Connie White prefers not use the term '21st century skills', which generally refers to technological skills needed to succeed in tomorrow's workplace.
Instead, Connie, the Technology & Learning Director at Lakeview Academy in Gainesville, Georgia, prefers to talk about the concrete skills that make up this umbrella term. Instead, she talks about digital literacy, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and research skills.
“The goal is to help students develop the skills they need to be successful in the future,” Connie says.
itslearning provides new skills development
She believes that in order for students to acquire these and other skills they need the right tools, which is why Lakeview Academy implemented itslearning this September.
“The tool, in this case itslearning, gives the students the framework to obtain and develop these concrete skills. The framework itslearning provides is essential for success,” she says.
Lakeview Academy, an independent school for grades K2-12, is divided into a lower, middle and high school and has 580 students. itslearning was introduced to every class and every student in grades K-12 this fall.
Innovative strategy gains national attention
Technology is no stranger to Lakeview Academy. In 1998, students in grades 9-12 started using laptops in all of their classes. In 2005, the school implemented Moodle and teachers began practicing blended learning, which combines elements of the virtual classroom with face-to-face instruction.
In 2009, the school implemented a remote school plan, which allows teachers to teach electronically in case of school closure. This plan proved successful when, in 2011, a winter storm closed the school for a week and students kept up with their work online. This garnered national media attention from outlets such as USA Today.
“We're pretty far along in terms of the development of our technology program. But it didn't happen over night. It is the result of a long progression of staff development,” Connie says.
In order to further advance their technology initiatives, Lakeview chose itslearning.
“itslearning is intuitive. It's less confusing than our previous open source solution and itslearning is much more kid-friendly for the lower grades,” Connie says. “It lets the teachers focus on what is important – the learning.”
itslearning impresses academic council
itslearning was chosen by the school's academic council, which comprises the heads of all of the school's departments. All subject areas are represented in the council.
Connie says the council was particularly pleased with the different interfaces offered by itslearning. This was important to Lakeview, because itslearning would have to cater to students in different grades.
They also realized itslearning would allow them to advance their blended learning strategy. Connie says itslearning will help teachers meet the needs of students in the same class with different ability levels.
“It will be helpful to reach and engage students with different needs,” she says. “itslearning lends itself very well to the area of differentiation. That, in turn, means that it really does lend itself to long-term retention. The academic council has a common goal that itslearning is something we are going to implement across the school.”
Generating enthusiasm for learning
Connie spent the summer before implementation training Lakeview teachers in how to use itslearning. At the upper school level, she expects teachers to use the platform for posting instructional materials, embedding links, videos and pictures and setting assignments. By the end of the year, she hopes teachers will be able to start using more of the advanced functions such as e-portfolios, blogging and process oriented documents to guide interactive learning.
“The goal is for all of our teachers to use itslearning to communicate with students and eventually parents,” Connie says. “Overall, I think the whole group is very tech savvy because we've used a variety of tools for years. I think that everybody will at least do the minimum.
“We want them to use itslearning to engage and foster the learning process. At the end of the day, it's all about the getting students excited about learning.”