At the start of 2007/2008 Mr. Levy's dream team got to work fast and have accomplished a tremendous amount in one year. His tech coach is a Google Certified Educator and used a lot of this knowledge to integrate Google in the work they do to enhance teaching and learning. Alongside Mr. Ackerman and Mr. Wagner she worked with Google to set up accounts for the entire student and teacher body which enabled them to use the suite of free Google products including gmail for staff and student email, Google Collaborative Docs and Spreadsheets to enhance tracking of student data, Google Groups to share plans and resources, Google talk to stimulate instant messaging conversation and accountable communication and Blogger to provide blogs (that can be translated into multiple languages) for the school, principal, staff and students. You can visit their blogs at:
- http://339web.blogspot.com/ - School Blog
- http://339levy.blogspot.com/ - Principal’s Ponderings
- http://www.339hardline.com/ - CIS 339 Online Newspaper
- http://e-averbach.blogspot.com/ - Teacher’s blog with a link to student blogs
Using Google as a platform was a powerful choice because it gave staff and students a common platform and a single sign on solving the “I forgot my username/password” issue. They also use wikis for lesson planning collaboration and more.
The combination of 21st Century tools and a 21st Century-minded staff have enabled C.I.S. 339 to develop an innovative online and onsite Professional Learning Community that is embedded in all teaching and learning at the school. The school’s leaders, coaches, and their educational consultant uses 21st Century tools to model 2.0 support for teachers and students that they are able to transfer into their teaching and learning practice. In addition to onsite mentoring and professional development, teachers also have access to online support via tools such as Skype (free online voice and video conferencing), gmail, chat, online groups (e.g. Google Groups), online videos, and through collaboration and feedback on Google Docs and blogs. For an example of this you can watch Mr. Wagner’s UStream video message to class 165 in response to the work they are doing as they blog about “The Outsider.” This relationship encourages teachers to adopt these technologies more quickly, and caters to teachers' needs as the improved flexibility means that teachers utilize the mentoring and support services outside of school hours when much of their planning is taking place.
C.I.S. 339 has spent a lot of time this year ensuring teachers are very comfortable with embedding these tools into their work. The more they are embedded in the day to day of how they do business the easier it becomes for teachers to make connections as to how they can enhance student learning with technology.
This will be a big focus next year as Mr. Levy prepares his school for becoming a 1:1 environment through a Capital funded NYC Dept of Education program. He is also piloting using the low-cost Asus Eee Laptops which have the potential to provide a sustainable one-laptop-per-child reality necessary for successful 21st Century teaching and learning. I look forward to seeing how the C.I.S. becomes a true School 2.0 once they have all the ingredients in place next year.
Click here to read an email from the school's tech coach explaining the process the school went through to put these structures in place.