It’s hard to believe that we are halfway through the school year. Here are our mid-year highlights:
INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND LIBRARY MEDIA
Camp 21 (tentative dates June 25, 26, 29, 30)
We have a new design for our 4-day summer teacher technology camp (formerly iCamp and Windows Camp) to meet the needs of all teachers, K-12. Camp 21 will focus on how technology can be used to support the 21st century skills that students will need to thrive in our global society. Stay tuned for more information about the camp, including the Framingham State College 2-credit option.
Online learning using Moodle
Online learning has taken off in Newton. We have begun to offer online courses for teacher professional development and for complementing face-to-face instruction for secondary students. We are using the open-source course management software called Moodle. Two examples include:
- Moodle 101: Instructional Technology Specialists are offering secondary teachers the opportunity to learn how to create an online course to supplement daily class instruction. This 6 week online course is required in order to implement an online course. Twenty teachers at the middle school level have already taken the course. At the high school level, two more sessions started in March with 8-12 teachers from each high school.
- Using Web 2.0 Tools to Address the Five “C”s of Language Learning: World Language teachers Carol Seitz and Michelle Bloom-Scheff are offering an online workshop to Newton, Cambridge and Somerville teachers as part of a professional development grant funded by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. World language teachers are learning to use Web 2.0 tools to support teaching and learning of the 5 “C”s identified in the curriculum frameworks: Communication, Cultures, Comparisons, Connections, and Communities. They are exploring tools, such as blogs, wikis, asynchronous text and audio discussions, multimedia sharing sites, and podcasts, as well as learning how to integrate these tools into their instruction.
Leadership Initiatives for Teaching and Technology (LIFT2)
The program offers middle school and high school Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) teachers a professional education experience that integrates relevant, “real world” externships in innovative, high-tech industries with graduate course work at leading universities. Math and Science teachers are encouraged to apply for the 2009-10 program. (Go to the LIFT2 for the application form.)
1:1 Learning Pilot Continues with Dell Mini Notes
The Dell Mini-note laptop project is an extension of Newton’s Technology Advisory Committee (TAC) 1:1 learning pilot initially launched during the 2007-2008 school year. Last April, the 1:1 learning project studied the effects of having one laptop per child in two out of three science 8th grade classrooms at Brown Middle School. Two vendors (Apple and HP) generously loaned enough laptops for each child to use during science class for 7 weeks. One classroom used MacBooks and the other used HP tablets. The student outcomes of this pilot were very positive. Students benefited in the following ways:
* Improved student performance
* Differentiated instruction
* Improved student focus
* Higher level of student understanding and motivation
* Enhanced student-teacher communication
* Improving technology skills
Ms. Efros’s 8th grade science students will begin studying astronomy using the Dell Mini Notes. These netbooks will be configured to take advantage of the “cloud computing” environment to access files and instructional programs in school and from home. Solutions for Learning will again help assess the efficacy of the pilot.
Interactive Devices Compared
Chris Murphy, Instructional Technology Facilitator at North, is the facilitator of a small group of North teachers who are comparing a variety of interactive devices in order to select the device that makes the most impact on teaching and learning. We look forward to hearing about the top choice this spring!
Software to Improve Fluency
Williams Elementary School is piloting the instructional software FASTT Math in order to see if math fluency improves for students using the software. We are piloting the use of Read Naturally for improving reading fluency for students in grades 2-5 in several elementary schools and in all four middle schools. If proven effective, the goal is to use such software to support all students with fluency issues at all elementary and middle schools.
21st Century Learning
• Inquire, think critically and gain knowledge
• Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.
• Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society.
• Pursue personal and aesthetic growth.
These four strands reinforce the unique role of library teachers as they assist classroom teachers with curriculum planning/implementation and teach 21st century skills to students as “Learners 4 Life.”
President Obama Inauguration
On January 20th all Newton students had the opportunity to view the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States. The IT and library staff worked for several weeks with RCN and Comcast to set up ample viewing stations to ensure that school assemblies and class activities could proceed without a hitch. Marc Richmond and Chris Swerling compiled a pathfinder (resource page) of Web sites that library teachers at the elementary level selected for teachers and students to learn more about this important event.
Copyright Web Site
Last summer a group of library teachers created a Copyright web site to help teachers navigate the rough waters of understanding and applying copyright laws in our daily work. It is a wonderful reference.
CyberSafety Lessons, Grades 3-8
Library teachers and Instructional Technology Specialists have teamed up with classroom and health teachers to develop and teach CyberSafety to students. As children continue to use the Web at school and home, it is crucial that students undertasnd both the benefits and dangers of communicating online. Survey results from the School/Public Library CyberSafety Night for Elementary parents (May 2008) pointed out that parents want to continue discussions. Elementary library teachers have prepared presentations to give at PTO meetings, Principal Coffees or in the library during flex-time. Check out the library webpage: The Road to CyberSafety.
Social Studies and the School Library
Elementary library teachers collaborated with History and Social Science Coordinator, Janet Buerklin, to develop a pathfinder in support of the newly developed 4th grade Civil Rights unit. In addition to print materials, the pathfinder has resources for teachers to gather background information to aid them in teaching the unit, and links for students to engage in selecting and using online information in their research.
Examples of technology projects in school libraries:
• First grade students created a digital Human Alphabet ABC poetry book.
• Podcast book reviews by third grade students.
• Animated video to explain concept of narrative hook created by fifth grade students using Animoto.
• Using Yahoo Babel Fish to help students with translation of web pages into a multitude of languages.
• Creating a secondary library teacher NING (online tool for forming groups) to hone skills among teachers to encourage student reading.
• Creating library book blogs and presenting book talks to promote student reading (at Newton North, circulation of fiction titles rose 9%).
Our network staff has completed the installation of the Cisco managed wireless technology in our elementary schools.
We completed a major reconfiguration of the NPS network backbone to eliminate reliance on the outdated Cisco 5509 router at City Hall. We are also working with the city IT department and Fire & Wire (Newton Fire Department) to leverage city-owned fiber to improve the district’s wide-area network connections to the 21 school buildings.
Status of MacSchool to Pearson-Chancery SMS Conversion
The transition from MacSchool to browser-based SMS at the middle school level was completed for the opening of school, 9/08. The high school level conversion is already underway with the high school schedulers attending a four-day training workshop during the week of 2/23/09 to learn the “ins and outs” of the new SMS scheduling package. Our goal is to continue assisting both high schools as they complete their transition to SMS in September 2009.
New Teacher Laptops for South
Two hundred Macbooks have arrived to replace aging teacher laptops at South. Behind the scenes the IT staff has been implementing a new support system, the Casper Suite, which will be used to both image the new laptops and improve our efficiency in managing Macintosh computers across the district. Roll out of the laptops will begin in March 2009.
Textbook Manager Pilot
The science and math departments at South High School have begun a pilot to track the utilization of student textbooks by using a computerized module that interfaces with our library automation system (Destiny by Follett).
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Education Data Warehouse Project
NPS has joined the collaborative effort of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and local school districts to centralize K-12 educational performance data into one state coordinated data repository hosted by the Department. This is an important step for Newton as we continue to move forward the initiative to collect and analyze a wide range of student data points for program evaluation and classroom instruction in order to address the student achievement gaps.
TELL Lab Renovation:
In conjunction with the department of maintenance, the IT department worked during February vacation to spruce up our training lab located on the third floor of the Ed Center. With the new coat of paint, carpeting and wires now organized, the lab is a more inviting place to host meetings and training workshops.