College Ready Ohio grants helped Ohio schools shift to online learning
Before the pandemic, Brent Bower was one of two online math teachers in Hilliard City Schools. Just a few months after COVID-19 forced districts to go virtual, Bower had become the online math department head, supervising 12 online math teachers throughout the district.
Though he couldn’t have known it prior to the pandemic, Bower’s four years of professional development through College Ready Ohio had positioned him — and his district — to quickly pivot to online and hybrid learning.
College Ready Ohio was a collaboration between Ohio State and local school districts designed to prepare Ohio’s K-12 students to enter higher education by implementing more engaging and relevant learning experiences. From 2015 to 2019, participating schools received two rounds of subsidized funding for new laptops or tablets. At the same time, the university’s Office of Distance Education and eLearning (ODEE) offered professional development opportunities for instructors to help them implement the technology in their classrooms.
Whether passing on his knowledge of helpful technology applications, or simply calming a new teacher’s nerves with reassuring words, Bower was able to leverage his experience to help his district pull together a team of confident online math teachers.
“Basically, there were a lot of brand-new math teachers and I was able to show them the things that I learned or was able to perfect and get better at from College Ready Ohio,” said Bower. “I was able to show that to them.”
And Bower wasn’t the only teacher who relied on College Ready Ohio training to help districts move their classes online. When Ohio school districts had to make an almost immediate shift in March 2020 to virtual instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hilliard and other schools which had participated in College Ready Ohio found themselves ahead of the curve when it came to providing quality instruction in uncertain times.
Thanks to the College Ready Ohio technology investment, many of the participating schools were able to adopt one-to-one technology by 2017 — offsetting the cost to both the districts and individual students and their families. Before implementing one-to-one technology in classrooms, a select group of teachers from each school participated in professional development training to learn how to use the technology to deliver a high-quality learning experience to students.
When approached to be a part of College Ready Ohio teacher training, Dublin City Schools high school English teacher Steve Kucinski jumped at the chance to be involved. Kucinski, who has 28 years of teaching experience, has always been interested in technology and is known for taking risks in the classroom.
“I remember we basically spent a year in training before we even had the actual devices – and that was so important,” said Kucinski. “Our mantra was, ‘It’s not about the device. It’s about what you’re going to do with it.’”
Because Kucinski and his fellow teachers were already experts in their grade levels and subjects, the College Ready Ohio training aimed to accomplish an overall shift in thinking, from technology being an add-on to an integral part of the learning process.
“(We taught) how you could use this iPad to actually teach kids and to further their education — not to take the place of a teacher, but to actually enhance learning,” said Ohio State’s Scott Sheeler, who was the College Ready Ohio program manager.
By March 2020, students and teachers at Hilliard City Schools and other districts who participated in College Ready Ohio had become accustomed to using technology in the classroom.
“For me, (College Ready Ohio) really gave our teachers the opportunity to build capacity and learn how to use technology better in the learning,” said Rich Boettner, chief technology officer for Hilliard City Schools.
“It was truly an incredible catalyst to get moving and be prepared,” he added, reflecting on the program’s long-term impact in light of the pandemic. “We were ready to go and could shift gears very quickly.”
Learn more about College Ready Ohio's impact.