiana.
Two years ago, Bartholomew rolled out one-to-one computing for the district’s 11,500 students, equipping younger students with Chromebooks and high schoolers with laptops. That helped set the stage for the district’s most recent accomplishment: “We’re excited and proud” to have implemented a new learning management system, Jamerson told EdScoop in a recent interview.
Jamerson said Bartholomew’s team of 28 IT professionals evaluated a handful of LMS options and decided to deploy itslearning, a system that not only complements the district’s Universal Design for Learning framework, but also adapts that approach across a range of ages and learning levels, Jamerson said.
“We wanted a solution that applied across the entire district,” said Jameson. “We felt itslearning was the best fit for our kids in kindergarten as well as 12th grade.”
Jamerson said the district’s commitment to universal design reflects an underlying belief in accommodating different types of learners, and a desire to “address the needs of all of our students in terms of helping to identify and remove barriers to instruction,” he said.
“Universal design says, ‘I may have students that need audio. … I may have students that learn better with a written version.’ How do you take those kinds of considerations into your instruction so that what you’re doing is really removing barriers before they exist as opposed to after you find them?” he said.
“It’s also really well-founded in neuroscience. [Universal design] looks at ‘why,’ ‘what,’ and ‘how.’ It speaks to engagement. ‘How do you get kids engaged in learning?’ That’s the why. ‘What’s in it for me?’”
“Then, finally … how do the students demonstrate their mastery? It may be a video. It may be a group report. It may be a project or a constructive report. All of those are different ways that a student can build and demonstrate their mastery,” he added.
The response to universal design at Bartholomew has been positive so far, Jamerson said.
“We’re seeing the phrase ‘personalized learning’ in the right way, across the board,” he said. “Each class is tailored and constructed for the student and to remove those barriers, including things like assessment.”
Jamerson said his department continues to work on other edtech initiatives as well.
The district has begun moving documents and applications to the cloud, and making conscious, careful decisions about how to handle each infrastructure upgrade, Jamerson said.
An ongoing challenge in the district is the homework gap. “A large segment of the community” — he estimated about 25 percent of the population within his district’s 330 square miles — does not have access to broadband “of any sort.” One of the main issues Jamerson and his team hope to address is how to service those areas.
“We’ll most likely work with our local government agencies to try and add capacity one way or another,” he said.
Wyatt Kash contributed to this article, which was based on an interview EdScoop conducted with Jamerson during CoSN’s recent annual conference.