Technology Innovation Complements Rigorous HTSD Curriculum
Editor's Note: The following post is one in a series of guest blogs The Talbot Times will feature on the HTSD digital transformation. The second blog in the series is dedicated to explaining how digital technology will be used to enhance, rather than replace, HTSD's rigorous curriculum.
The Hampton Township School District is well known for its Tradition of Excellence, providing a rigorous and relevant curriculum that shapes our students into creative and innovative problem-solvers and communicators. The District maintains high expectations for its students and is dedicated to assisting them in the development of knowledge, character and integrity that will allow them to leave the halls of Hampton and make a real impact in the world.
A number of factors contribute to our students’ overall success at Hampton, including a solid curriculum, dedicated administrators and school board members, quality teaching staff, and supportive families. As the district moves into phase one of the digital transformation, we have heard questions and concerns from families about how the use of technology in the classroom will impact the curriculum. We take these concerns seriously, and want to assure parents that the top-notch curriculum they have come to expect from the district is not changing. There are no plans to switch over to a 100-percent online curriculum – a question that has been asked many times at informational sessions about the digital transformation. Students will not be sitting in front of computers all day long; technology, including electronic devices, will be used in ways that complement and enhance our curriculum and our performance tasks, rather than replacing them.
To understand how technology fits into our curriculum, it is helpful to understand how we select the means and materials used to achieve the educational outcomes we have established at Hampton. Before any textbook or other resource is used in the classroom as part of our curriculum, teachers work together to examine if the resource is aligned to our instructional goals. Even prior to reviewing any curricular resources, teachers identify the goals, standards and understandings that are essential to the learning. Once we identify those essential learnings and goals, we determine which performance tasks best capture student evidence of obtaining those goals and essential learnings. We strive to make performance tasks authentic and relevant. As such, we have a specific set of review criteria we use to formulate and vet performance tasks.
· Does the task align with targeted standards/outcomes, and one or more of the four “Cs” – critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration?
· Does the task call for understanding and transfer, not simply recalling or learning a formulaic response?
· Does the task require extended thinking and habits of mind, not just a rehearsed answer?
· Is the task set in an “authentic” context; does it include a realistic purpose, a target audience and genuine constraints?
· Does the task include criteria/rubrics that target distinct traits of understanding and successful performance, and not simply focus on surface features of a product or performance?
· Are the task directions for students clear?
· Will the task be feasible to implement?
Once we identify the learning goals and performance tasks, we then determine the optimum resources (both digital and print) that best support classroom instruction.
Additionally, we also ask ourselves if the task allows students to demonstrate their understanding and proficiency with some appropriate choice and variety. For example, students may choose to demonstrate proficiency on a history assignment by creating a Google Slides presentation that showcases their research and learning while also allowing students to collaborate asynchronously, based upon their own schedules. Students can then present to the classroom teacher or peers, and teachers are able to see visual evidence of student thinking and collaboration within the presentation.
Certain apps and web tools, such as Kahoot! and Kandoolu, also allow teachers to provide differentiated instruction in real time for students. These resources collect valuable data on student performance and are able to offer immediate feedback on which students may need reinforcement and which may need enrichment. Kandoolu, in particular, pushes out resources to students, along with feedback from their teacher, on ways students can either improve on a skill or provide other opportunities for working if the skill has been mastered. When students receive immediate feedback, they are more likely to take some type of ownership with their learning.
This summer, a focus group of teachers representing each grade level will work with administrators to establish recommendations for apps and digital resources that can be used to supplement and enhance our curriculum in a positive way. Those recommendations will then be presented to the entire teaching staff during professional development time. Apps and other technology selected for use in the classroom will be used consistently across grade levels.
Our ultimate desire is for students to transfer their content knowledge beyond siloed disciplines; therefore, we embrace resources that allow tasks to effectively integrate two or more subject areas. Technology can be a resource that fosters these kinds of interdisciplinary connections. For example, art students at Wyland this year had the opportunity to combine math and art skills during a special lesson that incorporated Makey Makeys into one of their art classes.
As with any new resources we incorporate into our learning environment, there will be adjustments based upon experiences and reflections. Administration and faculty will meet to discuss what is working, what is not working, and what types of adjustments may be needed. Curriculum, regardless of the resources, is an aspect of education that is constantly in a state of review and adjustment in order to keep it relevant and rigorous. It is our promise to parents to continue to provide the best tools and resources for our students in order to continue our Tradition of Excellence.
About the Author: Dr. Jacquelyn Removcik is the Curriculum Director for the Hampton Township School District.
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