Year In Review: Newark Public Schools Becomes National Leader Integrating Technology Into The Classroom

Schools have created 21st century classrooms by incorporating many different technologies throughout the academic year

[Newark, NJ - June 29, 2016] - Newark Public Schools (NPS) has become a national leader for its continued progress bringing digital technology into classrooms across the district. Over the course of the 2015-2016 academic year the district dramatically expanded its efforts to create technologically advanced classrooms. The focus of these efforts is to support academic achievement by increasing collaboration, and by providing students with the resources they need to intellectually engage in higher level thinking and problem solving.

NPS received national recognition this year from The Learning Counsel, a national education research institute, which named NPS as one of the most innovative districts in the country in utilizing technology in the classroom. The district also received a $250,000 Future Ready Schools – New Jersey (FRS-NJ) grant from the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to implement a technology enhanced curriculum that ensures Newark students are college and career ready.

“Newark Public Schools is committed to continuing our investment in instructional technology to support student learning,” said Superintendent Christopher D. Cerf. “To assure that our students are college and career ready, they must have access to high quality instruction that integrates the technological tools that will be pivotal in their adult lives.”

Over the last year, schools and teachers have worked extensively on embedding instructional technology into the classroom. These learning opportunities include a variety of online platforms, e-books, math and science simulations, Google Apps for Education, personalized learning software and assistive technologies. These technologies are creating opportunities for teachers to provide high quality real-time feedback to students, to facilitate rich discussions and to create authentic demonstrations of learning in all subjects. Some specific efforts include:

Integrating Google Apps into the Classroom

“This year, our students engaged in a new reading initiative: Reading Is Our Super Power. Students from different classrooms collaborated using Google Slides to author a story for a global audience. This is just one example of the many ways in which we have been able to create blended learning environments for our students,” said Marisol Diaz, Principal of Benjamin Franklin Elementary School. “Our students are growing up in a fast-paced and technologically advanced time period; therefore, it is imperative that our students are exposed to a variety of tools that enhance their learning and prepare them for the real world.”

Assisted by the district’s recent investment in 11,000 chromebooks, schools like Benjamin Franklin have embraced strategies that use technology to support student literacy and build other essential skills. This year alone, the district more than doubled the number of Google Apps for Education daily users, and teachers and students have created over 636,767 Google Docs.

Google Apps for Education not only supports literacy but encourages student creativity and collaboration. Earlier this year, McKinley and First Avenue Elementary Schools video-conferenced Socratic Seminars using Google Hangouts. Timothy Nellegar, the Technology Coach at McKinley, witnessed how technology like Google Hangouts sparks conversation across classrooms: “These innovative Socratic Seminar sessions allowed our students who are physically in different parts of town to engage in discussions about historical events and people. The fact that our students were able to hold analytical discussions with students from different neighborhoods is valuable for their academic and personal growth.”

Leveraging New Digital Learning Platforms

The district has also substantially expanded the number of licenses purchased for high quality digital learning platforms that schools can leverage to improve how they teach core skills. In mathematics classrooms for instance, earlier this year NPS unveiled a new digital learning program called SMART amp, a virtual white board that empowers students to engage in mathematical modeling and problem solving. SMART amp also enables teachers to see students’ understanding of mathematics in real-time, allowing them to modify instruction, provide immediate feedback, and correct misconceptions quickly in order to improve outcomes.

Gina Antonucci, a teacher who is using SMART amp with her students at East Side High School, has seen the benefits of the technology firsthand. “SMART amp and its many features, fosters group work and collaboration. As a result, I have seen students become engaged through mathematical discourse, which in turn provides me with more opportunities for formative assessment. In particular, the assessment feature in SMART amp has proven to be a great tool because I can immediately give meaningful feedback and modify my instruction based on the results.”

Using Digital Tools to Enhance and Differentiate Learning

The district has also been using technology to enhance student experiences and accelerate learning through interactive programs like Google Expeditions and Learning Ally. Last fall, NPS schools began participating in Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Program, a new pilot program that enables students to go on virtual reality field trips around the world. Additionally, over 6,000 students in 51 schools utilize the Learning Ally audiobook which provides students with access to more than 80,000 human-narrated books to choose from to increase their literacy skills. This spring, students at Louise A. Spencer Elementary School placed first in New Jersey and in the top 10 percent of participating schools throughout the nation for “most pages read” in the 2nd Annual Learning Ally Great Reading Games, a national reading contest.

“It is vital in today’s interconnected and digital world that we are leveraging the power of technology to enhance teaching and accelerate learning to ensure our students will not only have the skills and knowledge to be successful today, but for their future,” said Joshua Koen, the Special Assistant for Technology at NPS. “Our schools have done a great job over the past few years using technology to build a 21st century learning environment for their students, and I am looking forward to seeing these investments pay off for our young people in the years ahead.”

About Newark Public Schools

NPS is the largest school district in the state with 47 elementary schools, 16 high schools, 14 charter schools and two ungraded schools. NPS has made a concerted effort in recent years to utilize technology to accelerate learning and help teachers strengthen the teaching curriculum. The district recently purchased over 11,000 student Google Chromebook laptops with the goal of facilitating 21st century learning environments and deployed 3,700 new wireless access points in all of the district’s schools, upgraded the district’s wide area network (WAN) connecting all NPS schools from 10MB to 1GB fiber optic circuits.