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Technology news from Arlington Public Schools | GUEST OPINION
In Arlington Public Schools we dedicate a portion of the maintenance and operations levy to support technology in our schools. Have you ever wondered how it is being used to support your student? There are some exciting new tools that our Technology Department is implementing to help both teachers and students.
Back in 2000, Jim Bassett pioneered the development of the Basmati Academic Progress Software as a way for students and parents to monitor grades online. Last year we moved our online gradebook to the Family Access system to integrate it with our other student information. Yet there were still some missing pieces to allow educators to effectively study student performance.
We needed a way for educators to look at assessments, track what’s working and help us identify students who need additional help. Our new Homeroom system is a data dashboard. Just like your car’s dashboard, it give’s educators one place to look and get current information on student assessment data. This software allows teachers to take data from state tests and assessments given during the school year, organize it and visualize it. Our teachers and administrators are using this software to closely follow our students, import our own teacher-developed tests and plan for interventions to help our students succeed. In the past, this might have taken us many hours to put together using spreadsheets. Now we can drill down and get this data in minutes.
This year we are also implementing a “single sign on” system that will help teachers work more efficiently by logging in once rather than multiple times to access their online tools. Now they won’t have to keep track of 10 different passwords and logins to do their job. Inside of this system teachers can connect to our curriculum website. Here teachers have outlined what is being taught in each subject area, when it is taught and how it is going to assessed. Teachers will also have access to all of the digital materials they have identified as the best materials to support those goals.
After we identify a student’s needs, how do we respond? When we have students at the secondary level who are behind on credits or need other credits, we enroll them in classes using online courseware. Some of these courses were developed by teachers in our school district and others were purchased from an outside vendor. In both situations we identify the areas that a student already has learned, and then the areas in which they need to improve. Many of these students are catching up on their credits by working in our labs during the school day. Students who can show that they have mastered the material are moved on to other areas of the course.
Another significant new initiative is the use of iPad tablets at the elementary level. Last year we piloted the use of iPads in many of our special education classrooms. What we saw was a significant impact on student motivation and the ability for teachers to individualize learning for children. The power of this technology really shines when we put it in children’s hands. Students are asking to come in early to school or giving up their recess so that they can work on their math and reading skills on the iPads. After that pilot we chose to use federal grant funds to expand this project across our elementary schools. This week we are delivering the iPads to elementary schools across the district. Our teachers are working together to identify the apps that target skills students need in math, reading and language arts. When a student goes to work on an iPad, teachers will have a clear idea of what they need to know, what the best app is for helping them, and whether they have learned it.
These are just a few of the exciting initiatives that leverage technology to ensure that every student is successful. We try to efficiently use the levy funds to help all of the staff at Arlington Public Schools to focus on our most important goal — Improving Student Learning.
Mark Ehrhardt is the Director of Technology and can be reached by calling 360-618-6211 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.