Even though blue and gold are the official colors of the Cazenovia Central School District, Burton Street Elementary has been slowly turning green.
Over the past year, students and educators at the school have been utilizing modern computer programs and technology to broaden the scope of their studies. This January, the school plans to launch an electronic monthly newsletter, which can be sent to all parents.
“We look at technology as a way to be more environmentally friendly and a way to better communicate with parents, getting information out at a quicker, more effective pace. It also helps us to support our students academically,” said Burton Street Elementary Principal Mary-Ann MacIntosh. “When there are students at various levels of education, and teachers wanting to work closely with small groups, we want to be more effective with our instruction. This is our way of working smarter. It is the way of the future, and we want to be on the cutting edge.”
Adhering to statewide Common Core Learning Standards, Burton Street educators have begun to expose students to modern technology. Along with music, gym and art, students attend a special computer period throughout the week, educating them further on the usage of computers.
The district-wide newsletter, The Blue and Gold, recently made the transition to electronic form, reducing the amount of paper needed to inform the community of educational developments while saving costs on printing and distribution. Burton Street Elementary is looking to do the same, and plans to begin distributing school-wide newsletters electronically in 2012.
In anticipation, many of the teachers at Burton Street have begun to use the school’s iPads to record and immediately distribute important developments in their classroom.
MacIntosh credits first grade teacher Beth Anne Kempf as one of the first educators at the elementary school to establish a “living newsletter,” where parents can be updated on their children’s daily activities via a website Kempf maintains.
The idea of individual living newsletters is quickly sweeping through the hallways of Burton Street, and teachers have begun to incorporate the technology in their classrooms.
On Tuesday, Dec. 20, kindergarten teacher Lisa Smith used an iPad to video-record her students completing an activity on mathematical patterns; she asked them to explain their findings and then emailed the students’ parents her video clip from the day.
“A lot of wonderful moments occur in a room of 20 kindergarteners over the span of a day. This technology enables me to email parents those magical learning moments in almost real-time,” Smith said. “I’ve gotten a lot of positive response from parents. They love getting a glimpse into their child’s day, seeing them interact with their peers and work well independently.”
In the fourth-grade wing, students have been busy honing their reading comprehension and independent problem-solving skills using Raz-Kids, a web-based program with short selections of text, illustrations and inferential questions.
The students read pieces on current and historic events and answer related questions; the more problems they answer correctly, the more stars the program awards them.
Once the students have accumulated enough credits, they can “spend” the stars to build their own virtual rocket ship, a characteristic fourth grade teacher Joshua Smith thinks is highly motivating for his students.
“The stories are non-fiction and fictional and they’re really fun, interesting topics. The illustrations are really motivating, which is what we’re trying to do here, become motivated to be better readers,” Smith said. “These students are fully aware that [Raz-Kids] is not only good for them, it’s good for me, because it allows me to easily see what areas some of them may be struggling with. So it’s great that they use this program authentically and put their best foot forward, because what it tells me is information that I can help them with, individually. It enables me to better attend to their needs.”
Because Raz-Kids is web-based, students are also able to log on at their own homes and continue to learn and work toward the completion of their rockets.
If the students do not have access to a computer at home, they can use any of Burton Street’s 185 desktops or 70 iPads which were recently purchased by the school through a number of educational grants
To learn more about happenings at Burton Street Elementary, the middle and high schools, access the district website at caz.cnyric.org or call 655-1317.
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.