Inspiration for Leaders

Enjoy this news and reflection blog brought to you from the LHRIC Technology Leadership Institute!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

TLI - Pioneer Awards Recognize Districts' Achievements in Technology

The Lower Hudson Regional Information Center chose two local school districts, a director of technology and an enthusiastic third-grade teacher as the recipients of its Annual Pioneer Awards, now in its 20th year.

The awards ceremony, held May 16 in the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor, gives the LHRIC an opportunity to showcase the efforts of educators and administrators who go above and beyond to make 21st century instructional technology available to students.

It also honors school districts for embracing technology, including their willingness to use mobile devices to enhance the curriculum, their focus on data management and safety, as well as their professional development efforts and more. 

Here is a behind-the-scenes look at what it took for each of this year's recipients to make it to the winner's podium:

Amy Rosenstein, Ardsley School District
Students in Amy Rosenstein's class at Concord Road Elementary School in the Ardsley School District are savvy about the world around them, and it's not because they've traveled the globe. In fact, the students don't have to leave their classrooms at all. Ms. Rosenstein brings it all to them through regular Skype conversations with people abroad, including famous authors and others. 

About four years ago, Ms. Rosenstein came up with the idea when she was thinking about ways to stay in touch with a friend who had moved to Hong Kong. Around that time, the third grade curriculum was changing, with a more detailed focus on China.

After the first couple of Skype sessions, Ms. Rosenstein could see the students were really enjoying the interaction, so she decided to expand it by inviting authors on a Skype call, one of which was Robert Kimmel Smith, the author of "War with Grandpa," a book the students had been reading in class.

That collaboration turned into the self-publication of their own realistic fiction stories using the website Storyjumper and the subsequent purchase of the digital books by parents and others.  

"The experience for the kids has been phenomenal," said Ms. Rosenstein, upon receiving her award. "It has not only opened up the classroom, but it has also made them realize that the world is bigger than Ardsley, even New York, and that they are now global citizens."

Ms. Rosenstein has connected students to people in Albania, Brazil, England, France, Italy, Kenya, New Zealand and Sweden, and she has also shared her enthusiasm for Skype with other teachers in the school by providing after-school technology classes and other initiatives.

John Krouskoff, Clarkstown School District
The Clarkston School District's director of technology, John Krouskoff, accepted his Pioneer Award not purely as a reflection of his own efforts but based on what he described as a "lot of teamwork."

The affable administrator was happy to accept the award, but even happier to be among a roomful of what he described as "innovators and leaders" who not only make the technology work in the classroom but who also challenge the students to reap the benefits of it. In addition to promoting 21st century learning, Mr. Krouskoff said, "We have the responsibility as leaders to really make things happen."

Part of what Mr. Krouskoff has made happen in Clarkstown is the creation of a Google Apps environment throughout the district. As recently as a year ago, students would have saved their work to a network drive, accessible only within district buildings.

Now they can save their homework and other projects to a cloud, creating a seamless transition from school to home while at the same time enhancing the collaborative nature of the learning and making it a fun and creative experience.

Mr. Krouskoff is also a proponent of teacher professional development, being readily available to instructors at all times and letting them know that the teacher environment is the first place where transformational technology takes hold.

Dobbs Ferry School District
Coming a long way in two years, with the installation of a wireless network in all three district schools, the use of smart phones by middle and high school students and a robust professional development strategy for teachers was the basis for awarding the Dobbs Ferry School District with a well-deserved Pioneer Award.

Superintendent Dr. Lisa Brady accepted the award on behalf of the district, reiterating the importance of technology advancement as a "moral obligation" in meeting the needs of students.

The district's transition to a student one-to-one computing environment began with an instructional technology audit that provided some really good data from students, teachers and administrators on their technology use, proficiencies, expectations and practices.

Simply training teachers on new MacBooks was not enough, though. It was also vitally important that instructors acquire a true comfort and ease in using the technology, something that would help them create engaging lessons for students and also get them excited about their own exploration of technology.

iPads for kindergarten classes through the third grade were purchased as well as tablets for the social studies and science departments at the middle and high schools. Social media channels were also created and administrators and other staff were encouraged to start using them.

The most important aspect of the district's growth is to "model what we expect from teachers and to give them the time to create 21st century classrooms," added Dr. Brady.

Ossining Union Free School District
A ubiquitous technology environment in the Ossining Schools and the way that administrators implement it and teachers use it was the basis for providing the district with the second of the LHRIC's District Pioneer Awards.

Even students in the district's pre-kindergarten classes are using technology, specifically the Educreations app, an interactive whiteboard that captures a student's voice and handwriting. In the middle school, Makey Makey is a popular program that teaches students how to design circuits, and at the high school, students are creating competition-ready robots.

The LHRIC's panel of judges was also impressed by the district's many partnerships with outside entities, including the Jacob Burns Center, IBM, Pace University and the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture.

Through those affiliations, second-graders have created public service announcements centered on sustainability projects they developed, older children in the elementary grades have used a "green screen" to animate sections of a documentary they created on their iPads, and middle school students have learned to program computers in a 3D environment, among other creative endeavors.

Superintendent Ray Sanchez said the district's technology team is continuously seeking ways to leverage technology throughout the grades. He credited Director of Technology Jeremy Luft and Assistant Director of Technology Jennifer Forsberg for putting the district on the "proper path and navigating the ever-changing world of technology."

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