By Utah Education and Telehealth Network
Travis Terry, Kane School District Technology and Assessment Director, recognizes how important changing technologies and access to high-speed internet are for his students and staff.
“Access to broadband internet has become an integral part of the daily instruction for every school in the Kane School District,” said Terry. “We must have access for our students to learn and for
our staff to assess.”
The Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN), in partnership with the nonprofit Connected Nation, recently
finished their 2021 inventory of technology within Utah’s public and charter schools. The Kane School District took part in that inventory to assess where changing technology was most needed in its schools, and how it could help students learn in new ways.
In 2015, UETN began tracking how technology is used in the classroom and the access teachers and students have to digital materials, devices and platforms. Data from a previous inventory was released in 2019. The Kane School District
has been providing one-to-one technology to its students for about six years. Each student now has access to his or her own Chromebook, in and out of the classroom. Superintendent Ben Dalton has seen the improvements over those six years thanks to the new technologies.
“I have seen teachers utilize the technology as part of their daily instructional practices to the point where it allows them to use differentiated instruction for students, and identify those areas where they strive to be efficient,” said Dalton. “It would’ve been very difficult to track that with a paper and pencil or some other method. This just shows a little bit of evidence about how important technology is in our schools.”
Before the pandemic, the Kane School District started using Canvas as an online learning
and management platform for its students. It helped them keep track of assignments, complete daily tasks and much more. When the COVID-19 shutdown began, this tool became even more important.
“We went to Canvas as a learning platform to push the curriculum out on a secondary level, but COVID just pushed that level up, allowing all our students to gain access, wherever they may be,” said Valley High School Principal Jim Wood. “I don’t think we can go back and have the pencil-to-paper class methods anymore because these online technology platforms act as a learning tool, and it’s been great. Even after the pandemic, the kids can still have access to that platform.”
Something else that’s very important to the district is making sure its teachers know how to utilize new technologies. Superintendent Dalton became aware of how efficient and tech-savvy his teachers were when it came time to make the switch to remote learning.
“When COVID hit, the state office gave us two days for our students and teachers to transition to online learning,” said Dalton. “On the second day, our teachers were ready while everybody else was still trying to figure it out. That speaks highly about the skill level of our teachers and administrators, for them to be able to transition to Canvas so seamlessly.”
Along with transitions to Canvas, Terry focused on making access to online learning easier by putting in mobile hot spots. He made sure the district had great Wi-Fi service and strong broadband connections. He worked hard to ensure that every student’s Chromebook could connect from almost anywhere. He also created cost-savings opportunities for families who struggled to afford fiber. The district stopped at nothing to ultimately help all of its students get connected.
“With our Wi-Fi, students could come to our schools, or get on a bus and travel to other schools for extracurriculars, and be able to walk off the bus, open their Chromebook and connect to their digital network,” said Dalton. “That ability to expand connectivity outside of our schools, or even just our district, has been so beneficial for our students.”
This connectivity has helped students maintain their skills and knowledge learned in the classroom even after the COVID shutdown.
“As we looked back through the data after COVID, we didn’t have a lot of learning loss in our district because of the strong connectivity we had,” said Dalton. “It was then decided that technology was important for us to stay on that learning curve and to continue to advance in that level. Discussion within our administration demonstrated that by picking up the most relevant pieces in tech, it would help our students learn better.”
The Kane School District did not make this happen alone. UETN was instrumental in helping district leaders utilize all available resources. Its support became the backbone to the district’s connectivity.
“UETN has been a very critical component. They came in and did assessments on our Wi-Fi connectivity and our wireless connection and then told us where we needed to have more hot spots,” said Terry. “They also purchased us a digital curriculum through a Brigham Young University (BYU) independent study. Our students could download that study and be ready to go. We now have several platforms for digital curriculum.”
Because the previous UETN technology inventory helped its students and teachers in so many ways, the Kane School District did not hesitate to sign on to participate in the 2021 inventory.
“UETN provided our superintendent with a copy of the technology inventory. He was then able to present it to our school board, which shows them how we’re doing in comparison to the state and other districts,” said Terry. “It helps when the school board is able to see that inventory and then support our initiatives to make sure that we stay on course with the state’s other districts.”
With help from UETN, the Kane School District is able to go above and beyond for its students when it comes to technology support. And with new data from this year’s UETN report, that trend is sure to continue.