The steps to a successful district-wide technology rollout
The successful implementation of EdTech at Newcomer Academy is a small glimpse of the bigger picture Jefferson County Schools had in mind when they approved a district-wide rollout in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That meant adopting a technology plan for over 6,500 teachers and over 100,000 students.
Their goal was to bring their classrooms up to speed to make remote learning easier for teachers and students, but also with the long-term goal of future-proofing the tech in their classrooms.
In other words, they needed their tech to be the perfect fit for right now, and for down the road.
Partnerships with SMART Technologies and Creative Image Technologies (C-it), the region’s largest integrated tech provider, were key to making the rollout a positive experience for everyone.
When you're deploying a system to that many classrooms, you really have to have a good solid plan, said Trish Bradley, a manager at C-it. SMART did a fantastic job of creating a training program that we were able to use.
SMART staff worked with Jefferson County Schools and C-it to develop simple-but-exciting training and demonstrations so that teachers could immediately put their new interactive displays and software to use in their classrooms.
With a preloaded QR code wallpaper installed on every device, teachers had an immediate access point to support, instructions, and inspiration with regard to their classroom tech.
Jessica Rosenthal, Executive Administrator, Middle Schools at JCPS, says that the powerful combination of SMART’s hardware and software has allowed Jefferson County teachers to offer more personalized learning options to their students.
Whether it’s a group of students collaborating at a freestanding interactive panel, or a small group activity led asynchronously by the teacher via Lumio, blended learning has found a more prominent place in JCPS classrooms since the rollout.
Rosenthal says that when she visits classrooms now it's noisy. And it's great, because we know that students are engaged, and they're focused, and they're learning.
“SMART is the best interactive display in the world. During our evaluation process, it was a no-brainer. I mean, nobody can touch the software, hardware and support.”
- Lawrence Glynn,
President of Creative Image Technologies
Partnering with SMART
Lawrence Glynn, president of Creative Image Technologies (C-it), says that when it came to choosing the right EdTech company for Jefferson County Schools, it was obvious who would provide the level of service they needed.
During our evaluation process, it was a no brainer. I mean, nobody can touch the software, the hardware, the support [from SMART].
Bradley says that the most valuable thing about the partnership with SMART is the ongoing commitment to providing what teachers need, even years after the initial purchase.
The really phenomenal thing I find about SMART is they listen, Bradley said. They not only listen to us as their partners, but also to the teachers.
Bradley recalled a scenario when a teacher wished aloud that a tool she was working with had an undo button. Well guess what? The next update comes out, and it has an undo button. Things of that nature really make [SMART] an awesome team to work with.
According to Bradley, it’s seeing students like those at Newcomer Academy thrive using technology that brings the most meaning to her work.
You just really feel like you're making a difference… you're improving the future and I think that that is the best part of our job. I really do.
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Speaking the language of fashion, art, and culture
The gymnasium floor is covered with a runway. Lights line the room, chairs are set out, and the student models put on their carefully selected pieces. It’s a fashion show put on by the students, so the excitement is palpable among attendees, peers and parents alike.
But, the annual Newcomer Academy fashion show is about so much more than showcasing clothes.
You see, students at Newcomer Academy don’t yet speak fluent English. The school, which spans grades 6-10, offers a transitional program that prepares students linguistically and academically for a traditional middle or high school setting.
This annual fashion show is a celebration. It allows students to showcase and celebrate their own heritage and home countries, as well as those of their peers. The excitement among students is unmistakable at the event as they experience the fashion chosen by their classmates.
This event is a bridge-builder. It brings students together, students who often don’t even speak the same language.
It’s a powerful reminder that art speaks a language all its own, one that every student around the world can take part in.
How Newcomer Academy uses EdTech to support English language learners
With over 100 languages spoken among the students at Newcomer Academy, educators at the school have unique challenges in their journey to getting students ready for traditional school within three semesters.
Staff at Newcomer say that they wouldn't be able to do their jobs without the EdTech tools they use daily, especially considering that they often don’t speak the same languages as their students.
Jefferson County Schools’ one-to-one device initiative gives every single student at Newcomer their own LTE device. Students are given access to the device and internet whether they're at home, with grandma, or at a parent’s workplace.
Lumio by SMART offers an Immersive Reader tool that allows a student to highlight a section of text and enable the speech-to-text function in their own language, an invaluable resource as a student is learning a new language. Embedded picture dictionaries are another tool that supports teachers and students as they work to demystify the English language.
Newcomer Academy teacher Beth Wren sees how access to personal devices at school provides an element of excitement that’s a welcome reprieve from what can be a very stressful process of immigrating to a new country.
“They are able to connect with something and have fun with something in their environment. Technology is fun. So for them to be able to do that, it just opens the world for them. And they wouldn't have that otherwise.”
Questions? Chat with SMART experts near you.
Brandeis Elementary School’s STEAM curriculum engages students
Student engagement and community-building are focuses that span all of Jefferson County Public Schools. Brandeis Elementary School is another star example within the district of engaged learning.
Brandeis’s STEAM curriculum allows students to direct their learning and get their hands dirty - literally. Gardening is a major focus of the students’ current curriculum, and offers ripe opportunities for inquiry-based learning.
Dr. Shervita West is the principal at Brandeis Elementary School. She says that their STEAM curriculum is an effective way to nurture the curiosity she sees as an innate part of childhood.
Our goal is to really expand on the natural curiosity that all kids are born with… they're scientists when they're born, they just don't know it. They have this natural curiosity of how things work when they put things together, she said. We just tap into that and just make it a little more structured.