Transforming Education Through a Culture of Collaboration: An Interview with Dr. Will Deyamport
Dr. Will Deyamport, a District Instructional Technologist and Schoology Ambassador in Hattiesburg, MS understands the importance of creating a connected culture within his district. So we caught up with him recently to find out how he is breaking down communication barriers by inspiring educators to collaborate together.
Q: Tell us more about your school district. How many students do you serve and how many schools are there?
There are eight schools with an alternative school. We are mostly a Title 1 school district. We have about 4,300 students with an emerging ELL population and a growing 1:1 Chromebook initiative.
Q: What was the impetus for looking for an LMS?
We got a grant to go 1:1 at the middle school, and we knew that we wanted to use an LMS to help with workflow, to be able to blend the learning in the classroom.
Q: Why did your district choose Schoology rather than a competitor and what specific things pushed you towards that decision?
The ease of it. The social network feel of it, how easily we can communicate and collaborate.
Q: How has this ease of communication and collaboration impacted your district?
The biggest change is that we’re becoming more connected in terms of having things like school- and district-wide announcements and shared general resources. Educators are collaborating more now. And we are working on a big initiative to start delivering more professional development courses using Schoology.
We're also trying to better utilize the face-to-face time that we have with our instructors. I created a course called Schoology University, which is a hub where educators and instructional technologists can share units and lesson plans, regardless of their school affiliation or location. People from all over the country are using it, including several Schoology Ambassadors.
The course allows for informal learning and engagement. It’s great because you're able to learn from people with different expertise and experiences. It's really changing our lives in terms of where are we going digitally, outside of a traditional face-to-face, paper environment. It also makes the in-person time I have with instructors more meaningful because they're coming in with more specific questions having already gone through the course.
Q: What is a specific example of how instructors are collaborating? What are the benefits?
At the middle school, the instructors have been sharing for a long time. So much so, that their Schoology group became congested with resources. A colleague of mine, Albert Galeas, saw that there were actually too many folders and recognized the need to create master courses at the elementary level. He worked closely with other instructors, to build out master courses that allow everyone to take different pieces from what they already have or search for additional educational resources online and then share them. No one has to do the heavy lifting alone.
Q: How has the use of Schoology impacted students?
Students are very engaged. And the way that classes are set up, kids are able to work at their own pace. So when you have a student who is advanced, they can be in Schoology working at their leisure, doing advanced work, while the instructor is able to work individually with a smaller group that needs extra time. Educators are able to meet students where they are, and help them grow where they need to be.
Q: Can you speak to your experience with helping your faculty familiarize themselves with your LMS?
Once they dive into the process and understand how resource folders work and how to share and copy things, it becomes a natural fit. Once instructors are logged in, they’re there. They don’t need to log out or go anywhere else, and they have access to everything that they need. What I really love about the platform is that it’s a one-stop shop.
Educators can save their courses to resources and then they no longer have to rebuild the course again. All they have to do next year is put the same course back in and add, subtract or tweak as necessary.
They can better individualize and differentiate their lesson plans for students and they can do so in a more interactive way. They don't have to run off a thousand copies or have tons of physical paper folders or bins. They can find a video on YouTube that they think is awesome and then put that link into their resources. Then, when they find a need for that video, they can view it with their class. This is what teaching and learning looks like now.
Q: What advice do you have for schools that are considering, but are wary about introducing new technology into their schools?
My advice is to create a plan. What is your mission? Why are you going digital? You need to understand your purpose. How do you want instructors to teach? How do you want your district to change? Make sure that your infrastructure is built for it and understand that it will be a process. It will take time for everyone to get on board and to fully embrace it. It’s got to be a “we” effort.