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Landrum Middle School helps students take ownership over their learning

In July 2017, Kelli Coons and her principal, Tucker Hamrick, sat down to envision their goals for the Dynamic Learning Project (DLP) at Landrum Middle School in Landrum, SC. Together, they recognized the importance of having school innovation goals that were realistic and student-centered. Their goals were to encourage teachers to use technology as a tool to accommodate student needs and inform instruction, as well as to give students ownership over their personal learning goals through local and global learning networks. As teachers further integrate technology into their lessons, their efforts reflect the efficacy of digital tools in the classroom, which empowers both teachers and students.

As she started on her DLP journey, Kelli soon realized the benefits of the program’s focus on personalization. This method allows both the coach and teacher to discuss various challenges, select a specific challenge to address, brainstorm strategies to combat the challenge, implement the suggested solutions, and reflect on what worked and what didn’t.

“Teachers are looking for shared experiences and also for support to try things they have never tried before. As their coach, you can encourage, guide, and implement these strategies right alongside them.”

Kelli Coons, DLP Coach

Kelli noticed how teachers were much more engaged during one-on-one professional development sessions tailored to their needs, compared to a one-size-fits-all model. “Teachers are looking for shared experiences and for support to try things they have never tried before,” she says. “As their coach, you can encourage, guide, and implement these strategies right alongside them.”

A woman paying attention in class.

As she worked with teachers to engage their interest with technology, Kelli quickly saw how teachers enabled their students to take ownership over their own learning. Early in the fall, Kelli worked with Paul Hendricks, the chorus and strings teacher, to bring technology to his classroom. Kelli suggested that they try SmartMusic, a music learning tool, and Kami, a collaborative PDF annotation app. Thanks to these tools, students were able to play music and then receive a "grade" on the accuracy of their notes and pitch. They would be able to compare each time they played the piece to see if their score improved. The students loved the instant feedback and the ability to see their improvement over time.

Kelli also worked to create the Cardinal Chromebook Crew, a student-run technology help desk. Along with assisting school community members, the Chromebook Crew helped students take ownership of their learning goals and connect with local and global networks.

As the Chromebook Crew program launched, it was clear that the students would be able to take the lead on a project of this magnitude. In fact, teachers and students pointed to instances where students had already assisted with technology issues before the program had even begun. Experiences like this helped students use technology and apply their knowledge in the real world, giving them the types of skills they’ll need for college and beyond.

A young woman speaking by microphone.

Reflecting on the Dynamic Learning Project’s impact during the 2017-2018 school year, Dr. Jimmy Pryor, Assistant Superintendent for Accountability and Technology Services for the Spartanburg School District, credited it with helping Landrum Middle School “level up” its technology integration in comparison with other schools in the district. The staff at Landrum Middle School had been utilizing technology before DLP, but with the implementation of new tools and personalized coaching, teachers at Landrum have been able to fulfill the goals Kelli and Tucker first established for their school, by using technology as a game-changing tool in their classrooms, and empowering students through learning networks.

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