Superintendent News

As I began writing about the updates to the district’s curriculum, it quickly became apparent that the topic was too large in scope for a single article.  This column will focus on how we utilize technology to augment instruction.  Next week will dive into the specific technology knowledge and skills our students will be acquiring.

The district took a huge leap in our use of technology to support instruction just in front of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We made the decision to become a 1-to-1 school, meaning that all students would have access to a chromebook.  This looks a little different depending upon the age of the student as access can vary from a classroom cart model where the devices are used during the day, but are stored in the classroom to a model where older students have a specific chromebook assigned to them and are free to use the devices at home. 

In addition, our new math curriculum required the purchase of approximately seventy interactive panels.  Think of an interactive panel as a cross between a television and a computer with touchscreen functionality.  Smart panels are very much a normal component of instruction in today’s classrooms.

Adapting to the distance learning experience during the pandemic also meant utilizing various applications to enhance instruction.  As challenging as it was, the need to improvise also brought out some really good practices that support student learning.  Teachers continued to use the best of those practices even after students returned to the classroom. The use of these various technologies has become an integral part of modern instructional practice.  

This is a brief snapshot of some of the applications and software that we use to aid instruction.

Google Workspace for Education is a suite of tools for document creation and sharing, as well as homework hand out/turn in processes in classrooms. All staff and students use Google Workspace for Education.

GoGuardian is a Chromebook management program that teachers can use to help focus their students' Chromebook use by preventing them from wandering to websites that are irrelevant to the lesson. Teachers can launch tabs automatically for students, and can lock student screens when attention is needed at the front of the class. Additionally, GoGuardian provides content filtering, helping to keep students away from inappropriate material. GoGuardian also has a parent app that allows parents to see their students' Chromebook usage history.

PearDeck is a service that allows teachers to add interactivity to traditional slide decks.  Students can anonymously respond to prompts, answer questions, draw or diagram and more during a teacher's presentation. Student responses are saved and are reviewable by the teacher.  This allows the teacher to gauge the class's learning and adjust future lessons as necessary.

Clever is a portal used primarily by our elementary students. Students can use a QR code to badge into their Chromebook, which then takes them to their Clever portal.  The Clever portal is set up by school administrators and classroom teachers. Once badged in, students can access all of the district's software products directly without being required to sign in. Clever handles the sign-in process for them.

Students in graphic design classes are issued Adobe Creative Cloud accounts that provide access to Adobe tools such as Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premiere Pro.

Engineering and STEM students utilize AutoCAD which is a powerful computer-aided design software that can communicate with our 3D printers to bring student creations to life.

Cleveland students use Typing Pal to learn the basics of efficient keyboarding.

Music teachers use Quaver to make the learning of music theory fun for younger students.

In addition, curriculum publishers now produce digital curriculum to support instruction.  The days where a student simply received a new textbook are long gone.  Digital curriculum supports can add to the teacher’s instruction, provide remediation or additional challenge material by analyzing student responses and determine what each individual student needs in the way of support.  This practice is known in education as differentiated instruction.  It is designed to meet the needs of each student by matching instructional materials with the present abilities of the student.  

McGraw-Hill is a major publisher of curricula used by thousands of schools across the United States.  Their publications are typically of high quality and we purchase a fair amount of curricula from them.

Our K-6 language arts curriculum is published by McGraw-Hill.  Their online Wonders product is a resource teachers use to reinforce their classroom lessons. Leveled readers help provide students with needed support materials.  Leveled readers typically come in three reading levels.  They all contain the essence of the same story or material, however, the leveled readers allow students to learn the concepts using a text with a reading level better matched to their current ability.  If you have been around as long as I have, think of it as the difference between Wikipedia, World Book Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia Britannica.  You could look up a topic on any of them, but the level of detail and complexity varies greatly.  

The McGraw-Hill Inspire product reinforces classroom lessons for science.  The new science standards are built on an inquiry-based model.  Students are encouraged to ask questions and learn how to use evidence to support scientific principles.  As parents, if you recall how many questions your children asked you when they were little - well, the goal of the Inspire curriculum is to extend that curiosity and use it as a springboard for learning.

Reveal is the McGraw-Hill online math resource.  It includes the traditional curriculum “bundle” which comprises a student edition, consumables (skill practice) and a teacher’s edition.  It is paired with a product called ALEKS.  ALEKS complements the lessons in the Reveal curriculum and provides feedback to both the student and the teacher.  ALEKS is adaptive.  As students solve problems, the software recognizes concepts the child has mastered and moves them on to more challenging content.  By the same token, if a student is struggling with a concept, the software adapts instruction and practice to meet the child's needs.  Teachers are able to access detailed reports on content mastery across the entire class or can view an in-depth analysis at the individual student level.  

That’s a quick snapshot of how we use technology to support and enhance curriculum and instruction.  Next week will focus on the technology skills our students are learning.