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Brandywine’s tech triad working to modernize classrooms

Jarek Rutz Education, Headlines

 

 

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Brandywine is spending some of its COVID-19 money on improving the technology used by teachers and students.

 

Teachers in the Brandywine School District are one step closer to being about to throw away notebooks, pencils and erasers. 

Brandywine School District is making a determined effort to modernize the classroom, with devices for teachers like interactive smart boards, Chromebooks and iPads. 

Ultimately, the district believes student test scores will improve with instructor access to the new tools, said Michelle Kutch, director of curriculum and instruction at Brandywine.

To roll out the technology in a way that enables everybody to best use it, the district created a technology triad focusing on facilities, technology and instruction,

It will govern the process in which technology is ordered, installed and programmed, including training materials as well as instruction for faculty and staff. 

What fell into each category was determined by teacher and student feedback, as well as what instructional practices the district prioritized, said Bonnie Yurkanin, coordinator of instructional technology at Brandywine. 

Tier one represents what is most necessary, and should ideally be in every classroom, such as interactive smart boards, a second computer monitor and Chromebooks. 

Tiers two and three are technologies that are vital later on in the process, including document cameras, webcams and microphones – these complement the items in the first tier. 

The tiers are also divided into columns of “must have” and “optional.”

 

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Those listed as “optional” include headsets, GoPros and sound systems – these serve to complement and enhance the experience that the “must have” technologies bring. 

The COVID-19 pandemic added momentum to the district’s overall effort to update technology, said Yurkanin.

“We went from a few devices in the classroom to a one-to-one model where every student in the school district now has a Chromebook,” she said. 

The new tech will help teachers take advantage of the Chromebooks, as well as keep students more engaged, Kutch said.

While the tech program is part of Brandywine’s strategic plan, it  has no deadline for full implementation, and not every district building is being outfitted at the same pace, said Yurkanin.

The building administrators decide what technological purchases they will make for their building, and several schools have already achieved the “tier one classroom,” Yurkanin said.

Money from Brandywine’s share of  Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds, financed the technology purchases. That federal program is designed to help schools cope with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest of three rounds of ESSER funding allocated $24.9 million to Brandywine. ESSER I distributed $2.6 million and ESSER II gave $11.1 million to the district.

In total, the district received roughly $40 million in funding, and most of it is being used to buy the new technology. 

This first year of the program is focusing on making sure teachers are comfortable with their new tools. Its two tech coaches include one each for elementary and secondary teachers. 

“With any new technology that is placed into a teacher’s classroom, there needs to be high quality, professional development to follow it,” Yurkanin said, “so that the teachers feel fully supported in using that technology.”

The program offers a session for teachers just getting started with the new technology and one for teachers who are comfortable with the basics but want to know more. 

Brandywine will measure the success of the tech triad and tiers by often seeking teacher and student feedback. 

So far, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, said Kutch. Teachers say they are comfortable operating the technology, it makes their jobs easier, and students are definitely more engaged.

“Having access to a Smartboard in my classroom has allowed me to create and implement more engaging lessons for my students,” said Mount Pleasant second grade teacher Matt Janicki,” as well as collaborate seamlessly with my coworkers to share and utilize resources.”

Ciara Carter, a counselor at Harlan Elementary, said the tech has enhanced learning.

“The interactive boards we have received this year have proved to be an essential tool and have helped to improve the educational process,” she said. “The possibilities are endless.”

Mount Pleasant librarian Janis McKnight said the improvement has been amazing.

“Being able to teach research skills directly on the interactive board has been a game changer,” McKnight said. “Plus there is the added benefit that I no longer need to turn the lights off for the students to see the board.”

 

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