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Technology Investment Supports Learning

Teachers The room was set. Tubs and boxes filled with brightly colored plastic pieces sat at each table. Snacks, note pads and pencils were plentiful. The facilitator was ready. The teachers arrived, some with apprehension lining their faces and others gleeful like children in a toy store. Welcome to professional development for U-Design Primary in The School District of University City.

U-Design Primary is just one of many technology-infused initiatives supporting learning in The School District of University City.

Superintendent Sharonica Hardin-Bartley, PhD PHR, is a strong advocate of technology in the classroom and has made innovation a top priority.

“There is no question that technology enhances student learning,” Hardin-Bartley said. “But technology for technology’s sake is not the goal. Our push for technology integration is rooted in improving learning for our students. The partnerships we have with Maryville University, PNC Bank, Washington University and others allow us to provide our students with authentic experiences that directly impact learning.”

The District was awarded a $55,000 grant from the Monsanto Fund’s K-12 Math & Science program to support STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) initiatives such as U-Design Primary in kindergarten, third and fifth grades.

U-Design Primary provides students with authentic STEAM experiences through the use of Motorized Mechanisms, We Do, and EV3 Lego Education modules. The modules support the District’s elementary science curriculum and are designed to strengthen STEAM confidence and aptitude.

Technology and innovation are evident throughout the District. The Robolions, University City High School’s FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Team is as popular as any sports team. The Robolions’ motto is, “We build robots, encourage innovation and have fun.”

At Pershing Elementary School, GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) students are learning basic coding in Scratch. Scratch is a free visual programming language developed by the MIT Media Lab. The students are developing problem-solving skills and mathematical reasoning as they program Dot and Dash robots to navigate obstacles and use a tablet-based application and Osmo in a simulation.

GATE students are also forming a tech team to train other students who are not in the program how to complete simple programs and create inventions through materials such as Snap Circuits and Little Bits. GATE teacher Melanie Bloom said the students’ leadership skills have improved as a result.

At Julia Goldstein Early Childhood Education Center, three- and four-year-olds are using iPads and other cameras to document and reflect on their work. The iPads were purchased with a PNC Bank Grow Up Great Grant that supports vocabulary development in early childhood.

“Our reflection helps support new vocabulary and concepts and allows teachers to really see things from our students’ perspective,” said teacher Dawn Pulsipher.

Jasmine Jones, a fifth-grade teacher at Jackson Park Elementary, uses Chromebooks and Google Classroom. Jones said students have some traditional assignments but others are on Google Classroom.

“This allows me to monitor their progress as they work and call them back as I see needed for assistance,” Jones said.

Jones also received a grant from Donorschoose.org allowing her to incorporate even more technology in her classroom.

“The students in my homeroom have the luxury of using 10 Samsung Galaxy tablets in allowing them to work on different skills they may have trouble in. The tablets are loaded with apps such as Quizlet, BrainPop, Lexia and other grade-level common core apps to help students become advanced learners,” she said. “The tablets also help me with students who are quick finishers; I am able to provide them with additional stimulating activities.”

In addition to the tablets and Chromebooks, Jones’ students also participate in robotics using Lego robotics kits purchased by the District.

“They absolutely love building their base bots, but found the programming part hard at the beginning of the school year. But they have become pros at it now,” she said.

Alexis McGeahy is a French teacher at Brittany Woods Middle School. She uses technology to allow her students to record themselves speaking French.

“This gives me more opportunities to hear everyone’s pronunciation without having to always use class time,” McGeahy said. “ We also do interactive online lessons with websites like Voki, Voicethread, and Padlet. The kids also really love to play review games using their computers (Quizlet Live, Kahoot, and Verb Conjugation games on Conjuguemos). We also use online databases like Culturegrams to explore culture of Francophone countries.”

Equations is the name of the game for Flynn Park Elementary students. Equations is a game of creative mathematics and involves authentic learning experiences and problem solving at the highest levels. The Flynn Park Equations team competes regularly in the U City Equations Tournament now in its 20th year. The Flynn Park third-grade team, The Equators, scored a fourth-place finish in the Top Tier Teams category this year. The Equators are coached by Cate Williamson. Isaiah Sweeney, a Flynn Park student, won first place in the Top Tier Individual category for the fifth-grade. His coach is Matt Sweeney. Former Flynn Park parents Tom and Mary Ellen Campbell founded the District’s first Equations team at Flynn Park Elementary School more than 20 years ago.

The District began its push for technology integration in 2015 with a 1:1 device initiative at the middle and high school. Students were provided with individual Chromebooks to support learning as part of the initiative. To support that effort, the District is investing in mobile hotspots to extend learning into homes without Internet access.




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