Flipping the classroom: How the Morgan School District went from low tech to high tech
Morgan, Utah (December 17, 2021) - Terry Allen, IT Director of the Morgan School District, understands that technology is very important to helping students and staff adapt to new styles of teaching and learning.
“Technology is no longer a digital organizer and file cabinet for our staff,” said Allen. “Professional development is offered to help teachers learn how to use digital resources to enhance the classroom experience. Things are constantly changing, and technology provides an opportunity for students to keep up with those changes.”
The Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN), in partnership with the nonprofit Connected Nation, recently finished their 2021 inventory of technology within Utah’s public and charter schools. The Morgan School District took part in that inventory to assess where changing technology was most needed in its schools, and how it could help the students learn in new ways.
In 2015, UETN began tracking how technology is used in the classroom and the access teachers and students have to digital materials, devices, and platforms. Data from a previous inventory was released in 2019.
Flipping the script
Morgan School District first implemented technology in the classroom two years ago when a few teachers began using the flipped classroom model, a style of teaching that is half online and half hands-on learning. Shana Croft is a chemistry teacher at Morgan High School and has been with the district since 2013. She was one of the first teachers to try the model.
“When I first started teaching, we had little to no technology and struggled to even maintain a reliable internet connection for the first year or two,” said Croft. So, she decided to write a grant to get devices like Chromebooks into her classroom. “After I received the grant, I started to use the flipped classroom model — a form of blended learning” that incorporates technology with traditional teaching methods.
“Before I flipped my classroom, it just wasn’t enjoyable for the students and I didn’t feel like the kids were really learning as much as they could,” said Croft. “Over the summer, I recorded my lectures over all of my PowerPoint slides, then these videos became the student’s homework. It allowed my students to watch their lecture videos at home. Then, when they would come to class, we would do the traditional homework activities like the practice problems and other types of assignments.”
A new learning management system: Canvas
As Croft started to use the flipped classroom model, many other teachers did the same. Morgan School District implemented a popular learning management system called Canvas, where teachers can share information from their lessons and assign homework, quizzes, etc.
Adam Christensen is an eighth grade history teacher at Morgan Middle School. He quickly became proficient in Canvas when the new learning management system was introduced.
“I have been somewhat known as the ‘Canvas Guy’ for the school and the district to go and train other teachers how to use it,” said Christensen. “Some teachers will just use it for some homework, and others will use it to present. It's great if you have a substitute coming — you can record a lesson and have it there for the class. So, it just kind of manages the classroom.”
Croft has used Canvas as part of her flipped classroom as well. “It was the first year that Utah made Canvas available for free for all classrooms that I started using it,” she said. “It had a video feature that I would use basically to host my videos, but now I use it for much more.”
How COVID changed teaching methods
While in the first couple years, Canvas taught teachers new ways of teaching, the online learning management system became even more important when the COVID-19 shutdown happened, and all Morgan School District students were required to do remote learning.
“At the beginning, a lot of teachers were a little bit hesitant about using Canvas or Google Classroom, but COVID kind of forced them to start using it,” said Christensen. “It was really kind of a good thing that came out of COVID — now we have a lot of teachers that are using it more who were too nervous or scared to even try it before.”
“Canvas was very effective for students and teachers during COVID,” added Croft. “When we came back, I noticed teachers and students that had struggled with the technology or resisted it a little bit were experimenting with it more.”
All of this shows that changing technology not only helped the Morgan School District during COVID, but it also taught students and teachers the benefits of being more adaptive as a whole. And now, with the support and data from the UETN technology inventory, the Morgan School District will continue to make improvements.
“We are very grateful for the UETN technology inventory,” said Allen. “It has allowed us to identify assets that are being under-underutilized so that they can be repurposed in areas that are in need.”
About the Author: Lily McCoy is the Communications Social Media Specialist for Connected Nation. Lily provides support to the Communications Department through social media outreach and writing. She also adds a source of creativity to the team with a background in personal relations and marketing. Lily has a bachelors in corporate and organizational communications from Western Kentucky University.