Randolph Eastern supports a robust distance learning program with LanSchool Air
In the past few years, Randolph Eastern School Corporation in Union City, Indiana has made distance learning a key area of focus. The Indiana Department of Education counts eLearning days as regular instructional days, empowering districts like Randolph Eastern to take advantage of distance learning when inclement weather strikes or professional development time is needed.
Randolph Eastern has gone above and beyond by working with an edtech consultancy and appointing an internal technology task force called The Guided Coalition to ensure their edtech initiatives are providing truly transformative learning opportunities for students. The district started with on-campus distance learning drills and pre-planned distance learning days, and then incorporated same-day distance learning capabilities. When in classroom learning isn’t possible, the entire district is prepared to switch to distance learning without missing a beat.
Initially, the district was using LanSchool Classic, our locally hosted classroom management software. As IT Manager Blake Clevenger began implementing eLearning days, he recommended the district switch to LanSchool Air, our cloud-based solution, to enhance Randolph Eastern’s distance learning initiatives. With LanSchool, schools and districts have a ﬂexible classroom management solution that supports learning – whether it happens on campus or at home.
How cloud-based classroom management software supports distance learning
Before Clevenger implemented LanSchool Air to support distance learning, his district relied on email to help students and teachers communicate during eLearning days. However, many older students did not reliably check their email, and some younger students found email etiquette hard to master. “For certain levels, we have email turned off. A third grader might not be able to handle email where a fourth grader can,” Clevenger explained.
Moreover, teachers did not have real-time visibility into what students were working on, so it was difficult to confirm whether students were participating during class time. If technical challenges did arise (e.g. students ended up on the wrong web page), the teacher had no way of troubleshooting other than to ask the student to describe what was happening on their screen, resulting in a loss of valuable teaching time.
Clevenger recognized the need to have cloud-based classroom management software in place to support distance learning. Additionally, the switch to cloud-based software also solved other IT management challenges Randolph Eastern was facing. For example, rather than requiring a manual updating process, cloud-based classroom management software updates automatically. With LanSchool Air, Clevenger no longer has to manually push software updates to each student and teacher Chromebook – a significant benefit when devices are not physically accessible on campus during eLearning days.
Putting LanSchool Air to the test
Clevenger launched LanSchool Air with a small group of teachers and was immediately impressed by how easy it was to learn and use.
“It’s really a pretty straightforward piece of software. We started with the folks who were the most savvy and had a desire to use it,” Clevenger said.
“I thought the rollout was really simple. If there were any pain points, I don’t remember them.”Blake Clevenger, IT Manager, Randolph Eastern School Corporation
First-year science teacher Karli Bransteter agreed the ease of getting started exceeded her expectations.
“At first I was concerned because I was worried it would be complicated, but the fact that it synced with Google Classroom made it a million times easier,” she said. “It took me about 10 minutes to learn it. I instantly figured it out.”
Bransteter was away at an education conference when the pilot program began, giving her a unique perspective on the software’s capabilities.
“I was at a conference, and I was able to see if my kids were working while I was two hours away. It was super handy,” she said. “Once I was back, I used it a lot day-to-day to keep my stragglers on task. Also, if kids were working in the hallway, they could message me a question instead of going in and out of the classroom, which reduced distractions. One other benefit was it helped me be more discrete with my discipline — I could just type a request to the student, which was not as abrasive.”
After the successful pilot, the easy scalability of the cloud-based software meant Clevenger could continue to roll it out to individual teachers as they requested it. Soon, most of the district’s teachers were using LanSchool Air.
LanSchool Air helped Randolph Eastern weather COVID-19 school closures
When COVID-19 closed the schools in Randolph Eastern’s district in April 2020, both teachers and students were prepared. LanSchool Air, combined with frequent class meetups in Google Hangouts, became an even more necessary tool as the district quickly transitioned to full-time distance learning.
“Ever since we got on LanSchool Air, I was big on telling other teachers about it, how awesome it was. Now remotely it’s important to be able to see if your kid is having an issue — and you can still see it in real time instead of them having to explain it over email or text.”Karli Bransteter, 7th-8th Grade Science Teacher, Union City Jr. High School
She shared how the ability to chat has opened up the lines of communication between her and her students. “The ability to do whole group chats is key because students are more willing to communicate that way,” she explained. “And instead of calling kids out by themselves, I can just say, ‘Some of you aren’t working the way you’re supposed to,’ and it gets everyone back on track. Plus, it’s good for reminders.” Bransteter also mentioned that the Push Website and Blank Screen features are helpful for directing students’ attention to where it needs to be.
But perhaps most importantly, it’s given her a way to stay connected with students who may otherwise have become disengaged while learning from home. “I’ve been able to keep up with kids I definitely would have lost without LanSchool Air. Some kids just are never as engaged, but with remote learning, it’s important to make themselves present,” she said. “I’ve been using LanSchool Air to make sure they’re staying on their computers. If they’re not, I can contact their parents to check in, and sometimes I learn things like they’re having Internet issues.”
Digital learning will continue to expand
Both Clevenger and Bransteter expect they will continue distance learning to some extent in the new school year, regardless of the virus’ impact. Bransteter is focusing on the positives that have come from the school closure situation. “I’ve learned about myself as a teacher,” she said. “After this, I will be a better teacher because of what we’re having to go through.”
She also expects to use digital devices more heavily in class when school does resume. “I’ll be more reliant on the computer when we go back,” she said. “But I think it’s a good thing, because it’s changing kids’ digital literacy and teaching them important skills for collaborating and communicating.”
As for students, she thinks the effects of the school closures will also net long-term positive perspective shifts. When the school closures began, Bransteter organized a weekly Google Hangouts meeting as a space for students to interact with her and each other, but was initially skeptical anyone would attend. To her surprise, students not only attended but were enthusiastic to reconnect with her and their peers.
“Kids who weren’t the most fond of school before have been reaching out and saying how much they miss it,” she shared. “After this, kids and parents will have more of an appreciation for school and what teachers are doing. I think parents knew to some extent, but a lot of kids have taken for granted what a privilege school is.”
Clevenger is proud of how well the school stood up to the challenges posed by COVID-19 closures. He shared, “Compared to many other districts, we were more prepared for full-time distance learning because of the tools and processes we had in place.” As Randolph Eastern prepares for the upcoming school year, LanSchool will play a key role in helping students and teachers stay connected, wherever they may be working. “The vast majority of teachers are comfortable with the technology. While most teachers would rather be guiding kids in the classroom using the hybrid model, they feel comfortable teaching fully remotely if needed” he said. Tools like LanSchool Air help facilitate distance learning, ensuring students continue to reach their goals regardless of whether learning takes place in school or at home.
Randolph Eastern uses LanSchool Air on 1:1 Lenovo Chromebook devices. Learn how you can get a special bundle discount on Lenovo devices with LanSchool Air for your school district and maximize your investment.