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San Diego Schools Honored For Pledge To Technology In The Classroom

May 21, 2013 1:06 p.m.

GUESTS:

Cindy Marten, San Diego Unified School District, Superintendent

Bruce Braciszewski, Ph.D., Executive Director, Classroom of the Future Foundation

Related Story: San Diego Schools Honored For Pledge To Technology In The Classroom

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ST. JOHN: Technology is changing fast. And schools are doing their best to keep up. Students have no trouble adapting to tablets instead of books, and technology is adding a whole new dimension to teaching. Bruce Braciszewski, executive director of the classroom of the future foundation.

BRACISZEWSKI: My pleasure.

ST. JOHN: And Cindy Martin who was recently appointed superintendent designee for San Diego schools.

MARTIN: Thank you.

ST. JOHN: You're holding your 10th annual innovation awards tomorrow. What do you look for?

BRACISZEWSKI: Well, there's a process that we go through encouraging schools to get more involved in innovation. And one way to do that is to provide some incentives. So we have some awards that carry some significant cash contributions along with them that we have sponsors for. But we invite schools to apply online for these new innovations that they're trying in the schools. And we have a jury panel of business representatives, educators, as well as past recipients of the Awards that review them. And then by criteria that we have, decide which ones are deserving of this recognition.

ST. JOHN: It's costing schools a lot of money to buy this new technology. How do you know if the investment is paying off?

BRACISZEWSKI: Well, one of the things in the review process is to assess what they're doing and what kind of impact it has. So if there's -- and of course that's one of the programs that we're recognizing today with San Diego unified, they're able to demonstrate the increase in student performance. So with that kind of outcome, it looks like investments are worth it. You don't hear very many people upset about the fact that when you're investing in things that work. And typically when we're recognizing these various awards, these are programs that work. They inspire, innovate, achieve, and have an overall impact.

ST. JOHN: So you're not using things like test discoveries or something to estimate whether they're having an impact?

BRACISZEWSKI: Well, in some cases we do. In the inspire award, it's focused more on what are teachers and students doing that's new and different are that others get excite body? In the innovative award, it's about what's different and unique about the program. In the achievement award, it looks at outcomes and it does look at test scores to see if those innovations have led to that. And impact, it means they have to inspire, be innovative, and show achievement.

ST. JOHN: So Cindy Martin, San Diego City school's won the impact award for your 5-year plan to integrate technology into the classroom.

MARTIN: It's an incredible program in our district. I've just loved being the principle at Central Elementary. So I got to experience what the program looks like in the classroom, but also now seeing what it looks like across the entire district. When it says impact award, what we've seen in San Diego unify side make an impact across the entire district. 375,000 student net books, student iPads. So impact not just for a classroom or in a school but across the entire district, the second largest district in California. You're talking about an impact putting technology in the hands of students, but along with that, what really sets us apart is the training that came with it for our teachers was very systematic and thoughtful. We're in year-five now.

ST. JOHN: So how much of an impact did you actually see in practice at Central when you were there? Some practical examples of how technology absolutely changed things.

MARTIN: It absolutely completely changes the classroom in very significant ways. Central has 100% students that qualify for free lunch, and 80% are English learners. And that demographic is seen in many parts in the district. What changes in the classroom when children have access to technology, the interactivity, what they're able to do when they have a netbook in their hand, and the teacher is using the whiteboard, and everybody is able to respond. Nobody's hiding. You can teach a lesson, and students have to give their answer, and the teacher can see you're not waiting to give a test, take it home, grade it, come back the next day, see who missed the question and then do some reteaching. You teach your less own, then you can immediately get feedback, who learned it, who didn't, and immediately reteach, pull a small group. The kids who got did right away accelerate their learning, and you can change teaching immediately within the context of that exact lesson.

ST. JOHN: Can you help us understand this interactive whiteboard? There might be a question, why would I learn any more better with a whiteboard than a blackboard? What is it? Do the students submit answers that you can immediately see?

MARTIN: That's some of how we use it. The whiteboard, you can put up websites, and the teachers can touch and interact with it. The kids come up and draw on the whiteboard and prove their lessons when they're doing a math problem, for example. But it's also interactive in terms of student response, buttons they hold, so it's not just one type of technology or software program, many different programs. The other way, teachers are writing lessons, and they create lessons and then they can share the lessons with each other and be able to share across the grade level where one teacher writes a lesson, puts it online, and the other teachers can use it.

ST. JOHN: So it's saving time for the teachers and cutting down, you're not having to reinvent the wheel.

MARTIN: Right. In our math place, the teachers create flip-chart lessons. Also we call it the flipped classroom so students that bring the notebooks home, that's part of the program, they can watch the teacher teach the lesson at home using video, then when they come into the classroom the next day, then they're interacting around what they learned at home instead of in class listening to a teacher teach old style, standing in front of the classroom teaching and releasing to independents. They learn the video at home, then when they come to the classroom the next day, they interact with each other in a collaborative manner and take on what they've learned from the teacher.

ST. JOHN: I like the sound of that. That does sound better than the way it used to be, yes. So Bruce, was one of your awards to do with this flipped classroom concept?

BRACISZEWSKI: San Diego unified won that award last year for the inspire category. So that was something they had proven worked very well. So they got the recognition for trying that innovation. And now they have been scaling it out to thousands of classrooms.

ST. JOHN: Because it appears to be working.

BRACISZEWSKI: Exactly.

ST. JOHN: One of the other award, El Cajon valley, they're teaching modeling after video games. And some people might be worried about that!

BRACISZEWSKI: Yeah, it's valhalla high school and their digital arts program. So students are interacting with digital arts kinds of thing, one kind of which is gamification. Students are creating multi-level activities within that software program. So the students are going to a much higher level of critical thinking skills, they're actually creating some skills that are very marketable in a career path because some of the students are able after taking those classes to go out in the marketplace and present those skills, whether it's graphic arts or game, video games or things of that sort.

ST. JOHN: So you mentioned teacher training. Cindy, do you find that there are some teachers that are having a problem adopting a tool that in some cases, the students can use better than they can?

MARTIN: That's what's so amazing, the teacher training has been incredibly thoughtful and systematic in bringing the teachers into this digital world. Those who are les comfortable with it, being able to show the teachers how this transforms their teaching. And it doesn't take long for a teacher to put up one of the flipped classroom lessons or using the interactive whiteboard. When we give teachers a powerful tool, and they see what happens, they're sold. And they are happy to be learning how to actually inspire their students and close that digital divide. We find our teachers because of the training are absolutely invested.

ST. JOHN: This question about teachers being invested seems to be absolutely key. I know that over the decades, teacher training has seemed to be the key to whether something works or not. Are there some things you've learned about how to get teachers invested in technology? How to get them on board, ahead of the students really?

MARTIN: This wouldn't have worked as well if we didn't really invest and be thoughtful around the professional development part for teachers. It doesn't work to just put an interactive whiteboard and laptops in the hands of students and expect that teaching will change. You have to get the teachers involved in professional development and the way that you get teachers invested is show the impact on children. Teachers want to feel a sense of efficacy in their classroom. When they see that children are learning because they are more interactive with these tools, teachers buy in.

BRACISZEWSKI: On the same point, perpetual development is being recognized as one of our awards around innovate this year. Using video conference to insert teachers around common course standards, the new implementation required of the schools this coming year. And all 400 teachers actually stayed at their school while they provided in-serve training for the teachers. So they used the technology to learn about common course standard, and it's a way of engaging teachers in a new way that they see this as more meaningful than the way professional development was provided in the past.

ST. JOHN: Where they all had to go somewhere --

BRACISZEWSKI: Where they all had to travel, exactly.

MARTIN: It's rolled out in a way that all throughout the year, technology is being installed in the classroom.

BRACISZEWSKI: These are monthly kind of meetings. So she's right, these have to be ongoing activities.

ST. JOHN: Obviously there's a lot of positive evolution in what's happening in the classroom have you in the process of technology rolling out seen where were where it is not effective? Their some things where the application doesn't work as well as the traditional methods?

MARTIN: The only challenge that I see right now is to keep up with the technology as it's changing. And the voters gave us an imperative to install and have the I-21 program become as successful as it is, and with Prop Z we continue with that investment making sure we can extend this. We don't want to get stale with this technology. So the current program runs out in a year, but thanks to the voters and the approval process last November, we can extend it 15 more years and think about what's the next level of innovation, of impact, so we can stay current.

BRACISZEWSKI: One of the big areas of concern around this related to your question is that oftentimes people think it's just a matter of getting new equipment and fancier technology. And that's where the failures come about. Where people might have an implementation where a new product arrive, they take it out of the box and start using it or experimenting with it. What usually works best is going back to professional development, which is preparing the teachers and the classrooms and the leadership at the school for implementing technology in an effective way. And that change process requires kind of an attention to details of how you prepare people to be successful in implementing. And that's what these innovation awards focus on.

ST. JOHN: What about the fact that gives the kids so much more freedom? I'm imagining a butch of students in a classroom with these interactive devices. Focus is such a challenge. How do you make sure the kids are not -- I've heard stories of kids ordering pizza in the middle of the classroom. That may be a major challenge for the teacher.

BRACISZEWSKI: There's an example. The third award winner we've recognized is Pride Academy, and they have what's called project-based learning. And that's the strategy they use to keep students engaged. Students working in collaborative groups. None of the classrooms look traditional. There aren't rows of student desks facing a blackboard. They're working in groups, it's usually doing research based on the internet, they're creating interactive media projects that they prohibit to other students and to the teacher. So that kind of engagement really focuses students on the learning. And when you go in those classrooms, you cannot help but be impressed with the fact that those students are really focusing on learning.

ST. JOHN: So you're going to win $10,000, which is nothing in the bigger picture of technology!
[ LAUGHTER ]

ST. JOHN: What are you going to do with that?

MARTIN: Making sure we have digital teacher leaders at every school. And we want to invest in more digital teacher leaders so you'll have somebody at the site who will work to build capacity. You don't just have to go to an outside training to know what to do. The teacher can help answer questions and continue the innovations.

ST. JOHN: Okay. Thank you so much. Cindy Martin, superintendent for the San Diego school district.

MARTIN: My pleasure.

ST. JOHN: And Bruce Braciszewski, thank you for coming in.

BRACISZEWSKI: Thank you.