Tech integrators in Concord help with curriculum, tech teaching
Friday was step-up day at Rundlett Middle School in Concord, an afternoon for fifth-grade students to get familiar with the school they’ll attend next year.
Students in Darcy Ferry’s sixth-grade class were writing notes for fifth-graders to dispel myths about the rooftop swimming pool and offer tidbits about the cafeteria food and class preparation.
The notes weren’t written with pen and paper. Instead, the students blogged their notes and saved them online, where fifth-graders would access and read them.
“The technology has really helped us grow in leaps and bounds,” Ferry said. “The students are so funny, sometimes they will come up to me and show me something. We’re grateful to have it.”
Administrators say the classroom comfort with iPads can be credited in part to Deb Pfitzenmayer, the school’s technology integrator. Pfitzenmayer and her colleagues at the elementary level are charged with helping with digital curriculum development and technology training for teachers. District technology integrators also find the most effective devices and applications for classroom use. With tech integrators at Abbot-Downing and Concord High schools included in next year’s budget, every school in the district will have its own staffers focused on creating successful technology use in Concord. The decision to hire the tech integrators coincides with the district’s efforts to integrate smart boards and one-to-one iPads or device programming for students.
“It is a very powerful connection when you are able to bring classroom teachers who have that experience in curriculum development with someone who has that experience in technology and an understanding of how students learn,” Rundlett Principal Tom Sica said. “That has been a great benefit.”
Tech integrators were placed in four district elementary schools last year with a multitiered charge – to help design, implement and assess curricula that integrates multimedia, research and information literacy into the regular education program. In short, the tech integrators identify the best digital teaching tools and help teachers use them in the classroom.
“These positions are really critical support people for our staff,” Assistant Superintendent Donna Palley said. “There is a range in terms of comfort level. We have teachers that are absolutely proficient. Others might be a little more reluctant and there might be a learning curve.”
Also responsible for managing the digital tools, the tech integrators are critical as the district looks to add to its existing stock of 2,415 iPads, 808 desktop computers and the interactive white boards and LCD projectors found in every classroom.
Equity is a focal point for the district, Palley said. Giving every student his or her own iPad would have been difficult because of cost and lack of wireless infrastructure, but phasing them in has allowed the district to measure the most effective ways to use the technology. “That was important to the school board. When we had the new schools built we had a plan for the other schools. It took a little bit longer, but next year we will have iPads in all elementary classrooms,” Palley said.
Concord’s three new elementary schools had iPads for every student and teacher. Students at the two older schools had shared access to iPads. Included in next year’s budget is $84,000 each to bring iPads to Beaver Meadow and Broken Ground schools, though a lease financing plan means the district will pay $28,690 for iPads at the two schools next year. All 297 sixth-graders at Rundlett have an iPad they use during school hours. Next year, the district is slated to pay $71,727 toward a total $210,000 to bring iPads to seventh-graders. The following year, iPads are expected for all eighth-graders.
“We see technology as a tool, just as books, pencils, pens and overhead projectors,” Palley said. “We want to find the best tools to support student learning. It’s really just a matter of making the best decisions about what’s going to be the best match for students.”
Students used the iPads in different ways at Rundlett on Friday morning. Students in Melissa McCaffrey’s class created first-person videos depicting characters of Greek mythology. Betsy Heath’s students, who traditionally printed a magazine using Microsoft Word, have turned their projects into television broadcasts using green screens and iPad apps.
“We have a lot of talented people in the building who have a great capacity on their own. It’s a great opportunity professionally to think through curriculum and where are the real meaningful ways it can bring technology, and not in an artificial way or in a way that feels disconnected to what we’re doing,” Sica said.
Most sixth-graders at Rundlett had their own school-issued iPads in elementary school, and Pfitzenmayer said they would likely be the first to have a one-to-one device from grade five through graduation. “I call them the pioneers,” she said.
(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or iwilson@ cmonitor.com.)