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4 tech tools that met a district’s top goals

Napa County Office of Education made ed-tech integration a top priority

tech-districtThe Napa County Office of Education (NCOE) is on a mission to use technology to prepare all students for academic and career success. We have implemented several initiatives that span from elementary school to high school, accommodating students at every stage of the K-12 lifecycle.

The following technology initiatives are making a difference in the lives of children in Napa County and helping us, as educators, better understand what our students need to succeed.

Early learning

NCOE teamed with NapaLearns, a local nonprofit organization, to make the research-based Footsteps2Brilliance app available for free to all Napa County preschool age children, their teachers and parents or guardians. The engaging e-books and learning games in Footsteps2Brilliance help ensure that all preschoolers enter Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten with a strong developmental foundation. While the children have fun learning letters, words and vocabulary, the program provides parents and teachers with immediate feedback on a child’s learning levels.

During the 2012-2013 school year, 560 kindergarten students learned literacy skills using iPads and personalized digital curriculum. The number of English Language Learners who performed at a six year old level grew by 35 percent, with 80 percent of them performing at that level in only five months. Most students were ready to enter first grade reading at their age level.

Student, parent, and teacher training

The current generation of students is known to be “Digital Natives,” while their teachers and parents are sometimes technology immigrants, needing to learn the digital language and culture. Recognizing the need for lifelong digital learning for all generations, we began offering training for students, parents and teachers in 2011. Since then, we’ve seen over 200 people take advantage of our range of training programs each year.

One example of this includes NCOE enlisting the support of AmeriCorps staff through its CalSERVES program to provide STEM tutors to its highest need elementary and middle school students. STEM tutors draw on best practices in the field to offer students highly engaging, challenging, and interactive activities.

NCOE also supports professional learning communities through a Teacher Dinner Series on Technology. All trainings are free to teachers and staff of Napa County Schools. NCOE is a well-known provider of parent education in Napa County. Recent parent workshops have included teen use of social media and training on digital bullying.

College and career readiness

At Napa County, we are building a robust college and career readiness system that will enable students to make sound decisions regarding their post-secondary goals.

NCOE launched the first countywide implementation of Naviance in October 2013. NCOE partnered with local school districts to fund this program for all middle and high school students in Napa County.

Prior to implementation, students had little exposure to career exploration, goal setting, and college planning tools. Students now have access to curriculum designed to help students define and navigate through their post-secondary journey. The curriculum helps guide students through a series of lessons covering topics like financial aid, building self-confidence, and goal setting. Students can also explore potential careers they otherwise would not consider (think Astrobiologist or Zen Master) through Roadtrip Nation’s video interview library housing hundreds of real-world examples.

Students have found the curriculum engaging and easy to navigate. Over 8,000 middle and high school students completed activities since implementation in October 2013. By 2015 we expect to be serving over 10,000 students in Napa County.

Technology’s role in student success

The NCOE mission to use technology to prepare all students for academic and career success is well underway. A strong academic foundation is being laid in preschool, followed by tutoring for elementary and middle school, capped by access to college and career planning tools in high school. Footsteps2Brilliance, after-school STEM tutoring and Naviance have been shown to engage students and strengthen academic achievement. Classroom visitors have said that you can hear a pin drop when students are using Footsteps2Brilliance or Naviance!

It’s also important to keep parents in mind when thinking about student success. With access to workshops, parents have tools and resources to work with their students. Teachers have also benefited from technology workshops designed to provide them with tools to integrate technology into their classrooms.

A united vision, strong partnerships and a collaborative spirit have made the Napa County initiatives a reality, proving that by working together with community partners and educational organizations, we can bring innovative projects to life.

Tammie Holloway is Director of College & Career Readiness in the Napa County Office of Education.

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