To Live and Teach in LA: Edtech Initiatives from 10 SoCal Districts

To Live and Teach in LA: Edtech Initiatives from 10 SoCal Districts

By
Nick Punt

As we were preparing for the Los Angeles Tech for Schools Summit last week, the EdSurge team learned a lot about the City of Angels. We had the pleasure of spending two days with 90 central office administrators and 350 teachers from over districts across the region. And what we heard is that edtech in Los Angeles is about a lot more than iPads.

Los Angeles is a diverse community that’s actively using over 75 different edtech tools. They are experimenting with new ways to track learning, get students interested in career pathways, and developing multiple research and development strategies to test new school models.

We thought we’d bring a few of these stories back for you, to show that edtech in Los Angeles and all the surrounding districts is about more than a device rollout. Here’s what we learned.

Riverside Unified School District

  • Make It Blended: Different models of blended learning exist across the district, including a station rotation model, flex classrooms and a la carte options. The district is experimenting with personalized learning models in five schools, thanks to the Gates NextGen Systems Initiative grant. Education Elements has been enlisted to help the district refine its goals around what personalized learning looks like, while also supporting the school sites to design and pilot their unique models.
  • Data Dash: Riverside has developed its own dashboard that provides teachers, parents, and students with info on test results, attendance data, assignments and grades.

Coronado Unified School District

  • Charter Creation: The district created its own charter school, Coronado Pathways Charter School, as a research and development lab providing the district with the best practices around blended learning and the use of online courses. Coronado Pathways Charter School will open in fall 2014 with a hybrid approach. Students will take online courses, and receive face-to-face coaching with teachers on-site with varying schedules.
  • Digital Textbooks: Coronado is particularly interested in open education resources (OER). In 2012, the district supported a group of science teachers creating their own digital content for grades 6-8. Using CK-12, these teachers developed content that is now freely available in PDF form. The district continues to fund one full-time position to continue writing materials and support the deployment of these materials.

Santa Ana Unified

  • Big Data: In 2010 the district received an ARRA/EETT grant to develop a predictive data system that could identify early warning signs that a student might not graduate or will struggle in college. The system also identifies interventions and resources for specific students. SAUSD partnered with data warehouses eScholar and Oracle to develop the tool. They call this system Project Arrow. The district plans on using this software across the district with counselors and secondary support staff by 2015.
  • Kindi Tech: SAUSD hosts a station rotation model for transitional kindergarden classrooms. There are ten mobile devices that students use in stations to practice on literacy programs at their own pace. After a year, this program has demonstrated positive literacy gains. The program will be implemented in over 80 classrooms this year.

KIPP: LA Schools

  • Teacher Driven Pilots: The KIPP LA network leaders are supporting a pilot program called KIPP-o-vate which will give individual teachers up to $1,000 to implement a new tool or strategy in their classroom, with the potential to scale the idea across the school and/or network if the strategy achieves its defined goals.

Ingenium Schools

  • Competency-Based Model: Schools across the network support a competency-based learning model that measures on student performance for advancement, rather than grade and age. Students move at their own pace as they try to master standards. Once students are ready, their proficiency is assessed through a specific assignment or exam. If they pass, students are free to move forward to learn the next standard. Ingenium’s model is based on the Re-Inventing Schools Model, developed in Alaska by the Chugach School District. In this model, the student is expected to know what standards they should work on and do the work to proactively learn those standards. Technology supports this work by providing learning opportunities, digital assessments and the ability to continuously track progress.

Alliance College-Ready Public Schools

  • BLAST Off: Alliance refers to their blended learning initiative as BLAST. They began piloting BLAST in 2010-11 at two Alliance high schools. Since then, it has expanded blended learning into all 26 schools with various models throughout the network. 14 schools use station rotation, 11 use flexible classrooms/a la carte models and one school is developing a competency- based learning model called PACE. Starting in 2014-15, the network will work to transition non-blended schools from technology-rich to fully blended models.

Partnership for Los Angeles Schools

  • Blended Learning Pioneers: Partnership for LA Schools was one of the first turnaround organizations to leverage blended learning as a turnaround strategy. They began with piloting ST Math in 2010. By 2010-11, blended learning was implemented in all the network’s middle schools. By 2013, the network had expanded pilots of ST Math in some high schools, along with other tools to target English language learning skills. The network now uses tools including Achieve3000, Lexia and ST Math to target improvements in math, English and California High School Exit Exam testing.
  • Teacher Leaders: The network brings together 120-person cohorts of teachers from each school to provide more intensive training and support around edtech tools. These teachers then go back into their community as a model for others to learn how to integrate technology in their classrooms. They are also responsible for creating and sharing resources with other teachers.

Long Beach Unified School District

  • More Than The Core: Like most districts, Long Beach is prioritizing technology that supports the Common Core. However, the district is also counting on technology to play a big role in supporting its linked learning initiative. Linked Learning brings together academic content that relates to real world professions and provides hands on technical activities to students. It also supports students to develop career awareness, explore careers through internships and develop relationships with professionals in the field. The district has partnered with ConnectEd California to support this work in its high schools, and leverages their tool, ConnectEd Studios, to help students make connections and find resources for linked learning.
  • Professional Development Mecca: Long Beach Unified has long been hailed for its innovative approach to professional development. The district has an extensive coaching strategy, partnerships with local teacher colleges and invests a great deal in teacher resources. In fall 2013, the district took another step, thanks to a Gates grant, to use the design process with teachers and principals to put together an RFP for a comprehensive PD System. The district ended up going with a bid from Truenorthlogic and are in the middle of rolling out this system for the 2014-15 school year.

Los Angeles Unified School District

  • Diversifying Devices: In summer 2014, the district began to diversify the devices it uses. It allowed 27 high schools to choose among six different laptop devices, including the Lenovo Yoga Touch, Microsoft Surface Pro 2, Dell Latitude E7240 and Chromebooks. This is a departure from previous strategies under the Common Core Technology Project. The district plans to study what happens when schools are given more choice around which device to use.
  • Closing the Digital Divide: Closing the digital divide has been a tenet of the iPad program and a reason Superintendent Deasy has cited for the urgency behind the district’s iPad rollout. For this reason, 90% of the tools students use can be accessed offline, without the need for Wifi.

ABC Unified School District

  • LMS: The district uses an LMS called Edline and encourages teachers to use the site to create websites, post class and calendar information, homework and assignments, and links to resources. Both parents and students are given access to this site. 
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