Mar 12 2013

CoSN 2013: Districts Transition to Digital-Rich Learning Environments

Blended learning pioneers highlight their programs in a pre-conference professional advancement workshop.

Digital content is changing the teaching and learning paradigm in notable ways. But every district adapts differently, based on its socioeconomic and cultural circumstances.

In an effort to leverage the experience and expertise of those districts advancing student-centered learning in digitally rich environments, the Consortium for School Networking assembled a cadre of more than 110 educators and IT professionals from 25 districts in 16 states last summer to participate in Teaming for Transformation, a blended learning initiative. The group focused on how to: lead a digital conversion for student learning; build and advance a culture of instruction with digital resources and tools; and create and support a digital learning environment that reaches every student and teacher.

From June 2012 through March 2013, participants worked through epic-ed, an online community of practice, to share what they were doing in their districts and learn from one another. Their collaboration also included a site visit to Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina, one of the partners behind Teaming for Transformation, in early October.

Three of the initiative’s participating districts gave the K–12 leaders in San Diego this week for CoSN’s annual conference a sneak peek at some of those efforts in a Monday morning professional advancement workshop that preceded the conference’s official kickoff on Tuesday, March 12.

Transformation Tips and Tricks

Moderated by Ann Ware, one of CoSN’s project directors, the “Digital Transitions” workshop gave attendees insights into the following questions:

  • How has the digital transformation changed the way teachers and students work?
  • How has district and school leader collaboration changed?
  • How do you know progress is occurring?
  • What next steps are being considered?

Dr. Mark Edwards, superintendent of Mooresville Graded School District, spoke first about his district’s Digital Conversion transformation project, which aims to employ technology in ways that improve teaching and learning through increased student engagement.

“We’ve kept a laser focus on achievement,” Edwards said. “At the same time, we have offered a lot of cultural nurturance — creating a culture where there’s a sense of loving, caring and lifting with high expectations. And sometimes, that means tough love.”

In the five years since MGSD launched the project, “We’ve seen student-to-student and student-to-teacher collaboration really blow up,” Edwards added. “Our students are connecting in ways that wouldn’t be possible without digital resources. We don’t buy desks anymore. We buy tables.”

Other digital learning efforts highlighted in the workshop included College-Ready Education, a program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Metamorphosis Project of Mountain Brook Schools in Alabama; Katy (Texas) Independent School District’s Mobile Learning Device and Bring Your Own Device initiatives; and Lewisville (Texas) Independent School District’s 1:X program.

The workshop concluded with remarks from CoSN’s Denise Shorey, who announced that the organization will launch a new leadership initiative on Wednesday, March 13. The goal of Designing Education Networks, she said, will be “to provide vendor-neutral tools and resources” to help districts design and develop robust networks that can support a personalized, technology- and project-based learning environment.

Visit our CoSN 2013 hub for more coverage from the show.

To learn more about Katy ISD’s BYOD initiatives, view our archived Feb. 14 BYOD security webinar and read “How Schools Are Making the Shift to BYOD” and “Tips for Building Your Web 2.0 Toolbox.”

Take II

The Consortium for School Networking is currently accepting applications for Teaming for Transformation II, which will give participants opportunities to collaborate both virtually and face to face from June 2013 through March 2014.

The new iteration of this blended learning initiative will focus on:

  • district and school leadership for fostering a student-centered learning environment;
  • professional development that advances excellence in instruction with digital resources and tools;
  • development of an infrastructure and mobile learning policies and guidelines supporting a digital conversion; and
  • realignment of district and school financial resources.

Katy (Texas) Independent School District will host a site visit for cadre members Oct. 7-8.

To learn more and apply, go to