While refining its English Language Arts curriculum to meet the new Common Core Standards, Franklin Lakes Public Schools, in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, recently chose Wixie to help K-5 teachers and students successfully meet the technology and digital writing standards.
Located in northern New Jersey, the Franklin Lakes Public Schools district serves students in pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade. The four-school district supports approximately 1,350 students and 180 teachers.
From 2000-2012, Franklin Lakes doubled the number of student computers from 450 to over 900, and has equipped each digital classroom with an interactive whiteboard, projector, document camera, and other hardware to support their commitment to provide students with essential digital age learning skills and opportunities.
Bridget Pastenkos, Franklin Lakes District Technology Coordinator, explains, “All elementary schools have multiple mobile labs or computer carts that move between classrooms and also stations of between two and four computers in each classroom. Teachers learn about the instructional power of the technology tools they are using with students and how to integrate them into their classroom curriculum.”
Pastenkos suggested Wixie as a resource to Cheryl Best, the District Curriculum Director, as a means to meet the ELA standards. Together, they planned professional development to introduce the application to teachers in grades K-5. Teachers were immediately sold on the product and many began configuring student accounts at the training session.
This digital learning tradition was strengthened with the release of the new Common Core Standards. The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts include a significant focus on the use of technology and digital writing and presentations, including the following anchor standards:
· Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6 - Writing: Production and Distribution of Writing)
· Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, sound) and visual displays in presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.5 - Writing: Production and Distribution of Writing)
The need for more explicit guidance and additional resources for technology integration was identified by Best and her colleague Liesel Steines, Literacy Staff Developer, while updating the School District's English Language Arts curriculum and professional development program to meet the new Common Core standards. They collaborated with Pastenkos to ensure that the curriculum met all of the new requirements for the use of technology.
They particularly looked to Pastenkos to identify technology tools that would support the presentation and online publishing components outlined in the new Language Arts curriculum. “When I suggested a range of tools already available in the District, there was concern that teachers might not buy into multiple options,” explains Pastenkos. “When I shared Wixie with the committee, we recognized that it would provide many of the features that existed in other programs, meet the needs of students, and be easy for classroom teachers to implement right away.”
Based on the needs assessment and subsequent research, the School District purchased Wixie for all elementary teachers and students for the 2012-2013 school year. The district chose an undemanding implementation method to encourage voluntary use. According to Pastenkos, “We had a few of our teacher leaders begin using it immediately. Watching their success has been a clear indication that we are on the right track and using the right resource.”
First grade teacher Linda Hay has used Wixie this year for her students’ journal writing. Some of her students extended their use by logging in to Wixie from home to continue working on their journals. In addition, as part of the ELA curriculum, each of Hay's students wrote and illustrated a book that was a unique expression of a life event. Students were very proud of their books.
Michelle Rotella, another first-grade teacher, has also given students the ability to log in from home so they could continue to work. Rotella says that the students’ voluntary efforts at home "were very telling to me, showing that they were engaged in the learning". Parents like the fact that their children can continue working from home if they choose. Parents also enjoy seeing the work that their child is doing in school.
As the Franklin Lakes elementary ELA curriculum is finalized, units that require online publishing will be incorporated, with Wixie as the tool for teachers and students to satisfy this requirement.