The Roxbury Township Public Schools was recently added to Google for Education’s Reference Districts. Google for Education Reference Districts are districts that demonstrate excellence and thought leadership through the innovative use of technology, including G Suite for Education (formerly known as Google Apps for Education) and Chromebooks, to drive impact and positive learning outcomes.
Roxbury was identified and acknowledged by Google as being a district that demonstrates vision and thought leadership through the strong adoption of Google Apps for Education technology to drive positive learning outcomes and a district willing and excited to share their experiences, learning, and best practices with others.
Program membership is by invitation only. The district received a badge from Google to be recognized by peers as a leader in educational transformation. “We also will be able to participate in their Trusted Tester program that gives us early access to new tools, ideas and we get invitations to Product Roadmap sessions. We will be highlighted on Google’s website and be part of their Transformation Center, which is a resource center for other schools to look for Districts best practices,” said Teresa Rehman, Director of Technology.
The district began using G Suite for Education with its staff in the summer of 2013 when the district converted to Gmail. “We then rolled out G Suite tools to students with the pilot Chromebook program that began in February 2014. Since then, the program has expanded multiple times,” explained Rehman.
Staff are afforded continuous opportunities through summer professional development days to learn and implement the new tools. A technology position was created to provide ongoing professional development and support for teachers throughout the school year through mini-workshops, work with Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), as well as work with individuals one-on-one.
District technology teachers redesigned curriculum to incorporate G Suite Tools to be able to teach the students the new technology. G Suite has also embedded training available for students to learn through the application of these tools in their classroom.
Currently, all seven district schools and subject areas in grades 3 through 12 use this technology.
Rehman shared, “We are currently expanding some of the tools to second grade next year.” This is all part of the district’s technology initiative.
“Our vision for digital learning was outlined in our District Technology Plan submitted to the State and we’ve also committed to the Future Ready Schools initiative by taking the pledge a few years ago. The State is launching a Future Ready Schools certification initiative later this month which we are looking forward to being a part of. Having this type of commitment ensures that we continue to strive to integrate technology into the curriculum and transform learning environments. In order for the Roxbury Township Public Schools to prepare our students of today for tomorrow, we need to provide them with an engaging, personalized curriculum that will inspire and empower them to flourish as ethical and global citizens in the 21st century.”
The technology between the staff and students has really been embraced over the last few years.
In a recent survey of students, 72% felt that having access to online resources has provided more spontaneous learning opportunities. One student shared, “I am able to look things up that I’m unsure about. I can stay on task better and my writing has improved with the help of a dictionary and thesaurus. I am able to keep track of my work and assignments.”
Elizabeth Omegna, assistant principal at Eisenhower Middle School went on to say how the technology has affected her school. “The 1:1 initiative has resulted in 100% use of Google Classroom, Google Drive, and other apps by staff and admin. Simple things like reducing our paper budget and increasing our digital footprint to allow for collaboration, create live docs, living curricula, and to be remotely accessible at all times, is just the start. Instruction has expanded, curricula has been created to proactively address technology skills/standards and immediate feedback to assess for mastery/understanding have been evident!”
The technology integration benefits all students, general education as well as special education. For special education students, the availability of the Chromebook has provided them with the opportunity to utilize numerous assistive programs. Utilization is completed without a student feeling different from his or her peers. If all the students are utilizing a Chromebook, then no one feels separate.
“Utilizing this technology provides an opportunity to expand teaching strategies and techniques when creating station activities. This is an important form of individualization for the student who learns differently,” explained Patricia Hovey, Director of Special Services.
Moving forward, the district plans on continuing the expansion of Chromebooks to the elementary levels with additional Chromebook carts and in the coming year, Roxbury High School will be adding student government positions for each grade level to help make student recommendations and improvements.
Additional summer professional development for staff is planned for this coming August on Building Interactive Lessons, Teaching Beyond the 4 Walls of the Classroom, Portfolios and Publishing Student Work, and the SAMR Technology Integration Model.