Day Two is Too Late: How Grapevine-Colleyville Gets Digital Day One
Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD) located near Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, is a medium-sized district making a large impact by dramatically transforming the way their 1,200 teachers teach, and their 13,200+ students learn. In the seventh year of a 10-year strategic plan known as LEAD 2021, which stands for Leading Excellence – Action Driven, the district is focused on accomplishing its four core objectives of ensuring students are college and career ready, utilizing technology for learning, promoting citizenship and mutual respect, and building community involvement.
As a part of these strategic initiatives, the district is particularly proud to have expanded the use of technology in support of teaching and learning to include a 1:1 device program. Kindergarten through fourth-grade students are provided iPads, and fifth-grade students receive Dell Chromebooks. Students in grades 6-12 use Dell laptops with Windows 10. All students keep devices 24/7/365. Students in need of internet access at home may apply to receive it at no additional cost. There is also an option for students to use their own laptop if they prefer.
Recently, Kyle Berger joined the school district as Chief Technology Officer. Kyle has over 18 years in K-12 technology leadership across districts of various sizes and demographics in north Texas. He implemented his first 1:1 program in 2006 and saw the impact and value of data standardization, including identity management, at that time. Over the course of 18 years, Kyle continued to push various school systems into data and technology standardization.
Kyle acknowledges that being the lone driver of change in a district can be challenging.
When he saw GCISD’s LEAD 2021 plan, Kyle was intrigued and impressed. “It’s truly the guiding plan for the district. Today we are starting our LEAD 2.0 version to expand on the possibilities before us right now,” says Kyle. He notes that the Curriculum and Instruction Department was a driving force on changing the educational ecosystem throughout the district. The C&I team was pushing the Technology Services Department when he got there to be able to achieve seamless access and technology integration.
“When every student has a device in their hands, it’s unrealistic for digital resources to not be ready on day one. I worked with my team to establish a vision of digital day one” offers Kyle.
DIGITAL DAY ONE
By this, the CTO means that every learning technology resource should be ready to use on the first day of learning, whether that is the first day of school at the beginning of the year or the day a student transfers into the school district. For this to happen, the rostering of products has to be seamless. GCISD is able to achieve this by using the IMS Global Learning Consortium’s OneRoster® standard.
Adopting OneRoster liberates educators from the error-prone burdens of manually creating unique class roster data extracts for every digital text, web publisher, and platform provider and having to duplicate data entry of grades. Teachers and administrators save massive amounts of time and avoid countless issues using OneRoster. Having updated and real-time roster information with accurate student accounts and class groups means that students don't miss out on access, which is a major stumbling block to using online resources in the classroom.
Kyle could see that one of the hold-ups was the quality of the data going into the student information system (SIS). He says, “It is critical to ensure your data is clean, correct, and consistent as it is entered into the SIS, and to set policies around data entry standards that everyone understands. For example, some things that had to be worked out included duplication of course numbers and whether or not we use hyphens in names. By spending the time to work with our data clerks to achieve this level of data standardization, we are quickly getting to the goal of having zero errors in our rostering data.”
He goes on to say, “After seven years working towards 1:1, usage of our digital learning tools is ingrained in our students and teachers. They don’t wait for day two to get access.”
The Technology Services Department has worked very hard to find ways to make that level of service possible. In the past, it may have taken until November to get each digital learning product ready to use.
Working with the various companies to persuade them to adopt OneRoster is at the top of the to-do list. Kyle admits, “It was scary at first because we’re so much smaller.” Trying to convince vendors that they had to certify their products for the OneRoster standard was daunting; vendors weren’t always willing to listen so partnering with big districts and IMS Global helped achieve the goal.
The district encourages all of their vendors to become IMS Global Conformance Certified in OneRoster. Soon it will be a requirement. Through conversations with vendors and using RFP template language and other resources available to K-12 institutions such as the K-12 Digital Learning Revolution Program, GCISD has been able to make significant strides in building a foundation for their ecosystem. Developed under the guidance and leadership of IMS Global K-12 members, the Revolution Program empowers school districts of all sizes and needs to evolve their digital ecosystem for a better return on learning from their investments in educational technology.
At the start of the 2018-2019 school year, GCISD was 95% digital day one. Kyle notes that the district went from 5% to 95% in just one year.
“We are not perfect, and we still have work to do. We will get to 100% IMS-certified OneRoster usage among our vendors. We have put a stake in the ground; our curriculum team and everyone here at GCISD understands that we—the Technology Services Department—intend for software in our digital learning ecosystem to work for our students right away. One Roster gives us this ability,” he says.
What intimidates some districts about industry standards is that they have used internal staff to develop their own solutions. Kyle points out, “Technology is changing all the time. GCISD is more efficient and flexible because of our size. We aren’t eliminating resources; instead, we are empowering our staff to use open standards to create better solutions, faster. By embracing standards, the onboarding of digital resources becomes almost plug and play, giving us the ability to connect resources and forget about them to focus on more initiatives as a district."
According to the CTO, it comes down to TCO (total cost of ownership)—the real cost to make a particular software work within a district’s digital ecosystem. Kyle estimates that data standards take the cost to “next to nothing.” He includes all of the following when he is calculating his TCO for solutions that require custom integration: staff time, FTP sites including setup and maintenance, security issues, and validation issues. Whereas with integrations using open standards such as OneRoster, there are none of these costs included.
LEADING FUTURE CHANGE
When asked what the next few years hold for GCISD, Kyle states he has a big vision for a more integrated ecosystem. He says, “The silos are no more! Once OneRoster is fully operationalized, then we will continue personalizing learning by integrating our multiple sources of digital curriculum, learning apps, and tools using IMS Common Cartridge® and Thin Common Cartridge.” This step will give teachers, and students access to discrete learning objects in the right place at the right time.
Then the district will begin working on gaining advanced insight into student learning experiences via IMS Caliper Analytics®. Kyle says, “The holy grail for a CTO is to be able to see the impact of software on a student’s education. We want to be able to validate that learning technologies aren’t a distraction and that all of our tools are helping students to grow and succeed.”
He notes that as technology continues to change and evolve with time, GCISD is going to be well positioned to adapt because the district has adopted open standards from IMS. Kyle says, “It’s not going to matter what GCISD delivery platform will be because the standards are going allow the district to change and adapt over time.” Within GCISD we have established that our expectations of all digital content providers are to be aligned to industry data standards if they are to become our partners in educating our students.
Kyle imagines many areas for future exploration with IMS standards including virtual reality, STEM environments, interactive environments, working beyond the classroom environment, and even, perhaps, working with students to help develop the technical interoperability standards using their computer programming skills.