New Mexico School for the Deaf Keeps Students Engaged at Home with LanSchool Air Classroom Management

Santa Fe’s New Mexico School for the Deaf (NMSD) provides free enrollment to any New Mexican child from 18 months to 21 years of age who has a diagnosed hearing loss. Many children rely on NMSD’s residential services, as their families live too far away to commute each day. The decision to close schools during the pandemic meant disrupting not only students’ day-to-day schedules but living arrangements as well.

NMSD has used LanSchool for many years to support digital learning across its three campuses. The school originally chose LanSchool because it could support the school’s mixed-device environment, consisting of both Windows-based and Mac devices. NMSD continued to use LanSchool Classic to assist with collaboration and communication in the school’s computer labs and on other devices that were used exclusively on campus. But when COVID made home-based distance learning an immediate need, NMSD’s IT team wanted a cloud-based classroom management software that could also travel with students off campus.

Led by Technology Specialist Carrie Nichols, NMSD decided to deploy LanSchool Air across the school’s devices to help teachers direct and maintain visibility into students’ work while they learned from home. Expanding from on-premises LanSchool Classic to cloud-based LanSchool Air was an easy move that proved to be a long-term win. Many teachers were already familiar with the software, helping ease the school’s transition to distance learning and, later, back to on-campus classes.

Pandemic pressure: NMSD needed cloud-based applications for mixed-device environment

NMSD has traditionally operated as a mixed-device school system, using a combination of shared devices, computer labs, and 1:1 devices across its three campuses supporting 180 students. When the school decided to adopt a new classroom management software several years ago, LanSchool stood out as the option best suited for a mixed-device environment.

NMSD teachers appreciated LanSchool for its Web Limiting feature, which helped them reduce the distractions and risks that come with digital learning. As more classes began to incorporate online lessons, the IT team noted a growing desire for a classroom management software that would also support learning on devices as they moved between classes and off campus.

In spring 2020, this desire for flexibility suddenly became an urgent need with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The IT team had to find a way to transition students and teachers to distance learning, while continuing to support student success and engagement – all while ensuring any new technology was approachable for teachers.

“When we heard about LanSchool Air, it was a great solution, because everyone was already familiar with LanSchool,” said Nichols. “It was an easy transition for us to make.”

Putting it in practice: LanSchool Air proved easy to learn, powerful to use

With so many drastic changes happening, NMSD’s IT team did not want to overwhelm teachers with any difficult-to-learn software. One big upside of LanSchool Air, according to Nichols was that it was easy to learn.

“Teachers caught on to LanSchool Air quickly. Our IT team had remote access, so whenever a teacher did have a question, they could share their screen and we could walk them through it,” Nichols said. “And beyond that, when there were hiccups, LanSchool’s support team helped us work through them. It was a smooth transition.”

One of the IT team’s core priorities was to keep the digital environment simple enough that it would not overwhelm parents. Classes typically paired LanSchool Air’s chat function with Zoom’s video to help teachers and students communicate in real time, while giving teachers access to view students’ screens as they worked.

Often, redirecting student attention can be difficult, especially in remote settings due to the large number of online distractions. Teachers were able to overcome these distractions effectively using Blank Screen, a feature that enables them to broadcast a static image and/or message to student screens in order to redirect attention to the teacher. Similarly, getting an entire class of students to navigate to the same web page at the same time can take up valuable teaching time. To solve this, teachers used the Push Website function to remotely send all students’ browsers to the same website, quickly getting everyone on the same page.

Throughout the process, NMSD also played a key role in providing LanSchool with product feedback to help improve the software for themselves and other users.

In the end, NMSD’s transition to distance learning was so seamless that student test scores actually improved in some areas, namely reading and writing — likely because students had to rely on written instructions and email communications more than usual. And while Internet access and available devices were limited across the school district, the scrappy school stretched their resources to make sure student learning continued.

The outlook: Class is back in session (and in-person)

When school returned to campus in the fall of 2021, NMSD continued to use a combination of LanSchool Classic and LanSchool Air to support in-person learning.

“We’re going to continue using LanSchool Classic in the labs and LanSchool Air on our other devices,” Nichols said. “Teachers ‘get it’ right away and are happy with it.”

If distance learning should become a need again at any time, NMSD and its staff feel confident they will be fully prepared to continue supporting student learning without missing a beat.

Related Reading: How to write an effective education continuity plan

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