STS Blog

Using Data & Technology to Improve Instruction
Using Data & Technology to Improve Instruction
Kimberly Mecham, Director of The Center of Leadership & Innovation

Assessing data collected in the classroom has had a transformative impact on educators' abilities to inform instruction, differentiate learning and identify students' strengths and weaknesses. According to the Data Quality Campaign – the nation's leading voice on education data policy and use – when teachers use data from classroom learning patterns to inform instruction, they are better positioned to support improved educational outcomes for students.

Data Driven Instruction

At STS, we draw upon multiple sources of data related to our children's learning patterns and results to improve curriculum. In partnership with the Center for Personalized Learning, our leadership team works with our teachers to determine what kinds of data will inform instruction, as well as how we collect, present and combine data with other classroom statistics to create a meaningful, well-rounded snapshot.

In order to collect useful data that will positively impact and inform lesson planning, teachers administer formative assessments at the beginning of the year, followed by conducting regular check points to evaluate student progress throughout the year. Our goal is to use this data to provide teachers with the ability to understand the needs of every student and inform personalized learning. Thoughtfully assessing student performance and growth figures will help ensure that each student has the opportunity to thrive and is challenged in areas where they excel but are also provided additional support in areas where they may need further development or support from teachers.

Teachers can also use this data to inform flexible groupings. Flexible grouping is a technique for grouping students to deliver instruction. For example, combining equal skill-leveled students together, or joining students together with various skill levels. To bring this to life, a teacher could lead a reading lesson and conduct direct instruction at the highest skill level, with ample support and scaffolding along the way, and then have students utilize different activities that enable all skill levels to stretch to the edge of their capabilities - something we refer to as edgework at STS. In this example, selecting a subject area that is highly appealing to those at the lowest skill level, such as dinosaurs in Kindergarten, is critical to provide added incentive for students to stretch. The intention is to create groups that students can learn from one another.

Integrating Technology Into Instruction

As a Microsoft Showcase School, STS works in close partnership with Microsoft and other industry leaders to offer students innovative learning experiences that incorporate technology. These include a 1:1 laptop program that allows students to work on their own devices and access educational tools at any time, as well as group projects that enable students to collaborate using OneNote in Office 365, Skype, and interactive white boards.

In addition, our 1:1 laptop program provides students with adaptive and personalized software in math and literacy, so students have the opportunity to supplement group instruction with technology, in a way that progresses and updates as they master the content. The program then sends teachers regular progress reports that highlight students' performance.

One example of adaptive software that enhances personalized learning is Membean. Membean is vocabulary software that provides students with the opportunity to learn words they don't already know and practice applying them in conversation and writing. This personalized approach provides students with support in subjects where they may need improvement or extra guidance, as well as encouragement or more of a challenge in an area where they excel.

Using Technology to Give More Student Voice and Choice

Integrating data and technology into instruction also allows teachers to create a rich learning environment that is safe and enables students to grow.

In as early as third grade, we give students the option to choose the platform in which they will demonstrate their knowledge (e.g. PowerPoint or Sway presentation, video, podcast, or other forms).

Our approach to personalize technology opens opportunities for students to express themselves and demonstrate their knowledge in a way that is most engaging to them – and allows teachers to respond and adapt to those preferences.

At STS, we are actively seeking new ways to integrate and apply technology and data to improve instruction and enhance student learning. One way we do this, is by encouraging and supporting our teachers to explore new innovations and resources in and outside of the classroom. For example, a second-grade teacher, Chris Neville, was eager to give her students the opportunity to discover a different approach to writing fables after having learned about an English Literature lesson that included building three sets of Legos to illustrate three stages of a fable. As part of this project, she had her students construct three different story (Lego) sets with characters, took photos, wrote a fable based on those scenes, and created a narrated PowerPoint presentation. She shared that these were the most creative and best written fables she had seen in more than 20 years of teaching because the students were so engaged in the process.

We look forward to bringing more powerful examples like this one to life. Encouraging both teachers and students to try something new, ask questions, and explore new alternatives will help integrate technology in a way that is meaningful and continue to excel our STS community.