Our schools are in the beginning stages of a three-year plan to improve the integration of technology in classrooms with the goal of improving student learning and fostering increased student engagement.
The first phase of the program is concentrated on upper elementary grades: third through fifth. Over the summer 68 teachers became Google Certified Educators and another 32 received extensive professional development aimed at increasing teacher use of GAFE (Google Apps for Education) tools in the classroom
Berkeley was an early adopter of GAFE, and is entering its 6th year with its standard set of tools available to students: Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
In each grade 4 and 5 each student has a personal Chromebook to use during the school day. In grade 3, teachers share with the teacher next door. The professional development and 1460 chromebooks needed for the 4th and 5th grade classes were purchased with one-time district funds aimed at improving technology use.
In addition to the professional development and new Chromebooks, each school has been or will be Digital Citizenship certified by CommonSense Media.
Desmos is one of the online tools that is making it’s way onto the screens of 5th-8th grade students; their teachers participated in a workshop in August designed to deepen teachers’ questioning strategies and students’ problem solving. An online graphing calculator, Desmos allows students to manipulate mathematical tools to deepen their knowledge and better visualize how mathematical concepts are connected.
Allison Krasnow, a long-time Berkeley math teacher who was named this year to be the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the district, and who was also recently selected to be a Desmos Fellow, says “All three parts of the program fit together: expanded professional development for teachers, Digital Citizenship being a part of the school culture, and having a Chromebook in students hands.”
The plan for elementary schools was fomented by a team of principals, teachers, Krasnow, and District Library Coordinator Becca Todd last spring. A similar collaboration of secondary teachers and staff will be convened this fall to formulate next steps in the secondary schools, where the many Chromebooks in the schools already are in high demand.