LISD engages students through innovative initiatives

Dear Lewisville ISD Community,

As we begin the year, I would like to share with you some exciting new initiatives that focus on engagement, enrichment and rigor. These initiatives include 1:X™, project-based learning and e-Portfolio systems. To ensure we continue offering a high quality, world-class education, these innovations are critical to providing a personalized educational experience for all of our students.

These initiatives have allowed for more teacher collaboration across grade levels and the district. They are working as teams and innovating together resulting in more engaging and enriching work that allows for rigor to take place. Rigor has been equated to passing a difficult test. We believe it should be in the work our students do. We not only want to maintain rigor, we want to increase it. These initiatives are just a few examples of innovations that allow our students to continue achieving at high levels.

1:X: Providing tools to engage learners
This year, students and campuses will receive iPads along with their teachers. Campuses will also have MacBook Airs available to students for any additional project needs. These Apple products are nationally recognized for student creation and collaboration.

To prepare for the 1:X rollout, we hosted a summer 1:X camp. During the camp, teachers received their iPads and learned how the devices can be used in the learning and teaching process. This seven-day camp was full of teacher collaboration with national experts to provide hands-on experiences. The feedback from our teachers has been extremely positive and has generated excitement about the possibilities these tools can provide to make learning engaging for students. Also, many additional trainings and online resources have been available to support our teachers and staff.

Last year, the initiative was introduced at Downing and Killian Middle Schools, as well as Lewisville High School. Elementary campuses purchased iPad carts where students could use them to further their learning. The results at these model campuses are astounding. Students are creating multi-media projects, publishing iBooks and blogging about their reflections on what they are learning. Our parents are sharing that their students are more excited about school, having higher levels of class participation and their grades are a reflection of their enthusiasm.

Project-based learning (PBL): Providing meaningful and relevant work
Across LISD, campuses started utilizing project-based learning to engage students, as well as provide challenging work where students must think critically. This effort has been extremely successful. Several projects focused on students researching and creating solutions for today’s marketplace.

The PBL model focuses on a problem where students work in teams or individually to research, analyze and find solutions. They capture their analysis and rationale for the solutions in a project format. In many instances, students presented their findings to business owners, where they answered questions and received feedback.

Because of the PBL format, teachers have changed the learning process. They are sharing ideas and traveling across the district to work with other teacher teams. They have taken risks by changing how they instruct their students. For example, teachers became facilitators and guided student learning instead of lecturing where answers are given to students.

At the end of the PBLs, teachers were amazed at the profound levels of learning. Teachers commented on students who normally don’t participate in class became highly engaged. Parents stated their students shared what they were learning in great detail and had meaningful conversations about school. Most importantly, our students said they owned their learning.

e-Portfolios: Establishing an informative assessment
Also this year, many of our campuses will incorporate an e-Portfolio system that will track our students’ work for the entire school year. An e-Portfolio is individualized, where students can see first-hand how far they have come in their learning. It allows teachers, parents and students to have one-on-one conversations identifying how the learning has progressed, areas where students have excelled and areas for improvement. We believe an e-Portfolio is one form of assessment that motivates and inspires our students.

Last year, our East Zone assistant principals researched the effectiveness of e-Portfolios. Because of their hard work, many of our campuses began implementing this system last spring, and some of our schools are beginning to implement it this fall.

These initiatives are only a few tools that will help us achieve high levels of engagement, enrichment and rigor. In LISD, high expectations have always been important to teachers, staff, parents and community. We want to not only maintain these, we want increase them – they are essential for students to thrive in their future.

Dr. Stephen F. Waddell, Superintendent
Lewisville Independent School District

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