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LA Unified selects 8 schools as models for technology expansion

Mike Szymanski | September 8, 2015

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LA Unified administrators have named eight schools using technology in ways that could be replicated throughout the district for how teachers and administrators have blended the use of computers, iPads and Internet-learning with their school curriculum.

The approach these schools are taking could become the basis for a district-wide technology policy that would replace the abandoned $1.3 billion iPad-for-every student plan created by former Superintendent John Deasy.

A new Technology Task Force, charged with devising a strategy for the district, is holding its first meeting Sept. 10. The 40-member task force, now headed by Frances Marie Gipson, includes principals, students, parents and teachers.

The goal of the task force is provide recommendations for a three-year strategic plan to integrate instructional technology throughout the district. Its recommendations will be reviewed and synthesized into a formal draft strategic plan, which will be submitted to the District superintendent. After the superintendent’s review, a final proposal will  be presented to the school board.

The whole process is expected to take a year or longer.

The schools identified for their technology leadership are Gault Street Elementary in Van Nuys; Griffin Elementary School in Lincoln Heights; Melrose Avenue Elementary Math, Science,Technology Magnet in Hollywood; West Hollywood Elementary School in West Hollywood; Young Empowered Scholars Academy in south Los Angeles; James Madison Middle School in North Hollywood; San Fernando Middle School in San Fernando; and Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences in Granada Hills.

“Based on our observations, eight schools have embraced technology in the classroom, and we need more of that,” said Linda Del Cueto, chief of Professional Learning and Leadership Development at LAUSD. “We need to take those eight best practice schools and scale those schools to many many more.”

Each of the eight school principals is putting together plans for more technology in the classroom, and an Instructional Technology Facilitator from district headquarters will work with a leadership team from the school to put the plan to use. “We are not asking administrators to do something without support,” Del Cueto said. “And there are still some persisting challenges.”

The biggest issue is to train students, teachers and parents in use of the devices that children bring home and in safety issues and proper use of the technology, Del Cueto said. “These pioneer schools are embracing technology and becoming our lieutenants or ambassadors to help the local districts scale this.”

Robin L. Willis, principal of the Y.E.S. Academy in south Los Angeles, said that this past spring when they allowed the 85 students to take their iPads home over spring break, all of them came back safely. “Our students should have the same technology as students on the other side of the tracks,” she said.

Sgt. Dale Cunningham of the LAUSD police said the students were trained to use the “safe passage” areas to get to school where police monitored them more closely.

Sophia Mendoza, interim director of the district’s Instructional Technology Initiative, said over the summer the district held professional development for schools for the laptops and Chromebooks that the students and teachers would get. “We also showed teachers how they can integrate this new tool into their instruction,” Mendoza said.

Most of the schools now have at least one or two carts of iPads that were used for state testing last year. Mendoza said the next step is to get teachers to use them for more than just the testing, so they are developing a protocol that will help them do it.

“We may have a given school use the devices for certain grades on the first and third week of the month, and the other grades on the second and fourth week, or have the English department one week and the Math classes have them the next week or something like that,” Mendoza said. “We want the teachers to have more access to them, because they are not devices just for the interim assessments. Why should they just be used for testing?”


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