Investing in Technology to Transform Learning Experiences: Enhancing Instructional Strategies with SMART amp

A SMART Customer story with Joshua Koen, Newark Public Schools

Teachers and School

Joshua Koen, Director of Data, Assessment, and Educational Technology
Jason Smith, Deputy Director of Data, Assessment, and Educational Technology
Newark Public Schools, Newark, NJ


Transforming learning experiences beyond digitized worksheets and “$1,000 pencil lessons” through the effective implementation of technology in the classroom.


NPS earned a 2015 Learning Counsel Digital Curriculum & Content Strategy Award.

NPS teachers who utilized SMART amp effectively noticed improved student performance.

Motivation: Moving Beyond a $1,000 Pencil

Newark Public School District (NPS) is a comprehensive community district that serves the entire city of Newark in Essex County, New Jersey. NPS is the largest and one of the oldest school systems in the state of New Jersey. Its origin dates back to 1676. The racial and ethnic diversity of the city provides a rich educational experience for pre-kindergarten to secondary school students.

When Joshua Koen joined Newark Public Schools in December 2013, he was hired to lead a team to develop and implement a vision for how technology applications and tools could help the district and its educators meet goals for student achievement in core academic areas. The timing was fortuitous, as New Jersey was similarly preparing for a state-wide implementation of online assessments, creating a huge demand for an increase in technology in schools.

After an initial assessment of the current capacity among all schools in Newark, Joshua and his leadership team determined that they would need to procure nearly 10,000 student devices to ensure students could complete the online assessments within the given windows, without a significant loss of instructional time. He and his team undertook a rigorous effort to align the selection and purchase of devices along with corresponding digital content and online platforms with their standards-aligned curriculum and adopted instructional strategies.

The Newark Public Schools’ mission is to help all students succeed and develop the skills and knowledge necessary to enter the career and college of their choice. To help achieve this, Josh’s vision was to use technology, including SMART amp, to empower NPS teachers to enhance their teaching practices and standards-aligned curriculum in order to facilitate transformative learning experiences.

Shifting the Mindset to Collaborative and Authentic Learning Experiences

The core purpose of Joshua’s technology initiative was to empower teachers and deepen classroom practices. With this in mind, his instructional technology team looked at all content areas to determine how technology could assist teachers and students. He and his team identified three overarching instructional strategies as having the greatest potential to transform the learning environment at NPS:

  1. Using formative assessment to drive instruction.
  2. Using aggressive monitoring to enable real-time checks for understanding and deliver student feedback.
  3. Fostering greater intellectual engagement through habits of discussion.

Recognizing the power and potential of SMART amp aligned to NPS’s three key instructional strategies, the team chose to start their implementation in math and science. They then extended it into all of their core academic content areas, recognizing that SMART amp uniquely provided their teachers and students with the ability to:

  • Help make learning visual and participatory.
  • Provide and receive real-time feedback.
  • Archive student work over time.
  • Differentiate, using data collected in the moment to inform teaching decisions.

Outcome: Transformed Learning Experiences

Focusing on SMART amp, Joshua and his team were able to harness the power of NPS devices, and develop an effective implementation pathway for their 2,700 teachers. They were able to extend their teachers’ previous in-depth pedagogy and content training (from 2011 onward). Additionally, their instructional technology team was able to train teachers on how to enhance their best teaching practices, and ultimately transform learning experiences for their students with SMART amp.

Read about how three highly effective teachers at NPS used SMART amp to transform learning experiences for their students:

Read about how three highly effective teachers at NPS used SMART amp to transform learning experiences for their students:

Henry Varum (Ann Street School) used SMART amp to help deliver balanced math instruction, enhance his classroom differentiation, and assist his students achieve deeper mathematical discourse and expression.

Read the story

Rita Della Valle (Technology High School) used SMART amp to help her students extend their mathematical learning beyond computation, in order to create math, and not just do math, and positively affect interim scores.

Read the story

Zachary Robbins (McKinley School) used SMART amp to help improve his instructional strategies, develop independent learners in a centersbased approach, and positively impact reading comprehension.

Read the story

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Posted: June 27, 2017
in Outcome Studies