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Five tech-savvy schools that focus on ed-tech

These five schools and districts are modeling ed-tech success.

Many schools have learning technologies and ed-tech tools. But what sets exemplary schools apart is how they use those technologies.

Below are five schools, listed in alphabetical order, that are taking teaching and learning to the next level by leveraging ed-tech and learning technologies to boost student engagement and staff productivity. An ed-tech specialist or administrator from each school describes the school’s accomplishments.

1. Adrian Public Schools, Michigan
Christopher J. Timmis, Superintendent

The district is implementing a 1:1 iPad initiative at the high school that includes the creation of a custom app, Virtual Locker. We use iPads, iPod Touches, TI-Nspires, SMART Boards, document cameras, and mobile tablet devices to improve our ability to deliver instruction under the Adrian Instructional Model. In many grade levels, we use blended learning models with Waterford and SuccessMaker. In grades 5-8, every student is part of Project Lead the Way, which blends technology with project-based engineering work. We operate a virtual school that uses e2020 and GradPoint. We are also one of only four districts in the world (one of two in the U.S.) participating in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Open World Schools Pilot, offering online courses to any student, anywhere in the world, regardless of whether or not they attend an IB school.

(Next page: Four more ed-tech leaders)These technology initiatives increased school percentile rankings from as low as 3.7 to 69. Our high school ACT scores are in the top 10 of all schools in Michigan. Our test scores are increasing by double digits on an annual basis while statewide scores only increase 4-5 percent. The increases over two years go as high as 39 percentage points over a two-year span.

This is not solely the result of technology, but the technology serves as an instrumental tool to increase student engagement, create smarter assessment, increase quality of instruction, and crease better systems for accountability.

Technology is a tool that must be put into practice without a perfectly defined plan. Continue to work to create a culture that values technology and, when you find success, provide teachers with the support to successfully use the tools. Then, be very clear that we are nowhere near the end of this road. The minute you stop changing, you regress.

Andy Moscoso, an eighth grader at Kennedy Krieger, uses an Epson BrightLink 450Wi.

2. Kennedy Krieger Schools, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Maryland
Kelly Meadows, Coordinator of Educational Technology

Adding interactive technology to Kennedy Krieger’s classrooms has proved invaluable in teaching students with diverse disorders, including autism, learning disabilities, speech/language disorders, orthopedic disabilities, and traumatic brain injuries.

A typical Kennedy Krieger classroom has multiple computers, iPads, Epson BrightLink interactive projectors or Promethean ActivBoards, and access to assistive software such as Kurzweil, Word Q, and Snap n Read.

Using technology to teach isn’t an intuitive process for most teachers. Teachers need to be taught how to use technology in a meaningful way prior to deployment. Professional development is critical during the deployment as well, in addition to throughout the school year.

An additional challenge for iPads, specifically, has been management. Managing several devices per building has been quite the learning process. We have learned that without the aid of our IT department, we wouldn’t have gotten far. With things to consider like web filters, Wi-Fi access, iTunes accounts, volume purchasing, and content management, we required continuous IT support.

We are moving toward a technology-rich school environment where instant access to information through a variety of media means educators can easily teach beyond the walls of their classrooms.

Don’t be afraid to be creative and share your ideas. Technology is changing every day and teachers depend on each other for great lesson ideas. Join a blog, create a website, or set up a social media account in order to share your fabulous ideas and learn from your fellow educators.

3. Monroe Township High School, Monroe Township Board of Education, New Jersey
Reggie Washington, Director of Information Systems

Our school has a 1:1 iPad program with take-home privileges. All 1,900 students, along with certificated staff members, have an iPad. The students and teachers use the iPads each day in their classes. This initiative allows us to extend the school beyond the physical walls of the buildings. Our students have access to information 24/7. This allows them to be better digital citizens.

Each classroom is equipped with a ceiling-mounted projector with Apple TV. Teachers use their iPads or laptops to wirelessly connect to the projector, and students have access to the wireless network and have filtered access to the internet.

Students collaborate with teachers using wikis. Many of the courses taught have electronic books which are either loaded on the iPad or are available on another website.

We use technology to streamline school administration by sending all communications between the administration and parents electronically. We publish report cards electronically, schedule parent-teacher conferences electronically, and distribute documents, such as the student handbook, electronically. These are published via Genesis, our student management system.

We financed our technology initiatives through a building referendum, eRate funds, and grants. The building referendum allowed us to build a new school. In building the school, we knew that we wanted to move to a completely digital environment.

Our biggest challenge has been convincing the public that education has changed. We are constantly attempting to educate the citizenry on the importance of digital education. This is an ongoing process.

This digital education is what your students want and need. If you are preparing your students for college or the workplace, then the ability to solve problems is a natural outcome of a digital education.

4. Muskegon Catholic Central High School, Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Robert Bridges, Head of School

We are ending the first year of a 1:1 Acer netbook program for all students in grades 7-12. To set ourselves up for success, we took a full year last year to train and prepare. Our teachers had eight days of technology training in the classroom regarding how to use their HP Elite devices, which they have used this year. Teachers prepared eight one-day lessons for students to complete online while they were at home last year, as a part of these teacher training days. These assignments were posted on the teachers’ Moodle pages. One of the most effectively implemented online programs is the TenMarks math program. The teachers flip the instruction so the students do the TenMarks assignments at home, then work through trouble spots or difficult problems in class.

Updating our school policy book was such a cumbersome task that it had been pushed beyond the back burner for years. This year, one of our tech-savvy directors showed us how to use Google Docs, and we shared the policy book with the appropriate people, and the updates started occurring immediately.

We have used local funds/donors to finance the technology initiatives as part of a 5-year strategic plan. The plan includes a financial plan, which calls for the three phases of the technology plan: infrastructure, purchase of technology devices, and maintenance and replacement.

We are most proud of the training model, with the eight teacher training days. This was a win-for-all initiative, and one that I believe larger districts could use to their great benefit. This also was our biggest challenge. Many teachers were very resistant during the training phase. But that has changed. To the great credit of the teachers, especially the veterans, they have embraced the whole program.

Make sure to have a technology specialist who can help the students and relate to the teachers. Our specialist is probably reason No. 1 that we have been successful.

Students observe and participate in the Radians robotics competition.

5. Radians School of Math, Science, and Technology, Cayey, Puerto Rico
Luis G. Sanchez, Principal

Students are required to have laptops beginning in 6th grade. The school uses the Moodle platform to enrich the on-site courses. Interactive SMART Boards are available in almost all rooms, and the school maintains a “SmartRoom” for those classrooms without a board. SuccessMaker for math and English lets students to progress at their own pace. Preschool students use iPads to practice motor and cognitive skills. A school-wide robotics program uses MindStorm for elementary school and VEX for secondary students. Students are trained in Google Sketch-Up and they produce designs for use in class. The school implemented ERCSA (Experimental Research Center for Sustainable Agriculture), a completely solar-powered agricultural project that addresses agricultural concerns.

Students of this generation must be engaged in technology, because that is what surrounds them in their daily lives. By using ed-tech to enhance and enrich the learning experience, we find that students produce work of a much higher quality. They are also motivated to work in school because the classroom becomes a dynamic center of learning.

The use of technology has streamlined our administrative work tremendously. Our school uses PowerSchool to maintain grades. Teachers maintain websites to inform parents, and students can access their homework through these teacher pages, as well as work via the Moodle platform.

If you cannot start big, start small and continue to grow little by little. Establish clear-cut goals and accomplish these step by step. Also, it is absolutely vital to emphasize character education, especially as pertains to the use of technology.

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