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Katy ISD

 
July 2017

Harnessing the Abundance of Digital Resources to Efficiently Personalize Learning

 
One of the best things about learning in the age of all things digital is the variety and richness of the learning resources that are available. From open educational content to primary source documents to reusable curriculum components from publishers of all kinds, there is no shortage of digital content to support personalized learning for each student. And yet this plethora of options is a double-edged sword. Teachers can find themselves spending hours logging into each platform or website to review what’s available. The process can be cumbersome and daunting; a bit like the wild west of digital content.
 
Recently the Association for Curriculum Supervisors and Directors (ASCD) published results of a survey of over 2000 educators. In results reported that almost two-thirds of administrators currently using digital content in their classrooms state that their school or districts' replacement of print with digital material will increase next year. And the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) published results of their IT Leadership Survey, which found nearly 90% of respondents expect their instructional materials to be at least 50% digital within the next three years. As options for digital content are growing rapidly, districts are challenged to establish a seamless foundation that enables students and teachers to easily select and combine the right resources and to collect and view data across the various tools and apps. What does all this mean? As the use of digital instructional materials continues to rise, it’s more important than ever to create a single plug-and-play ecosystem to ease the burden of accessing all the digital resources. 
 
“Being devoted to ensuring students and staff have the best software tools that support the Katy Independent School District curriculum is a strength,” says Darlene Rankin, director of instructional technology. “By continually evaluating the existing and researching new software, we are committed to providing the best digital tools to support the learning process and to further our students’ inquisitive minds.” The district is creating an ecosystem with tools and software for teachers and students to make the most of the digital resources available. The leadership and vision for a plug-and-play ecosystem have come from working with the members of IMS Global Learning Consortium (imsglobal.org), a non-profit member collaborative that is leading the future of ed-tech forward. As a Contributing Member, Katy ISD understands that requiring vendors to adhere to the interoperability standards reduces their costs, shortens their implementation times, and improves the experience of students and teachers accessing digital content. IMS Global’s Certifed Product Directory (imscert.org) contains nearly 400 products including those used by Katy ISD. Forward thinking vendors completed a process of proving that their products adhere to IMS interoperability standards in order to be certified and included in the directory. So products in this directory are guaranteed to work within a plug-and-play ecosystem.

Katy ISD’s Solution: MyKaty

Katy ISD is dedicated to offering the most current and relevant resources to students while they are learning at school as well as at home. Giving students a variety of age-appropriate learning objects such as, but not limited to, video, animations, simulations, audio files, timelines, and interactive text, provides each student with the best learning experience based on their preferences. Students can log in to the district portal, MyKaty, to access all District digital learning assets. Using IMS Global’s OneRoster®, Learning Tools Interoperability® (LTI®), Common Cartridge®, and Thin Common Cartridge® standards, the district has been able to aggregate all the disparate resources into one central hub for teachers and students to access. 
 
This greatly reduces time and frustration on the part of teachers as they plan for instruction and on the part of students as they investigate content to complete assignments. Another strong motivation for creating Katy’s ecosystem is their BYOD program. Rankin remarks, “Instead of having to create directions for what to do on a mobile device, what to do on a BYOD laptop, what to do on a district owned device and on and on, we can tell our stakeholders to just open up a browser on any device, log into MyKaty and everything that stakeholder needs is available to him or her. Resources that we receive from publishers are in a variety of formats:  LTI, Thin Common Cartridge or a single sign-on solution, but no matter the format, everyone starts with MyKaty.” 
 
The Instructional Technology Team has a goal to provide access to the age and grade level appropriate learning components for any particular user. Rankin adds, “I didn’t want a third-grade student having to decide whether she should click on that calculus textbook or not.” Using the OneRoster standard, each resource is rostered with only those students, teachers and classes who need to access it.

Building Capacity for Digital Learning

Katy has been successful in their approach to digital learning tools by making sure that all stakeholders bought into the vision and plan for centralized and integrated access to learning resources. Rankin points out that specific efforts were made to provide training to leaders, teachers, students, and parents while also ensuring that the portal is as easy as possible to use.
 
“Collaborating with fellow IMS Global members has been an important part of the journey,” says Rankin. “I’ve been able to gain insight into strategies for evolving our digital ecosystem based on those who have ‘been there, and done that’ already.”  Other district members have evolved their own strategy and approach based on their unique situation. Yet, all IMS Global member districts are all collaborating on the open educational technologies and integrated curriculum architecture that enables the flexibility to develop a plug-and-play ecosystem. 

Looking to the Future

“The future for digital learning in Katy ISD is very bright! We are continually improving our digital resource offerings,” says Rankin. She says one of the issues they will be tackling next is enhancing the curriculum framework by converting it to a digital format linked to the new machine readable state standards. As many districts have done, Katy has developed a curriculum framework that guides teachers in implementing the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards using the instructional resources available in the district. The framework, as well as TEKS, have been traditionally published as static documents. Now Rankin is focused on the goal of streamlining the work load for teachers by providing a digital version of the framework within their digital ecosystem.