Forward Learning

Next Generation Learning Initiative

Executive Summary

Published September 2014. To access the original document directly or to print, click here.

The rise of technology and the Internet has driven profound changes in the way we do, think and learn, all largely within the last decade. Their growth has had a dramatic impact on nearly every industry, creating a truly global economy that moves faster and is more agile than ever. This information-driven economy is unbound by time-zones, borders, distance, or language, and demands of our students a broader set of skills for success than ever before.

Throughout the past five years, the Las Virgenes Unified School District has made great strides in growing its technology systems and infrastructure, laying a foundation for a significant shift in technology use within all of its classrooms. With the Common Core State Standards bringing new demands on our students and teachers, coupled with changing expectations of colleges and the workplace, now is the ideal time for LVUSD to transform its curriculum and educational experience with a series of targeted investments aimed at creating a next-generation learning environment.

Over the next four years, the District, with the help of its Education Foundation and parent organizations, will invest over two million dollars into the Forward Learning Initiative, a program designed to transform teaching and learning across the District. This progressive plan describes extensive professional development, enhanced data systems and services, and personal mobile technology for students and staff. These efforts will result in personal growth and increased academic achievement for all students.

The District recognizes that the most important element of a successful technology plan is a well-trained and prepared instructional staff. Therefore, the Forward Learning Initiative contains extensive staff development and support for teachers. Thirty-two hours of face-to-face training, spread throughout each program year, will engage that year’s target teachers in the effective use of technology and data to drive student achievement. In addition, a comprehensive mentor/coach program will be established, with mentors at each school taking the role of lead-technologist for the school site. These mentors will receive an additional sixteen hours of coaching/leadership training. All teachers will receive five half-days of release time for collaboration and group work, and District specialists will provide job-embedded modeling and professional development throughout the school year.

Beyond staff development, the Forward Learning plan identifies specific curriculum goals and strategies for the District to reach those goals. These strategies have been statistically shown to generate success in increasing academic achievement and creating transformative change. Teachers and students will use a variety of tools within the District’s digital ecosystem to evaluate, communicate, collaborate, share, and swap content and other digital creations. Students will use self-evaluation tools to receive immediate feedback on their writing, for example, freeing up teacher time and ensuring that a student’s final submission is their “best work”. Teachers will utilize data from this and similar evaluation tools to determine individual student needs, provide immediate feedback, and analyze student growth over time. Armed with a wealth of valuable data, teachers will have all the information necessary to develop or adjust instructional strategies to better meet the needs of their students.

The use of this digital ecosystem will add “real-world” relevance to student work, as students will post their creations online for peer-review, feedback, and collaboration. Students will not only use a variety of media within their creations, but will also learn to analyze media for validity and appropriateness, learning to choose media wisely to meet their communication goals, considering the audience for their work at every step of the way.

The Forward Learning program will be rolled out using a phased approach, in an effort to maximize the effectiveness of staff and training efforts. For the first year, all sixth grade teachers and students will be the focus. In subsequent years, students in grades three, six, and nine will be integrated into the program, with students from the prior year’s efforts carrying their technology to their next subsequent grade level. Within four years, every student and teacher in grades three through twelve will have taken part in the program.

Student devices will be acquired via a “Hybrid” Bring Your Own Device model, through which the District will set minimum hardware standards and parents will have the opportunity to purchase an appropriate device for their student(s). Devices will be provided for checkout through the school library to students who are unable to bring them. In addition, free software will be utilized, which will enable the District to create a consistent environment for teachers and students. This will not only keep costs low, but will also maximize the effectiveness of staff development and support programs, creating a sustainable program for the long term.

Finally, no innovative program should be implemented without a formal plan to evaluate its effectiveness. The Forward Learning program will use a variety of measures and tools to determine growth in both technology skills and academic achievement. Teachers, students, and parents will utilize a carefully crafted self-assessment tool that will provide details on technology skills and abilities district-wide, including recommended strategies for growth by individual, classroom, and school. Academic growth and utilization rates will be measured by utilizing key tools in the digital ecosystem, as will academic growth through periodic local and state assessments.

There is no question that the primary beneficiaries of the Forward Learning initiative will be the students at LVUSD’s fourteen schools. This disciplined implementation plan provides a clear strategy for increasing academic achievement, providing next-generation technology and media skills, and preparing LVUSD students for immeasurable future success in college and career.

Las Virgenes Unified School District - 4111 Las Virgenes Road, Calabasas, CA 91302