How Oxford School District inspires student engagement
In the head-to-head competition for the hearts and minds of 21st century students, media and machines seem to have gained an edge over teachers. With students immersed in readily available Web access and captivated by the digital world, distractions abound. But when the school district in the small Mississippi town of Oxford stocked its teachers’ toolkits with the Schoolwires® Centricity™ website and content management system, teachers found themselves on a more level playing field.
The tools for success
Anyone who’s ever hammered their finger while trying to hang a picture can attest to the fact that a tool is only as good as the skills of the person using it. So Oxford School District determined to get the most out of its Centricity investment, placing a priority on the successful launch of its most comprehensive Web site to date. It also invested in comprehensive training to make sure all teachers had the skills to handle the system’s powerful tools.
“Oxford teachers are required to keep individual Web pages and use them to stay connected to students and parents. The district expects them to post at least once a week, even if only to update lessons, assignments and presentations,” said Lauren Hitchcock, Webmaster for the Oxford School District. “And every teacher’s annual review includes an evaluation of how successfully they used technology.”
Since implementing Centricity, Hitchcock has concentrated her efforts on getting even the most novice of technology users up to speed and comfortable with the system’s features and applications, from updating assignment calendars and creating online field trip permission forms to uploading videos and slideshows.
While Hitchcock notes that some teachers like to keep their Web pages basic, others have seen a direct correlation between their commitment to creating an exemplary Web page experience and their students’ deepening engagement, within and outside of the classroom.
Chris Baughman, a math teacher at Oxford High School believes that some of his students’ best learning takes place beyond the walls of his classroom — and he’s got the upward trending Web stats and improved test scores to back him up. Since launching his Web page on Centricity, Baughman has created a resource-rich environment that supports learning wherever his students may be, including tips, lessons, assignments and practice quizzes from the current and previous school year. (Other Oxford High math students have been known to raid Baughman’s Web page for study aids, too.)
“Since my Web page launched, I’ve noticed that more students e-mail me after school to ask questions and clarify homework issues. I’m more accessible — and so are the materials they need to prepare for class. Even when my seniors go on their college visits, they’re still getting their homework online through my Web page and keeping up-to-date with assignments,” Baughman said. “And quiz and test scores are up from last year.”
Kari Barrett, a 2nd grade teacher at Oxford Elementary School and another one of Lauren Hitchcock’s star pupils, has observed a change in her students’ parents since she learned how to use Centricity’s photo gallery application and video upload feature to keep her Web page up-to-date with fresh content. Instead of signing on to her Web page when they have a moment, they make it a point to review the page with their children.
Barrett said, “Because we’re virtually bringing parents into the classroom, my students seem to feel a greater pride of ownership in what happens here. I’ve noticed increased attention spans, more hands raised all around — and even behavioral improvements — because they want their parents, grandparents, even brothers and sisters to be proud of them.”
Oxford School District, a small district looking to implement big plans on a limited budget, found in Schoolwires a partner that shares its vision for the impact technology can have on the 21st century classroom. The Centricity website and content management system allows teachers to create and maintain their own feature-rich, do-it-yourself Web pages that are already fundamentally changing the learning environment.