Collaboration with IU School of Education leads to MSD Decatur Township teacher-created conference

  • May 27, 2016


INDIANAPOLIS -- Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township teachers and the IU School of Education at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis have worked together to improve teaching and learning with Canvas, a learning management system. Now the Decatur Township Schools educators will share what they have learned with 150 teachers from across the state in a unique teacher-created and teacher-led conference.

The free Camp Canvas conference will take place May 31 and June 1 at Decatur Central High School. A capacity number of teachers has already registered.

The collaboration began in January after Decatur Township Schools reached out to the School of Education for training on Canvas, which Decatur adopted this year. The district established a relationship with Joanna Ray, director of online learning, and Megan Tolin, assistant director of online learning.

"Together, we were able to construct an ongoing partnership that would allow us to move beyond Canvas training and instead work side-by-side with educators to design curricula with next-gen learning in mind," Ray said.

Nineteen teachers, spanning grades K-12, came together to form the Next Gen Leadership Cadre to create relevant and meaningful learning experiences for students.

"We’re not only designing high-quality digital content for students," Ray said, "We’re working to build capacity for teacher leadership."

That leadership will be on display at the Camp Canvas conference when Decatur Township Schools teachers will engage participants in a range of sessions, including "Increasing Engagement With Collaborative Learning," "Campfire Confessions: Learning From Our Failures" and "Let's Take a Hike: A Tour Guide to Canvas Modules." Additionally, teachers in the Next Gen Leadership Cadre have contributed to weekly blog posts and Twitter discussions to inspire a broader audience of educators seeking better ways to use Canvas for teaching and learning.

Initially, Decatur Township Schools teachers received typical technology training, said Jeff McMahon, chief information officer for the school district: "It was very rudimentary. Click here, upload here."

But McMahon said that what teachers wanted was to understand the teaching theories behind Canvas and what it really means to be online, and how to teach the right way to engage kids.

"I think we're very fortunate to have Joanna and Megan, who are top-notch in the city, working with our Decatur teachers to develop a group of teachers who will take this further," McMahon said.

Tonya Mercer, a second-grade educator at Blue Academy in Decatur Township Schools, agreed. 

"Being a member of the Next Generation Leadership Cadre has challenged me in ways that will forever change my mindset and practice as a teacher," she said. "The cadre is a large amount of work, but the rewards from that work are immeasurable. I am beyond grateful that I was given the opportunity to participate.” 

In July, the School of Education and Decatur Township Schools will co-present their partnership to a national audience at InstructureCon in Keystone, Colo.

Joanna Ray, second from right, works with Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township teachers.

Joanna Ray, second from right, works with Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township teachers.

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Richard Schneider
Suzanne Rothenberg
  • MSD of Decatur Township
  • Office 317-856-5265 ext. 113
  • Cell 317-965-7348