The Art of Total Grassroots Transformation

Contributed By

Matt Essert

Contributing Writer

The Art of Total Grassroots Transformation

Posted in Community | October 01, 2015

After decades of “industrial-style” education as he called it, Robert Schuetz was understandably wary of the actual possibility of transforming the fundamental nature of education.

But as the Technology Coordinator at Palatine High School in Palatine, Illinois, Schuetz decided he’d have to eventually embrace change. Now, after three years of using Schoology, if you asked him whether or not it’s possible to transform the fundamental relationship between school, education, and learning, his answers is an “emphatic, yes!”

Breaking Down the Traditional Classroom Walls

“Schoology is transforming our schools,” Schuetz says bluntly. Instead of being bound by the traditional learning environment, students within his system are being empowered by the internet and mobile devices to stay engaged in their learning, even on off-hours and during inclement weather.

Teachers are using the system to share materials and lesson ideas not just with each other, but also among larger, generous learning communities. In the realm of extracurricular activities, coaches are using Schoology’s Groups feature to coordinate practices in the face of “darkness, lack of physical space, and scheduling regulations.”

And for teachers, it’s never been easier to “monitor, observe, and contribute to a learning culture formerly isolated to approximately 600 square feet,” Schuetz says.

Flattening the Instructional Hierarchy

Aside from the sharing of information among instructors, Schoology has granted teachers at Palatine High School the ability to “transform teaching by flattening the instructional hierarchy,” Schuetz explains.

The teacher is now a facilitating co-learner in the classroom, giving students more opportunities for interaction, engagement, and collaboration 24/7/365.

Some instructors have even taken to hosting virtual office hours through the BigBlueButton app. Others still have found they've gained consistency through common assessments and learning standards, thereby increasing the ability for teachers to have meaningful and productive discussions.

The Power of Connected Learning

After Schuetz realized the capabilities of Schoology, he and his colleague Keith Sorensen led their district’s adoption efforts, growing from 35 to more than 15,000 active users in just a few years. While this sounds great, such growth wouldn’t be anywhere near as effective without the ability to keep users interconnected and easily in communication.

To tackle that, Schuetz and his team have been working on an “online, self-paced digital citizenship course for students” that uses gamified elements, mastery learning standards, and digital badges to maintain common standards and goals across users.

They had previously incorporated a similar strategy to gamify their school’s professional development with great success. Providing a highly interactive learning experience for students is the logical next step.

Furthermore, Schuetz and Cory Klinge, a fellow Schoology Ambassador, have started “co-moderating an educational chat on Twitter called #SchoologyChat,” in which Schoology users from around the world gather online and share their thoughts and tips.

Total Grassroots Transformation

In the past three years, Schuetz’s district has “moved from the pilot phase of Schoology to full implementation of a 1:1 learning environment supported with iPads,” he says. “The opportunities to connect and learn have never been stronger or more numerous,” for their instructors, coaches, parents, and, most importantly, their students.

"With Schoology, we are transforming education in our district and around the world."

Robert Schuetz
Technology Coordinator
Palatine High School
Educator of the Year 2015

Written by Matt Essert
Header image by whologwhy, CC 2.0

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