Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Teaching and Learning Academy

Infinity Loop 4The BPS Teaching and Learning Academy is happening this summer, and is truly unlike any PD we have had in our district before.  Teachers from throughout our district have been working together to create a meaningful experience that will help innovate the way we use formative assessments.  

There will be four short workshops delivered throughout the academy, each focusing on a different element of formative assessment.  Feedback is a critical piece of our assessment practice, but does it look the same for each assessment we give?  What can teachers do to enhance student metacognition, and empower kids to take control of their learning?  When are knowledge-level questioning/activities appropriate, and how can teachers structure a rich assessment that allows students to show they are able to apply what they have learned in class and extend those skills to real-world situations? These are just some of the questions we hope to begin answering during the summer academy, and each workshop will challenge participants to reflect on their own practice to identify opportunities for growth.  
http://res.freestockphotos.biz/pictures/17/17116-illustration-of-a-laptop-computer-pv.pngThere are only so many minutes in a classroom/prep period/day that we can use, so our development team thought that teachers could benefit from using their technology to add efficiencies to their daily routines.  Why even have the technology if it isn’t doing anything that couldn’t be done with an overhead projector and some dry erase markers, right?  The goal of our technology tips sprinkled throughout the academy is to give teachers the tools to work smarter, not harder, so that they can maximize their time in class with students.  

Summer can be a busy time for teachers.  Kids, vacations, part-time jobs, and other commitments can make it difficult for teachers to participate in many different professional development opportunities.  This is why the academy has been designed in a way that accommodates busy summer schedules, and each of the required sessions for the academy are offered multiple times throughout an academy window. Teachers can set their own pace for completing the academy by choosing which sessions work best for them.  You can find more information on the academy website:  https://goo.gl/ycrcw9

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Technology Replacement and Sustainability

“Will we get new computers this year?” is undoubtedly one of the most popular questions asked of the Technology Department. Last spring the School Board changed the technology budget enhancement to a continual investment on a three year cycle.  The 2015-2016 school year was the first year on this new schedule, with elementary schools as the recipients.  In addition to replacing staff laptops, we provided every 3rd-4th grade classroom with one Chromebook for every three students and a two to one ratio in 5th grade. Building administrators were provided an allocation of funds based on population to fill other technology needs within their schools with a selection of district-approved devices.  We are working with high school administrators and stakeholders on where to best position new computers within the schools for the 2016-2017 school year.   Middle schools will be replaced in 2017-2018.  

Moving to more online tools and resources has allowed us to purchase lower cost, “cloud”, devices.  With this we have been able to buy two or three student devices for the cost of a more traditional computer. The total number of devices purchased for elementary schools this year exceeded 3,100.  In comparison, the previous elementary replacement was approximately 1,100 devices.  In 2013, we purchased about 700 computers for the high schools and we anticipate purchasing almost four times that amount this cycle.

This ongoing funding has granted us many benefits.  Laptops have already been ordered for high school staff, and we will start deploying them on-site within the coming weeks.  Teachers have been asked to complete applications for classroom sets of Chromebooks and they will know before summer whether their application was accepted.  Sustainability allows us to create a model in which teachers will have adequate time to prepare for technology in their school and classroom, and the confidence to know that the technology will grow with the demands of staff and students.  

“Will we get new computers this year”?  The answer is a resounding “YES!” and the sustainability of funding now allows us to shift our focus from obtaining access to technology to transforming the use of technology and the persistent growth of 21st century teaching and learning.

Want to do more with your technology?  Check out the BPS  technology training opportunities: https://goo.gl/DSi8Mv