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Teaching with Tech to Drive Learning

3,000 Chromebooks. More than 600 iPads. A Mac Lab for high school graphic arts. Laptops and iPhones for all staff members. Technology is essential to everyday life and future careers, and these are just some of the many resources provided to KIPP NYC teachers across our 11 schools.

To learn more about how tech is impacting life in our classrooms, we spoke to Lauren Taiclet, Director of IT at KIPP NYC.

How do we know the use of technology has an impact on student success?

Our two most technology-integrated middle schools, KIPP Infinity Middle School and KIPP Washington Heights Middle School, hit the KIPP Foundation’s 2020 reading and math goals four years early. In 2016, 85 percent of KIPP Infinity Heights Middle School’s eighth graders exited in the top quartile in math and 62 percent in reading.

For the past five years, KIPP Washington Heights Middle School math teacher, Silver Arcos, has been building best practices for using ST Math, Khan Academy, and other math software. The teachers working with Mr. Arcos evaluate data from Khan Academy and ST Math to group students strategically and deliver in-person, highly differentiated instruction to close math gaps.

How are teachers using tech to differentiate and make content accessible to all students?

In lower elementary school, our students use adaptive software to enhance their foundational literacy skills. Lexia Core 5 helps students to master basic phonics and comprehension skills. It also allows teachers to understand where students are getting “stuck” and strategically plan small group instruction.

In upper elementary and middle school, students who need more support with reading comprehension and phonics use System 44 and Read 180. Our upper elementary and middle school students take complete quizzes on their independent reading books using Accelerated Reader. Once a student hits a million words read (and comprehended), that student becomes a ‘millionaire’ and is celebrated for reaching this milestone. Since 2005, we’ve had 1,022 “reading millionaires!”

In math, many of our students use ST Math. “ST” stands for “Spatial-Temporal” learning which helps students strengthen visual and spatial muscles required to meaningfully comprehend mathematics. We also use Khan Academy in multiple schools, some of our middle schools use Think Through Math, and our elementary schools recently adopted a new math program called Zearn.

What are some of the innovative ways teachers are using technology?

Our teachers have a lot of freedom to innovate! For example, at KIPP Washington Heights Middle School, Eddie Jaquez created an exciting curriculum for 4th through 8th grade computer programming. It starts with typing and Digital Citizenship lessons in the 4th grade. In grade 5, students use Scratch, the interactive coding application built by MIT followed by learning the Google Suite of applications in grade 6. By grade 7, students are building websites using HTML and CSS, and in8th grade our students learn Python.

Recently, we’ve hosted some fantastic visitors who also want to see how we are using technology in the classroom. Mr. Jaquez and his students hosted a group of Google employees for a tour and discussion about the students’ programming projects. The outreach director from Edutyping also recently visited Mr. Jaquez’s classes to host typing races and give out fun prizes. Additionally, Wyman Khuu at KIPP Infinity Elementary School partnered with Google staff to teach a LEGO Robotics course to 2nd graders, which included visits to the NYC Google offices. We are now looking to expand the use of LEGO instructional kits in our science classrooms.

What sort of technology is in place to support our teachers’ use of academic data?

Our teachers save valuable time by using a web platform called Illuminate to manage data on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. They can administer assessments using bubble sheets that are scanned and scored in minutes using their document camera or laptop camera. Once data is entered, teachers can immediately access custom or pre-built reports to review student performance and analyze trends. Illuminate also allows them to drill down into a specific assessment or question to make real-time, data-informed decisions. And, in general, they can monitor progress across assessments for specific students, classes, grades.

How are we using technology to streamline and organize work for our teachers?

We’re always looking for new ways to make life easier for our hardworking school teams. Last year, KIPP NYC rolled out KIPP: Go which is the launchpad for KIPP NYC staff members to access information about regional curriculum, professional development, technology, operations, and employee benefits. KIPP:Go integrates with KIPP NYC’s Google Drive to make resources convenient to access on and off campus.

To make things easier for teachers and students, we also use a platform called Clever to reduce the number of usernames and passwords that students need to remember for different programs. Clever speeds up the process of creating accounts in different software programs for students. Our younger students also use a “Clever Badge,” which is a printed QR code that alleviates the burden of having students type in their full usernames and passwords for different programs.

The tech team is well known for the fabulous support they offer our teachers. Tell us more about how you work with our school-based staff.

We are one of the first teams teachers meet during summer professional development. We give a warm welcome and ensure our newest colleagues are set up with the hardware they need to be successful (a laptop and iPhone). We also provide training on technology best practices so all teachers feel confident using our systems. This year, we are very excited to deliver that training using Google Classroom, a tool that our teachers can in turn learn how to use to distribute assignments to students. Throughout the year, tech team members are available on-campus each week, and we are always ready to trouble shoot in real time by phone or over email. We really enjoy supporting the teaching staff as they use technology in innovative ways to support our mission and to close the achievement gap.