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Educator: These are “My Tech Essentials”


Curriculum Specialist uses technology to aid in 1:1, project-based learning designed by teachers.

[Editor’s note: “My Tech Essentials” is a new monthly feature on eSchool News that highlights the choice of ‘must-have’ technology used by one tech-savvy educator; with the hope that other educators might also find these peer-tested tools useful. Be sure to check back every month for a new “My Tech Essentials.”]

As the Curriculum Specialist with Vancouver Public Schools, I oversee Secondary English Language Arts, Advanced Placement, Running Start, and College in the High Schools.

In our district, we are making a concerted effort to move toward project-based learning and a “teacher as designer” model, which helps teachers learn how to partner with both their students as well as their content. Our 1:1 approach to technology has allowed us to move into an era of blended learning. Teachers have the opportunity to partner with their technology in order to both support their content and better entice students with material that is engaging and current.

A Curriculum Specialist’s Tech Essentials

1) ThinkCERCA: Since the onset of the Common Core State Standards, much of the focus in reading has shifted to informational texts. Close reading has become essential for all assignments, and many teachers have used claim-based essays based on each reading as formative assessments. ThinkCERCA has provided an avenue for these brief essays, as well as helping students to strengthen their annotation, summary, and paragraphing skills. The articles found in ThinkCERCA are not only filled with informational text, but written in a way that keep students focused and willing to do the work for each lesson.

(Next page: 2 more Tech Essentials)

2) NewsELA’s ability to offer the same article at multiple reading levels has allowed teachers to maintain consistency with their assignments, class discussions, and standards. The current and intriguing articles hold the focus of many students who would otherwise be disengaged from the classwork because either they did not understand the material or they felt it was boring.

3) Read180 has been our middle school reading intervention program for more than a decade. Students are placed in intervention courses based on the Lexile diagnostic and Reading Inventory assessments. The Read180 program is set up much like a traditional workshop classroom, with Independent Reading, Software, and Small Group stations. Students are constantly engaged in proper reading techniques, even if they aren’t aware that they are learning as they are using the provided tools. Teachers have an opportunity to gauge where students are and differentiate based on what data they see, as well as what they are hearing directly from the student in small-group instruction.

ThinkCERCA, NewsELA, and Read180 have all freed up teachers to walk around and confer with students, help where needed, and breathe life back into the classroom experience. Blended learning means a whole lot more than just using technology; it is truly partnering with the technology. The idea that students are truly enjoying their assignments means that it must be working.

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