It’s been awesome to see many middle school teachers incorporate technology during the first few weeks of school as a way to get to know their students, build classroom community, and launch their curriculum. Beginning this school year, all of the sixth grade core teachers now have a Chromebook cart in their classroom (with enough Chromebooks for every student) and seventh and eighth grade teachers share a Chromebook cart with a nearby class. That means that middle school teachers can infuse technology in their lesson plans without worrying about computer availability. (Fourth and fifth grade classes went 1:1 and third grade went 2:1 with Chromebooks last school year; middle school teachers have already noted students are entering more tech savvy!)
A total of 44 sixth grade teachers and teachers new to fourth and fifth grade dedicated at least two full days over the summer to become more familiar with ed tech tools used in Berkeley. The overall goal is for teachers to purposefully integrate technology to deepen student learning.
23 teachers officially became Google Certified Educators. They studied Google’s online training materials, learned about Google’s suite of applications for education, and passed the Google Certified Educator standardized exam.
21 teachers picked the alternate pathway and learned about their choice of Google and other tech tools using materials created and collected by our DigiTech department. They then created tech activities for their classroom and became Berkeley Technology Certified Educators. New hires will join the ranks and complete one of these tech trainings by the new year.
A transformation is evident in middle school classrooms across the district as teachers have found creative and engaging ways to use technology to enhance their teaching practice. Here are highlights of some of the tech activities teachers prepared over the summer to implement this year:
Getting to Know Students & Building Community
Many teachers used Google Forms to survey their students in order to get acquainted with them including Anne Frost (at Longfellow) and Kathryn Mapps (at Willard). Middle school math teachers Ryan Chinn (at Willard) and Liz Little (at King) collected student data with questions such as “how many states have you visited?” and “how many pets do you have?” which can become part of a future math lesson. Reading teachers Stephanie Travaille and Martha Hoppe (at King) created a student reading survey. Tyra Herr (at Longfellow) created a Google Form to send to teachers to collect information to help students with IEPs.
Teachers had just as much fun creating Kahoot online trivia games as students have playing them. Robert MacCarthy and Kathryn Mapps (at Willard) developed fun introductions to their middle school using Kahoot. Librarian Tom Holmes (at King) created a Kahoot trivia game to introduce the library to sixth graders.
A number of teachers developed tech activities specific to their content areas. Many teachers used Desmos, a program often used in math (which collects student responses to questions which the teacher can monitor and project) and developed activities on topics ranging from characteristics of living things (Ryan Keeley at King), the Constitution (Anne Frost at Longfellow), early humans (Denise Milner at Willard), to grammar (Jim Pawlak at Willard).
Several teachers set up Padlets (online bulletin boards) for student reflection, appreciations, and sharing ideas (such as analyzing parts of a novel). Teachers also curated resources about specific topics from Flocabulary (all three middle schools have site licenses), Newsela (by creating text sets), and YouTube (by creating playlists) in preparation for upcoming units this year. Martha Hoppe (at King) created a class website and Liz Little (at King) will have her students keep a digital portfolio using New Google Sites.
Teachers also thought about how to manage Chromebook use to ensure students use them responsibly. They developed expectations for students. Gretchen Montoya (at Longfellow) even prepared a Chromebook care slideshow in Spanish.
Teachers gave overwhelming positive feedback about the time they spent exploring ed tech this summer. One person noted: “So worth the time. I agree that it should be a prerequisite for all teachers. It teaches you the tools you need to bring out more learning from your students.” Another reflected: “This was the perfect PD: individualized, differentiated, challenging, rewarding, and useful.”
Allison Krasnow and I have already observed teachers introduce Google Classroom, Google Forms, Desmos, and Newsela in the first days of school. We appreciate all of the teachers who are finding creative ways to use technology to welcome their students and add a new dimension to learning.
Lastly, our Tech Department deserves huge thanks for getting the carts ready and delivered to classrooms over the summer.
If you are interested in learning more about any of the tools and activities mentioned, please reach out to these teachers, your tech teacher leader, and/or Allison and myself.
– Mia Gittlen, K-8 Instructional Technology TSA