Innovative Schools Insights
Oct. 2023

Technology Takes Learning Outside of School Walls

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, slightly less than half (49 percent) of schools implemented one-to-one technology device programs, according to a 2019 survey by OverDrive Education and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, as reported in EdTech. But the use of technology has quickly grown. By 2022, about 90 percent of middle and high schools provided students with tech devices, and 84 percent of elementary schools were doing the same, according to a 2022 EdWeek survey.

Effectively designed connected learning environments requires coordinated implementation and adoption of varied education technologies to achieve the best student outcomes.

The Cleveland Metropolitan School an example of the technological evolution. With 36,000 students, CMSD is the third largest public school district in Ohio. Some students were provided digital device before the pandemic.

CMSD kicked its digital efforts into high gear when the pandemic forced remote learning, Jeanelle Greene, executive director of IT strategy execution and governance for the district, told EdTech. Investments were made in next-generation digital whiteboards, such as Clevertouch for teachers, and tablets and laptops for students.

“The digital whiteboards incorporate applications and make it easier to display and share information digitally while allowing students to engage with their teachers and with other students in the classroom,” Greene told EdTech.

The district ramped up its networking infrastructure with Cisco Meraki and has extended Wi-Fi service to school buses. Resources are needed to help students meet educational goals through consistent, reliable access to the technologies — in the classroom, on the school bus, at home and elsewhere, Greene said. The intent is for kids to take advantage of these different connection points to stay engaged in the learning process, she said. 

Student Ownership & Control Accelerate Learning

Students want to feel ownership and control of their learning, according to the American Institutes for Research. Among the findings:

Students who believe their knowledge increases over time produce better IQ test results.

A growth mindset is important to master content. Mastery of content is preferred to studying for a test score or course grade.

Mastery-focused goals help students absorb information with more depth and organization.

These skills and behaviors correlate with higher education and career outcomes.

Taking ownership of personal learning and future goals requires skill and a willful intent.

High-quality motivation – a willingness to take ownership of personal learning -- is best achieved when basic psychological are satisfied. These include autonomy, mastery, and relatedness.

Motivation to take ownership of learning requires metacognitive skills such as the ability to plan, monitor, evaluate, and make changes to behaviors to effectively confront challenges.

CoSN 2023 Hurdles and Accelerators report 

Hyperconnected Schools Expand Learning Opportunities

At the district and the school level, it’s critical to ensure faculty and staff possess the digital literacy needed to effectively use technology device investments effectively, according to an article in EdTech.

“One of the biggest challenges is helping people understand the potential of the technology and integrating it into the daily workflow in a way that generates a significant return,” says Claudia Newman-Martin, a managing director and partner with the Boston Consulting Group, which frequently works with K–12 school districts.

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District, with 36,000 students, is the third largest public school district in Ohio Cleveland district and employs coaches who travel from school to school, helping users troubleshoot problems and learn to make effective use of technologies such as Google and Microsoft, said Jeanelle Greene, executive director of IT strategy execution and governance for the district.

The district focuses on digital literacy. That means device maintenance and educating students, families and staff on managing and caring for these devices. Greene said. “We also help families get internet access from one of our partners or by providing a hotspot.”

“We look at it from an enterprise level,” Greene says. “The IT department takes ownership of that one-to-one program. We’re getting the devices enrolled into mobile device management and ensuring adherence to rules and policies that might have been harder to address on an individual school basis.”

Rules include enforcing guidelines around banned versus allowed websites, permitted downloads and uploads, or security updates and patches.

“We have applications that teachers and principals can use to ensure that classroom students are focused on learning and not just surfing the internet,” Greene said. “We also have a robust set of cybersecurity applications that monitor for threats and risks.” 

Purposeful Play Produces Positives

A survey of 1,000 K-8 teachers and students finds nearly all (98 percent) students believe purposeful play helps them learn. Most (96 percent) teachers believe play with intent is an effective way for learning, according to a study by Wakefield Research.

Still, 40 percent of teachers use purposeful play only once a week or less, and nearly half (47 percent) too much time is spent on it.  

“Many teachers feel they can’t easily incorporate play into the classroom. But when you see students engaged and learning through play, it clicks,” says Dr. Jenny Nash, Head of Education Impact, U.S. for LEGO Education. 

Michigan Schools Add 1,300+ Mental Health Professionals

Michigan has added more than 1,300 mental health professionals to its schools in the last five years, according to state records, as reported in Chalkbeat Detroit.

Michigan schools hired a total of 1,316 staff to address student’s mental well-being, including counselors, social workers, and psychologists. The hirings occurred from the 2018-19 school year through 2022-23.

“Providing these services during the school day leads to early identification and intervention, better access to care, better academic outcomes, a more positive school climate and safety, better psychosocial outcomes, and better engagement with students, families, and educators,” state superintendent Michael Rice said in a statement.

In recent years, legislators have aimed to help more students access counselors and other mental health professionals. The Michigan school aid budget allocated $150 million in 2023 to improve mental health and $328 million for 2024

Indiana Developing Online Dashboard to Boost K-12 Attendance

An early warning dashboard will be available to Indiana's K-12 districts before the 2024-2025 academic year to help identify students who are at risk of not graduating on time due to chronic absenteeism and other issues, according to a news release.  Delivery to all districts is planned for the start of the 2024-2025 academic year. Some districts will pilot the tool in the weeks and months ahead, according to a news release and reported by

The dashboard will identify at-risk students as those who have less than an 80 percent chance of graduating from high school on time, according to the news release. Attendance will be among several indicators for identifying students in that category. After the tool identifies who is at risk and why, it will narrow in on areas of difficulty for the at-risk student. Factors include attendance, academic performance, disciplinary records and other issues, and will provide educators guidance for meetings with families.

“This information is intended to be shared directly with parents and families to provide support in the home as well as at school,” department spokeswoman Molly Williams wrote in an email “Educators will also be able to export individual indicators and profiles to guide increased discussion and engagement with families.”

An Oct. 4 presentation by state legislators is available on the Indiana Department of Education website.

Two NYC After-School Programs Teach Students About Healthy Eating

The Hip Hop H.E.A.L.S., or Healthy Eating and Living in Schools, after-school program was developed last year by Columbia University neurologist Olajide Williams and hip hop artist Doug E. Fresh to use music to help teach students about healthy eating, according to Chalkbeat New York.

This is one of two after-school healthy eating programs that are being studied as part of a partnership between the after-school provider New York Edge and Columbia University. About 300 students across 20 school sites were provided with either the Hip Hop H.E.A.L.S. program, or NY Edge’s Food Explorers program, with their nutritional choices tracked over the course of 10 or more weeks.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has prioritized establishing healthier eating habits among the city’s youth. Since the start of 2022, the city has committed $1 million to integrating food education into schools in coursework, after-school programs and more, according to a recent report

Most recently, the city started its “Chefs in Schools” initiative, partnering with Wellness in the Schools to develop plant-based, culturally relevant recipes and train New York City public school chefs. 

“These meals will provide more than just nutrition,” Adams said at a press conference. “They will expose our children to flavorful and healthy eating — because food has to taste good. No one wants to eat boring food.”

The focus on teaching students to navigate settings like chain restaurants is especially important as many kids in the programs live in areas with few healthy food options.

“I’d love everyone to get home and have a cooked meal,” Williams said. “But the reality is many people live in food swamps. They’re going to patronize food swamps, and it’s about how we get them to make better decisions within those swamps — within those limited choices.”

Williams believes that combining music and learning in the H.E.A.L.S program can help change eating choices.

“We all learn our ABCs through music, for example,” he said. “Our studies have shown that leveraging music creates not just immersion, but greater retention, greater learning, and a greater ability to influence behavioral change.”