These California Districts are Using Technology in Very Different Ways

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Technology means different learning opportunities for different districts. There’s a lot to get excited about. At a recent Learning Counsel event in Sacramento, officials from three California school districts shared some of the ways they are using technology to focus on their learners.

Dr. Barbara Nemko is the Superintendent of Schools at Napa Valley Unified School District. One might think that the Napa Valley district is a wealthy, ethnic-majority system based on the preponderance of beautiful wineries, foodie tours and luxurious inns, but the reality is the district is populated by minority families in the service industry. That creates some interesting challenges, and a great deal of opportunity. Nemko is very interested in virtual and augmented realities. “Napa is not all wineries and we don’t all sit and sip Chardonnay while they fan us,” said Nemko. “The people who send kids to school are the people that work in the hospitality industry. They tend to be low income, largely English learner families. They are what we call pedestrian families, which means they don’t have cars, so they don’t go anywhere outside the neighborhood. Virtual reality has the potential for those families to increase the experience their kids can have. These are kids who have never crossed the bridge to go to San Francisco. They have never been to the beach. They have certainly never been to another country. We can give them those experiences through virtual reality. And even if you are a high-achieving English-speaking kid, you’ve never been inside your own body to see what the body systems do. It helps you understand it the way a book could never do.”

Heather Sherburn is the Assistant Superintendent at Lammersville Unified School District. Her district is intrigued by using technology to adapt to students, providing them with their own pathways. That can take a lot of forms. “Whether that’s through remediation, by providing them with additional practice on grade level so they deepen their understanding with the content they are currently learning, to have preferences over their types of learning or preferences over the way they demonstrate mastery of the content.” Sherburn says there is a lot of excitement, but that excitement is tempered by the fact that they are fighting to keep their teachers from feeling overwhelmed. “The computer is going to do a lot, but there is a point at which the computer can’t teach the kids,” said Sherburn. Teachers have to understand where the kids are in their learning path and interpret data from the dashboards and plan lessons to specifically address what was on the dashboard. It’s a demanding role for teachers, who need to integrate computer learning and traditional lesson planning. The change process for teachers can be quite overwhelming and the district has to support that process.

Nicole Naditz, a Program Specialist in Instructional Technology at San Juan Unified School District is excited about how the district can use all the new technology tools to get actionable data. “What is it our students can do now as a result of all of the knowledge and the skills they are acquiring? How can we capture their thinking, capture their voices to give them authentic opportunities to do something meaningful with their knowledge and skills? There are so many ways that technology has made that possible for our learners now.”

Click on the video below to see the entire discussion and discover ideas from these California districts today that you can implement in your own district tomorrow.


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