Superintendent boasts pushing technology beyond educators’ comfort zones

by beth on March 30, 2016

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Above: This month, the school district hosted a guru on technology in education and Regional Committee members heard from students working with tech. (Images from NCAT videos)

At school committee meetings this month, a lot of the talk focused on technology. It’s not surprising given that the district just hosted an “international leader” on technology in education.

Superintendent Christine Johnson was enthusiastic about the expert’s ability to push educators outside of their comfort zones.

Alan November spoke at a forum for parents this month. Kathleen Harragan* described his condensed presentation to parents “as probably the best hour that any parent, or even any adult, could spend.” (Click here to view it.)

But that’s just the tip of November’s involvement. Earlier that day, he met with the Curriculum Advisory Committee. And the district kicked off the school year with his presence at Professional Development days.

Johnson told the committee that he had made some faculty “a little uncomfortable”. To Johnson, that signals success “because we’re thinking differently, we’re thinking out-of-the-box”.

Each year, 26 district administrators gather to work on internal planning, usually focused on state/district initiatives. This year, they are carving out time from that to attend a technology conference run by November. Johnson explained:

So we will have the opportunity to hear from a lot of people who make us very uncomfortable. That will then translate into some new and meaningful work in the classroom and instructional practices.

The discussion took place at the March 16th Combined school committees meeting. It’s also the night Johnson introduced Leo Brehm, Director of Instructional Technology and Digital Learning. Brehm began his post in time to attend November’s presentations.

Brehm was heralded as another expert. He told the committees that he worked with November in the past. According to Johnson, Brehm’s begun digging in to what the schools are doing. In June, he hopes to present an action plan based on those findings.

Coincidentally, some updates at the Regional Commitee meeting that followed highlighted students’ work with technology:

  • Principal Tom Mead told the committee that Algonquin was a “Pioneer School” for Google Expeditions. Students utilized the cardboard viewers for smart phones allowing teachers to use a tablet to lead students on virtual trips. Teachers could choose from 80 destinations including nearby moons. (You can read more about the Google initiative here.)
  • Students belonging to SWAT (Students Working to Advance Technology) screened their crowd-sourced project about, from, and by students. It was a video of a Day in the Life of an Algonquin student. Images and videos were submitted by students and edited by student Kendall Sweeney.
  • Three students of the AP Computer Science class (also members of the school’s Programming Team) presented an app they created. The app was in response to a Congressional challenge. The students won 1st place for their district. The PaziMD app is a first aid reference tool.

*Harragan is Chair of the Regional School Committee and member of the Southborough School Committee.

1 PML March 31, 2016 at 12:36 PM

I think enhancing students’ learning through technology is a great plan. In addition, we need to work on making sure that we are introducing students to computer science so that they can CREATE technology rather than just be CONSUMERS of technology.

There are new Digital Literacy and Computer Science standards that are out for discussion through the Massachusetts Dept. of Education and I hope that our district starts implementing them at least in the Middle schools. We need to increase student understanding of the way computers work and how students can extend applications – through programming — for their purposes.

Trottier has started this process by adding robotics to the Technology Engineering classes but we need to offer much more. I hope this is part of the Superintendent’s technology direction.

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