For several years now, Yorktown Community Schools has been on the cutting edge of technology and innovation.
The Indiana district is fully integrated — each of its 2,500 students is equipped with a device of some kind — and it has successfully implemented “eLearning days,” or virtual school days.
But all that advancement comes with some challenges, and Holly Stachler knows those challenges well.
Stachler, named a 2017 CoSN NextGeneration Leader, is the director of eLearning and curriculum innovation for the Yorktown schools. In that capacity, she works with teachers on professional development and trains them to integrate technology into their curricula.
Teachers who have been at Yorktown for years enjoyed a steady, smooth technology transition and were able to follow along, Stachler says, “but then as we get new teachers in who aren’t quite as savvy with developing that digital content, we’ve found that they need a lot more support and a lot more personalized attention.”
“What it’s created is kind of a gap,” she adds. “So running one-size-fits-all professional development doesn’t work anymore in our district.”
In response, Yorktown is stationing a “tech integration coach” in each school building for the upcoming school year — someone who knows the classroom practices, content areas and buildings well enough to advise others who may not be as familiar.
“It’s my job to make sure it goes well, so that’s my goal [for 2017-18],” Stachler says.
In the meantime, Yorktown Community Schools will continue holding “eLearning days” in the coming academic year.
For example, if there’s bad weather in the area, the district could offer an “eLearning day” instead of canceling school altogether. Teachers use the school’s learning management system to provide instruction for the day. “It just provides a lot of flexibility,” Stachler says.
And not just for inclement weather, she says. If administrators want to hold parent-teacher conferences or a professional development opportunity for teachers, Yorktown can invoke those virtual option days again.
“Our district has been recognized as doing that well without sacrificing quality of instruction, because we want the same great quality to happen online as happens in the classroom,” Stachler says. “We’re very proud in our district that we’ve been able to do that — and do it well.”