GISD back to school update

Garland ISD welcomed students who chose face-to-face learning back to campus on Sept. 8, and that night Director of Teaching and Learning Development Melissa Hill gave the District Affairs Committee an instructional update.

The district is utilizing Canvas, a learning platform that allows students to interact during classes, actively engage in assignments, take quizzes, collaborate with peers, communicate with teachers and more, according to the district.

The district website states that “all courses are housed in Canvas. Canvas will be for every student, every day regardless of their selected mode of instruction. Face-to-face students will participate in blended learning through the system while fully-remote students will be able to access all coursework. Teachers will be able to host their live lessons via Google Meets and house them in Canvas as well as document attendance, assignments and all communication to students and parents.”

“Aug. 10, our first day of remote school, we were at about 25,000 students accessing on that day," Hill said. "Seven days later on Aug. 17, we were at our peak number which is about almost 52,000 students. That is because of the incredible work of our principals, our teachers in encouraging our students, reaching out to families, distributing hot spots, that we were able to in such a short amount of time in a district this size, get that many students logged into a learning management system and into fully remote learning in five business days."

The district spent weeks prior to Sept. 8 preparing staff and teachers for face-to-face and remote learning. She reported that from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 there were nearly 30,000 live learning sessions hosted on Google meets in the district.

“We didn’t have to write a brand new curriculum because we already had a great curriculum focused on the TEKS. What we did was adapt our pacing calendars to kind of meet our transition time, but then also our teams have been working to digitize resources to take some of that work off of the teacher’s plate,” Hill said.

She explained that district staff does not do lesson plans for teachers because teachers have to individualize what they deliver to students based on the needs in their own classroom.

“What we create is what we call a Learning Plan, which is over a unit or a set amount of standards depending on the content area and level. We list the student outcomes, we list the vocabulary and then what we list are resources and activities that a teacher can pick and choose from to meet the needs of their own kiddos,” Hill said.

She reported that their next steps in supporting teachers in bridging the gap between teaching students in person and remotely, and in most cases, simultaneously, is to provide teachers with an outline on how to plan for hybrid lessons and how to best structure the class period so they provide opportunities for all students to participate in lessons whether the students be virtual, face-to-face with a device or face-to-face without a device.

Hill stated that going forward there will be a feedback loop in which district staff will gather feedback from teachers through Canvas focus groups and surveys to better help staff shape their support for teachers, and provide them with personalized training and support.

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