Common Classroom: The Common Sense Education Blog

Best Practices: IS 68 Middle School (Brooklyn)

Audrey Stokes Associate Product Manager, Education Categories: In the Classroom
Associate Product Manager, Education

Building enthusiasm for a technology curriculum can be challenging at both an administration level and at a classroom level. Here’s the story of one teacher who overcame several kinds of challenges to make sure technology classes wouldn’t be dropped altogether from her school’s curriculum.

At IS 68, a middle school in Brooklyn, school administrators planned to replace the technology curriculum with additional math classes for testing purposes. When Barbara Kinast, the school Librarian, head about the plans she felt strongly that she needed to present them with other options for a technology curriculum. Read on to view Barbara’s tips for approaching administrators about the importance of a technology curriculum:

     
  1. Volunteer your Time: Barbara felt strongly enough that the technology curriculum shouldn’t be replaced by additional math classes that she volunteered to teach the curriculum herself.  Barbara commented, “If you’re really serious about bringing the information to the kids, you need to go above and beyond.”
  2. Examine the Curriculum: Before Barbara approached administrators about retaining a technology curriculum at IS 68 she examined the school’s current technology classes with a critical eye. Much of her school’s technology curriculum was not as structured as it could be, and left a large percentage of class time open for students to play games online. Instead of requesting to maintain her school’s current curriculum, Barbara went to administrators with Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship curriculum. This way she would be promoting a curriculum which made the most of classroom time with worksheets, activities, and videos instead of free time for students to play games.
  3. Highlight Intersections Between Curriculums: Because she knew administrators might feel pressure to prioritize tested subjects over technology, Barbara thought about how the Digital Citizenship curriculum ties into the school’s tested subjects. When she spoke with administrators, Barbara highlighted the writing and vocabulary development elements of the Digital Citizenship curriculum and emphasized the tie-in to developing ELA and Social Studies skills.
  4. Be Persistent and Friendly, Not Pushy: Barbara maintained open communication with her school’s administrators with frequent friendly calls and emails and avoided sending messages that may have seemed pushy or impolite.

Overcoming challenges in implementing a technology curriculum didn’t stop with Barbara’s school administrators. When she began teaching technology classes, she noticed that students were hesitant to share their thoughts and experiences with technology around an adult. Barbara began using Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship videos and noticed that:

  1. After hearing students on the videos talk openly, students in class were more apt to share their own personal experiences.
  2. Generating classroom discussion became easier because students identified with the students in the videos.

With Barbara’s hard work technology classes at IS 68 transformed from unstructured game time to meaningful lessons based in real life experiences.

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