Polk County School District, Georgia

Polk School District seamlessly blends technology into teaching and learning to successfully prepare all students for the next stage in their education and in their lives. The key to reaching this goal is ensuring students are reading at grade level, the foundation for future academic excellence and a priority for schools across the state of Georgia. The district’s technology-infused literacy program relies on a system-wide implementation of myON. 

"We were in the process of transitioning to a digital learning environment, and myON was the perfect tool to advance us down this path and become a very valuable part of our instructional program under Title I."

Three years ago, district leaders saw the need to improve Polk’s literacy program, which focused too heavily on recall and lacked the ability to closely monitor student growth. “We were in the process of transitioning to a digital learning environment, and myON was the perfect tool to advance us down this path and become a very valuable part of our instructional program under Title I,” explained Laurie Atkins, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. 

“Instilling a love of reading in students is critical, and myON speaks to them,” stated Superintendent Dr. William ‘Al’ Hunter. “They fall in love with it. There’s so many books at their fingertips and they can easily find books that match their interests and reading level.”

Dr. Hunter continued: “I was recently in a third-grade classroom where all the students were reading books on myON. When I asked the kids about reading, several boys in the class volunteered that they didn’t used to like to read, but now they do with myON. They started talking about motorcycles and the topics they like to read about, the series they like, and so on. We’ve lit a fire for reading among even the most reluctant readers.”

Students in Polk School District's digital classrooms are reading more books, more frequently, resulting in higher Lexile® scores and greater academic achievement. This success stems from the district’s systemic approach, which includes the right ongoing professional development and support, equitable access, and parental and community involvement. 

Instructional Technology Coaching Matters 

When embarking on the blended learning initiative, Polk restructured its funding to support programs that were more effective and sustainable. This meant revamping its instructional coaching to place a greater emphasis on technology integration.

Polk rolled out 1-to-1 computing with iPads and Macbooks and instituted the Mobile Minds Program. During the summer, every teacher receives training on using the mobile devices, as well as on myON and other online software in their classrooms. Throughout the year, a Mobile Minds Specialist is assigned to each school to provide ongoing professional development for teachers along with exemplary lesson plans, coaching on new software tools and features, strategies for personalized learning, and more. 

Collaboration is a key element to the success of the myON implementation. For example, Mobile Mind Specialists Kelly Bentley and Laura Fannin correlated myON non-fiction books to Georgia standards in science and social studies so teachers could easily incorporate them into their lessons to support literacy across the curriculum. Mary Ann Little, a Mobile Minds Specialist, created an iTunesU course that showed examples of books within myON and how they could be paired with various subjects and integrated into classroom lessons. 

 In the district’s professional learning communities, teachers also discuss ways to incorporate myON and collaborate on ideas, such as how to use myON to support a particular vocabulary instructional strategy.

Mobile Minds has been so successful that the district hosts the Mobile Minds University, a technology conference held during the summer for teachers in the district and from surrounding areas. As a result of its technology leadership, innovation and education excellence, the district has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished Program. 

With a strong support system and intuitive technology tools in place, teachers embraced the innovative changes the district was undergoing. Further, once teachers saw the success their students were having with myON, buy-in quickly spread.

Through embedded assessments and easy-to-use reporting tools in myON, teachers get an accurate real-time picture of students’ individual Lexile® scores so they can tailor instruction to their needs and monitor their progress. When every student can access an array of books at anytime, without having to wait to check out a book or go to the library, teachers have more instructional time to focus
on teaching and providing individualized support. 

Students are also more aware of their progress with the help of myON. They can see their own scores and growth over time. “It’s intrinsically motivating through positive means,” Atkins said. “You can ask kids, and they’ll tell you their Lexile® scores and reading goals. Goal-setting an important teaching tool, which myON helps support.” 

Access for All is a Key Factor

Instrumental to the success of the blended literacy program is providing access to myON for all students across grade levels and at any time, anywhere they need it. The district is committed to system wide access to wifi, technology resources and training for all of its students, staff, and parents.

Schools and buses are outfitted with high-speed broadband access. The district also has the support of the community to provide myON and wifi connectivity to students and families in community centers and libraries. A significant supporter of the district’s literacy program, Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP.org), shares myON with the families it works with across the area as well.

Parents can access myON with their students at home or anywhere they have their mobile devices. This has been particularly helpful for the district’s high population of ESOL students and families. Parents are learning English along with their children by reading with myON. 

The audio and vocabulary features allow non-native speakers to read along with their native English-speaking peers and stay in the classroom rather than be pulled out. “When families come to a new country, new school and don’t speak the language, myON gives these kids con dence and comfort,” Dr. Hunter explained.

The mindset and collaborative culture of the community ensure that every student everywhere gets the help they need to become better readers and learners. Teachers and students are so excited with the results they are achieving with myON that they share what they learn with others in parent-teacher conferences, technology nights, newsletters, social media, and more.

“We want 100 percent of our students to graduate career and college ready,” stated Dr. Hunter. “Because of what we’re doing in our transformed digital learning model, students will be able to move on to middle school, high school, and college prepared. I feel strongly that myON is a big part of that.” 

 

"We want 100 percent of our students to graduate career and college ready. Because of what we’re doing in our transformed digital learning model, students will be able to move on to middle school, high school, and college prepared. I feel strongly that myON is a big part of that."