Today we are excited to spotlight Cañon City Schools and Dan Coppa, whom we had the pleasure of speaking with recently! We think that you will find what he had to say about his district’s experience during this time as helpful as we did.
Mr. Coppa serves as an instructional tech coordinator for the district where he primarily provides professional development support for staff and helps the district augment their existing blended learning practices. He really enjoys what he is doing right now, and he loves learning something new every day. He is also able to draw on his past experience as a high school social studies teacher as he supports staff and students.
When asked how the district pivoted as a result of the onset of the pandemic last March, Mr. Coppa described how due to the location of the schools they were forced to do a complete shutdown at first and totally reorient all of their manners of teaching, and they remained fully remote from March to May of 2020. He further described how it was a huge blessing that staff members had already gone through some of iLC’s blended learning courses so that they had a foundation of what they would now be asked to do in this new time, and they were equipped with the tools to create digital contact and ease the transition to remote teaching.
Mr. Coppa first interacted with iLC’s courses as a classroom teacher, and after he completed them he became the instructional tech coordinator. One of the goals with introducing these courses was to ensure that every teacher had a robust foundation of training since the district was looking to roll out a 1:1 device program, and they wanted to make sure that teachers were aware of the best practices instead of being thrown this new curveball in the dark.
Teachers trained for a year before rolling out the new devices, and Mr. Coppa commented on how the district had been sort of a “tech desert” before 2018 so it was a big transition for everyone. Each staff member was required to take three courses and then had the option to choose three elective ones if they so desired, and some staff members went above and beyond and got their blended learning certification with all six courses. Now this training is integrated into the district’s method of hiring and training new teachers.
According to Mr. Coppa, the biggest challenge of implementing a blended learning initiative at the district level was the mindset shift. A lot of teachers were very comfortable with their traditional forms, and no one knew how to maximize the use of this new type of technology. Right now the staff is focusing on helping students break bad habits that arise due to the nature of remote learning, and to learn how to configure all of the educational efforts in the school to be student-centered and able to be customized for different learning styles instead of how they were traditionally teacher-centered in years past (i.e. with teachers lecturing in the front and no other methods).
The most positive experience of utilizing blended learning so far has been the personalization and differentiation factor for Mr. Coppa—it makes the job easier on the teacher so that they don’t have to manage everything, and it allows students to be a co-teacher for their own learning and gain leadership and ownership opportunities. This move towards more technology-based resources has also shown every teacher that they truly are capable of teaching in this format, even if they doubt their abilities at first.
Mr. Coppa’s district primarily relies on Google Classroom, Classlink, and Edgenuity as their technological resources of choice. Classlink is huge for elementary students since it has a single sign on solution for any app, and Google Classroom and Schoology are great for the K-12 level since students and teachers were already familiar with the platforms. Edgenuity is also wonderful because it provides K-5 students with a fruitful online learning experience.
If Mr. Coppa could give advice to other teachers or educators out there, he would encourage everyone to not be afraid to take positive risks—if you end up struggling with a new technique or resource, focus on what you are doing really well, and once you feel comfortable with that you can move on to something new. In addition, he encourages teachers not to fear “failing” in front of their students, perhaps when trying out a new activity—they are partners in their own education and can give you feedback and potentially help. It is healthy to not just worry about succeeding all the time, but to take pride in the moments where you tried something new, made a mistake, and learned something from it.
We are so thankful for the opportunity to share Mr. Coppa’s insights with you during today’s Coffee Break Chat, and we hope you have a wonderful rest of your day!