Online schools must tackle unique tech challenges, Courtney Kofeldt says

As schools across the nation embrace integration of technology in the classroom, PA Leadership Charter School is completely immersed in it.

The online school serves 2,700 students across the state of Pennsylvania and 170 teachers in its West Chester and Pittsburg locations. Its position as an online school translates to unique challenges in implementing new technology, says Courtney Kofeldt, the school’s supervisor of educational technology.

Kofeldt, a 2017 CoSN NextGeneration Leader, said in some ways, the school is at a disadvantage when introducing new programs because they cannot interact with students face-to-face.

“Every new tech item — we have to be very meticulous with how we roll it out, making sure our students are instructed effectively and making sure that we’re all on the same page with our stakeholders,” Kofeldt said.

PA Leadership Charter School’s most recent edtech update featured the move to a new learning management system called Canvas, which rolled out this past year.

The transition is “a big step” for all stakeholders involved in the school, which had been using Moodle for the last 10 years, and took a great deal of collaboration and testing, Kofeldt said.

The school ran an extensive pilot of the system with its 6th grade team last year. Throughout the process, communication between the school’s 20 IT staff members, five instructional coaches, students and teachers was key to ensuring that all felt comfortable with the system, Kofeldt said.

“That’s when they’re going to succeed … when they’re comfortable with that technology that they’re using and able to really have a learning environment that’s conducive to their needs,” she said.

The PA Leadership Charter School team is no stranger to leveraging technology to create tailored education solutions.

On a typical school day, teachers post learning modules for students using Canvas, share information through training videos using Camtasia and Nearpod, and give live lessons using platforms like Zoom.

Students follow along asynchronously on laptops and iPads issued to all K-9 students by the school, Kofeldt said.

The school’s top tech priority for the coming year is to provide personalized learning to students, Kofeldt said, especially pertaining to assessment opportunities.

Because students have constant access to the internet, assessments and projects must be creative, not something “that they’re just able to ‘google,’” Kofeldt said. “We really need to push their thinking and provide different learning opportunities where they can apply their knowledge and show what they know.”

Cassie Stephenson contributed to this report.