On the cutting edge of education technology, Beekmantown (NY) Superintendent Dan Mannix presented strategies for building a successful virtual learning model, capable of drawing near perfect attendance, during a CFES Brilliant Pathways live webinar.
The August 13th event was part of the “CFES commitment to helping educators, schools and students utilize virtual learning during unprecedented times,” according to President and CEO Rick Dalton. Over the last four months, CFES has developed online “career hours” for students featuring professionals from STEM and other fields, interactive webinars, and virtual college tours for students led by CFES professionals who provide input on the realities of college life.
With a background as a coach, teacher, administrator and labor-relations specialist, Mannix has seen a range of education-based responsibilities. “How powerful is a pandemic?” he asked himself seven years prior to his district’s pivot in March. Though 99% of Beekmantown’s teachers didn’t know what Google Meet was when implementation began, they supported each other to master tech challenges of the 21st Century and meet the needs of their students.
“Dan Mannix is a national leader in 21st century learning, and he’s been a pioneer not just for New York’s North Country, but for the entire country,” said Dalton.
Beekmantown mobilized a tech committee and hired a director of 21st century learning, empowering schools to gain “buy-in” from teachers, administrators, families and students when prioritizing technology as a connectivity and teaching tool.
“All of the research shows that an effective virtual school won’t work over time if you just hand out Chromebooks and choose a platform,” said Mannix. “You’ve got to think ‘how are you going to build excitement and the capacity with my teaching staff to make them 21st Century digital natives,’ because that’s the key.”
A critical next step was to train everyone on the same system. “It really doesn’t matter which platform you choose,” said Gary Lambert, Director of 21st Century Learning at Beekmantown. “The key is to train everyone to use it so they can support each other. When you stick to one platform, you have colleagues you rely on and bounce ideas off of. If you are in your own silo, you are on your own.”
Mannix’s district, like CFES, has been committed to staying ahead of the curve in preparing rural schools to thrive with an emphasis on 21st century learning.
“CFES knows that the needs of students and parents must come first, along with strong communication, online professional development for teachers and clear, consistent policies that all stakeholders can adopt and implement together,” said Jon Reidel, CFES GEAR UP Director of Programs and Online Learning.
Working with 150 schools and serving 25,000 students in the 20-21 school year, CFES is engaging virtual learning environments through college and career readiness engagement that includes e-mentoring for every one of its students and online professional development for educators.