Take look inside Port Arthur ISD’s online teaching platform Schoology — a 1st for the region

Published 12:19 am Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Port Arthur Independent School District is going above and beyond with its online platform for the upcoming school year by using a program known as Schoology.

It is a social networking service for virtual learning environments for grades kindergarten through 12th grade.

Instructional Technology Supervisor Kenneth Daigre explained the details of the new program recently to Port Arthur school board members.

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“I’m excited about Schoology,” Daigre said. “Not only because it’s such a dynamic program, but when I conversed with instruction technology supervisors in other districts, which I do for comparison, I’m proud to say that Port Arthur Independent School District with Schoology has one of the most advanced learning management systems in the United States. Period.”

The learning management system takes all aspects of virtual learning and puts it in one location.

“You will be surprised at the interaction a teacher will have with our students, and what kind of rich, effective instruction our teachers will be able to provide to our students,” Daigre said. “Not only while we are doing the virtual education, but even when we return to school the technology will continue.”

Schoology’s interface is fashioned to resemble popular social media platforms.

“We all know that students like social media,” Daigre said. “Adults like social media. Adults like Facebook. Kids like Twitter and TikTok, and all the other stuff that is out there. So what Schoology did was take those social media platforms and integrate it into a platform where students and teachers can converse in three different ways.”

The first platform is through a newsfeed similar to Facebook.

Teachers will be able to correspond with students. Students will be able to ask questions, respond to each other, post assignments and have the same conversations they’d have if they were face to face.

The second option is through an embedded tool called Conference, which allows a teacher to interact with students live.

The Conference tool boasts several ways to demonstrate lessons in real time. The app provides an interactive whiteboard, where teachers write lessons and create digital worksheets for students to complete.

Daigre asked school board members to imagine the traditional chalkboard being digital.

“Imagine that device that kid has at home, that tablet becomes a chalkboard,” he said. “That kid can respond, ask questions and answer questions just like in a normal classroom.”

Another way of communication is through video lessons.

“Khan Academy is a very popular educational video program,” Daigre said. “It’s a tremendous resource for math, science and English. Teachers can show Khan Academy videos through this interactive piece. They can pause, narrate over it, stop, converse and ask questions. They can use the device for Khan Academy, YouTube or any other online media.”

The third and final route offers a polling function.

Daigre said teachers could ask true/false or multiple-choice questions for students to answer from home using Iclickers.

“Teachers can converse with students on a live video feed, they can converse with them during a video, annotate over a PowerPoint or worksheet, and they can also use a polling system to ask questions and get live feedback,” Daigre said. “That’s just incredible.

“The teacher still has the ability to get that live interaction from a student, even at home. The rich instruction that teachers provide for students when they are physically here, it still gets to continue.”

Schoology also allows a single sign on, giving students the ability to access other learning apps, including Google Classroom, Zoom, Brain POP and others, in one location.

More than 80 percent of PAISD teachers are already trained in Schoology.

“Our teachers are ready,” Daigre said. “Our technology department is ready and I can’t be more excited about what we are providing to our students and parents at the beginning of the school year.”

Modifications are made in the Schoology program for special education students and teachers.

Port Arthur ISD is the only district in Mid- and South County using Schoology’s Learning Management System.

Superintendent Mark Porterie said the learning management system allows teachers to interact with students face to face.

“It allows teachers to have less paperwork, and students are able to complete assessments and assignments within in Schoology,” he said. “Students can look back to lessons. Parents are able to review assignments completed and have free reign to log in to understand the steps. It not only benefits the teacher, but the teachers, students and parents.”