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Initiative prepares students for digital world
Empowering Puyallup prepares students for digital world
Posted on 02/14/2017
Schoology and One-to-One initiatives increase access to online learning

The end goal is to prepare students to compete in a rapidly changing digital world—a digital world where the things students need to know and how they learn them are not the same as they were yesterday. And it is certain they will be different tomorrow.

In December 2015 the Puyallup School Board approved the Empowering Puyallup initiative to develop an electronic learning management system, move from textbooks to online curriculum and educational resources, and provide students with an electronic device (computer) that provides access to learning.

According to Executive Director of Educational Platforms Mark Knight, “We are embracing the digital age. Not only embracing it, we know we live in a digital world and we need to equip our students so when they graduate they know how to navigate in this digital world. That’s huge.”

Learning Management System (LMS)

A learning management system (LMS) is a digital communications tool. It provides an electronic platform to bring teaching and learning together. It is used to store information that teachers, administrators, parents, and students need access to—including grades, assignments, test results, calendars, curriculum, and electronic textbooks.

It is also a way to communicate with each other electronically. It can be used to build groups who communicate amongst themselves—such as a classroom, a group of teachers, parents communicating with teachers, or students assigned to working together on a project. This can look and work similar to Facebook.

The LMS platform chosen by the district is Schoology. After extensive research, a committee of 40 teachers, students, parents, and staff attended vendor presentations to evaluate and test various LMS systems. They considered the question: How can this product enhance the education of students in the district? Schoology was chosen because it best supports the district’s strategic direction for Improvement of Instruction, Student Growth, and Achievement. It was also considered the most user-friendly.

“One of the nice things about Schoology is it was built on a platform

like Facebook and it is user-friendly and easy to navigate. Students

and parents helped us choose it because it is so intuitive.”
Dr. Mark Knight, executive director of educational platforms

The Schoology LMS platform has multiple layers. It is a communications tool that can be thought of as an electronic file drawer of resources. Teachers can store course materials, documents, and videos and share them not only amongst themselves but also with students and parents. Students can view and turn in assignments and teachers can grade them and give feedback through the tool. Students can also take tests and quizzes online.

The LMS has an electronic gradebook that is currently being tested at the secondary level before complete implementation. Students will be able to turn in assignments and teachers will grade them and give feedback through the tool. The online gradebook will provide parents improved access to shadow their student’s learning. Testing and assessments for a student can also be accessed.

A computer for every student

Beginning in fall 2017 the district will begin issuing electronic devices to students. The one-to-one initiative roll out will begin with seventh-grade students. Every seventh grader in the district will be issued a device to use.

By the 2022-23 school year every student in grades 4-12 will be assigned a device. They will use the device during class, and secondary students will be allowed to take them home to extend the learning time.

“Imagine if all assignments and school work can be kept

electronically—instead of in a three-ring binder.”

Mark Vetter, executive director of instructional technology 


A variety of electronic devices are currently under review. “It will be what we traditionally call a laptop, a tablet, or 360. The goal is to issue devices that can be used as a reader, a textbook, or a tablet. It may come with a keyboard and a pen to write out an assignment electronically. Students will have the option to give input using a pen instead of a keyboard and send it electronically to the teacher. The device can also be used to take notes.

Before implementing the one-to-one initiative, the focus of Empowering Puyallup has been to prepare staff through professional development training and making sure the electronic resources are in place within Schoology.

The rollout of computers is designed to support student learning while also being financially responsible to our taxpayers with plans in place for maximum use. Teacher training and access to resources will be in place before devices are issued.

“We learned a lesson from other districts. Some jumped straight to the device before the infrastructure was in place. We have focused on spending a lot of time on people in order to understand what digital learning is all about so when the device comes they are already thinking about how to take the next step.”

Dr. Mark Knight, executive director of educational platforms 


With the Empowering Puyallup initiative, the Puyallup School District strives to provide equitable access for all students. Careful planning has been done to ensure devices are available that can be downloaded at school and will not require the internet from home. 

   “We will ensure equity and access through the devices we’re selecting. That is part of the reason we are doing this in the first place— to make sure all kids have access to the digital world and understand its value.”

Dr. Mark Knight, executive director of educational platforms 


Curriculum and Online Educational Resources
Educators in the Student Learning Department are developing curriculum and information using Schoology.  Over the next five years, the district will transition from traditional textbooks to digital learning. Many courses such as civics, current world problems, and seventh and eighth-grade science courses are already using Schoology. 

Parent information nights begin in 2017

Parent information nights will begin in the spring of 2017. The meetings are targeted to help parents understand more about the Empowering Puyallup initiative and how it directly affects them and their student. 

An overview of Schoology and the one-to-one device initiative and how it will impact learning will be presented. Parents who did not grow up in digital age will benefit from the information as well as parents who are more familiar with these tools.

Schoology will provide more transparency for parents to be engaged in their child’s education – they will have access to what’s going on in the classroom from grade book to daily lessons, calendars, the resources that teachers are using, and message capabilities to interact with the teacher.

Parents of students in the district have a Schoology account set up for them. They can log in and obtain information relating to their child and contact the teacher feature.


The Empowering Puyallup digital learning and one-to-one initiatives will create access to technology for all students. It will move the district forward by preparing and providing teachers with curriculum resources and increased ability to collaborate learning. Modern communication tools will provide increased access and transparency to parents and students. Learning and methods for student engagement and workflow will be more efficient, easier, and extended outside of the classroom.

Nancy French