When Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) began deploying its 1:1 initiative several years ago, the district’s instructional and technology teams worked closely together to ensure teachers had the support and professional development required to ensure the initiative was a success. Now that the district has successfully made the digital leap, VBCPS leaders are asking themselves what’s next in terms of leveraging their digital learning tools, devices, and data to further impact and enhance learning.
As VBCPS discovered, technology can unlock an infinite number of opportunities for students. However, it can also turn learning environments into the digital wild west, where teachers and students can venture into new, uncharted territories with digital learning apps that may not be effective or aligned with district curriculum or student data privacy policies.
To address this issue, David Din, Chief Information Officer, and Dr. Sharon Shewbridge, Director of Instructional Technology, are using Lightspeed Digital Insight™ to gain visibility into how district devices are being used both inside and outside the classroom. This will enable the district to identify its most essential digital tools and more effectively manage its digital investments.
With the help of Lightspeed Digital Insight, the technology and instructional teams are leveraging actionable data to evaluate, inform and improve their education technology investment strategy. To strengthen their digital learning ecosystem, VBCPS leaders implemented four key data strategies:To strengthen their digital learning ecosystem, VBCPS leaders implemented four key data strategies:
1. Creating detailed usage trend reports for senior staff and administrators
Accountability is critical, particularly for a publicly funded school district. With such a significant portion of district budgets being allocated to technology, administrative leaders need access to quantifiable data that demonstrates the usage and effectiveness of these investments.
VBCPS’s technology team uses the insights gleaned from Lightspeed Digital Insight to provide detailed, district-wide technology usage reports to senior staff members, equipping them with verifiable data to share with their school board and/or constituents.
“It’s been extremely beneficial to compare usage information on a year-to-year basis,” said Din. “Because the education year is cyclical, it is easy to track the usage of our school devices or a particular app and see if the usage has increased or decreased over a period of time. The pace of technology is blistering, so tracking these analytics enables us to keep our finger on the pulse of what is happening and quickly readjust our strategies to meet our students’ needs.”
2. Measure and track district ROI on technology purchases
VBCPS invested a significant amount of money in their 1:1 and digital learning initiatives, but they lacked the ability to measure their ROI—which they define as digital platform adoption—leaving them unable to answer the question, “Are we getting what we paid for?”
Lightspeed Digital Insight has empowered VBCPS with the data needed to answer that question and truly quantify the value of its technology investments. “[Lightspeed] Digital Insight provides us with the chance to see what is really being used and how it is being used,” said Dr. Shewbridge. “Instead of continuing to renew contracts we have had in place for years, we are looking at our usage and determining if teachers are using the programs we are paying for. In some cases, they are electing to use other resources they find have a greater impact, are more user-friendly, or are free—saving us money as well as improving the teaching and learning experiences for our students and teachers.
3. Ensuring alignment with the curriculum and data privacy policies
With so many educational apps available, it can be extremely difficult for district leaders to have a comprehensive grasp of which tools and apps are used, and should be used, in classrooms. This is one of the primary reasons VBCPS chose to integrate a data analytics tool into their system.
“Our teachers were using over 900 apps and websites,” said Dr. Shewbridge. “We are in the process of whittling that number down to ensure the apps and websites they are using align with our curriculum, state standards, and COPPA regulations.”
Dr. Shewbridge’s team has also been able to create a list of
vetted and approved resources teachers can quickly access when they need a powerful instructional tool, saving the teachers time and ensuring VBCPS’s students are only using safe, effective, and age-appropriate educational materials. Lightspeed Digital Insight enables districts to create and share a link to their Approved Applications list with teachers, parents, and other district stakeholders to streamline collaboration and communication.
Additionally, VBCPS can easily monitor changes to app data privacy policies through Lightspeed Digital Insight’s Student Data Privacy Dashboard. By flagging changes by the vendor with a side-by-side policy comparison, this tool allows them to save time by quickly scanning policy changes and zeroing in on ones that need further review.
4. Tracking online learning days
The advent of devices in school districts has ushered in a growing phenomenon of e-learning day programs and initiatives. Learning management systems and other digital collaboration tools have made it possible for students to access their assignments and lessons even if their school is closed for a weather-related event, illness, or a teacher professional development day.
Although these days certainly offer a tremendous number of benefits to both the district and students, it was difficult for leaders to track usage of school devices outside of school to ensure students are meeting expectations. VBCPS leaders now use Lightspeed Digital Insight for visibility into the student application and devices usage during these online learning days.
“We need to know if they are being used as much as we think they are, and [Lightspeed] Digital Insight provides us with the data we need to answer that question,” said Din.
Harnessing the data produced by their school devices and digital learning tools provides Virginia Beach with the visibility critical for validating investments, informing instruction, and helping safeguard student data. For two already-closely aligned instructional and technology teams, having a single source of truth to analyze together has empowered them with the ability to dig deeper and find the information necessary for continuous improvement to their edtech ecosystem, as well as the district’s overall teaching and learning experience.
About Lightspeed Systems
Lightspeed Systems, headquartered in Austin, Texas, is a leading online safety and effectiveness platform for K–12 schools. A proven partner for student safety and engagement, Lightspeed uses advanced AI to view and analyze student activity across the web. Lightspeed serves over 20 million students in 38 countries and 28,000 schools globally.