Technology, Online Curriculum Help Boost Student Learning

Fourth-grade students in Mr. Gill’s math class work on new iPads recently acquired by the Bridgeport Exempted Village School District to expand technology and online curriculum resources that will improve learning whether they are in school or at home. Pictured with Mr. Gill are, clockwise from bottom left, McKenna, Payton, Gavin and Brett.)
The Bridgeport Exempted Village School District has an advantage when it comes to modern education by utilizing iPads and an online curriculum to bolster student learning.
A mixture of federal and general funds as well as revenue from resold devices has added extra iPads and programs to prepare students for now and into the future, and the items are even more prevalent during these times of the coronavirus. Lisa Clark, District Technology Director, and Leslie Kosanovic, District Curriculum Director, said the district received $300,000 in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding through the Federal CARES Act. So far, some proceeds have been used to purchase supplies for sanitizing buildings and guarding against COVID-19 with another portion adding more technological tools to the schools. Some laptops were purchased for teacher access, while 30 new iPads were acquired for the third and fourth grades to expand the school’s 1-to-1 iPad program. 

“Third-and fourth-grade students previously had access to carts where they utilized shared iPads. The administrators and teachers have discussed this need for the past few years, and it came to light when COVID impacted learning in the spring,” Clark continued. “In this district, we have many technology resources for student learning, and students were struggling with little or no access to devices at home.” She said "third- and fourth-graders currently use their iPads in school and teachers were getting students acclimated with the tools they would use if Bridgeport moved to a hybrid model or fully remote learning environment."

“With the same device for every student along with the same learning tools, teachers now have the ability to engage students in school or remotely with interactive lesson delivery to make learning more enjoyable and collaborative workspaces to bring students together.” Clark said high school teachers already familiar with the tools shared their knowledge with the elementary educators, establishing a collaboration between the buildings. “In the past, the administration and teachers talked about how beneficial it would be for the third and fourth grades to have iPads. They are using Microsoft Teams just like the middle and high schools,” she added, saying elementary students would continue using the technology throughout their school careers.

Kosanovic said "an estimated $60,000 of the district’s general fund money was spent to update the grades K-8 math curriculum, which is being used on the iPad and currently benefits about 517 students." She noted that elementary and middle school math teachers teamed up with administrators last winter to review the best options for a math series at the grades K-8 level. The group of 10 educators worked together and used an independent non-profit site to highlight instructional materials based on focus and coherence, rigor and mathematical practices and alignment and ability. They spent two months refining their list from 15 to three options before selecting enVision Math. In March, they participated in a webinar with math and technology specialists with the program before making their final decision. 

Kosanovic said "officials did their due diligence to find the best format to engage students and were impressed with enVision Math’s technological components. The district’s previous program assisted grades K-4, but discussions with teachers yielded a need at the middle school level and the latest curriculum update expanded to include up to eighth grade." “Due to the vast technology resources and the alignment to the math standards that exist within the enVision Math series, the team decided to recommend it for district adoption,” she added, saying officials agreed to a three-year contract. “The K-8 students were very fortunate to return this fall to a brand-new math series that includes up-to-date embedded technology resources. These resources help with the planning needed for the various learning modes that currently exist for in-seat, hybrid or online [learning]. Our one-to-one iPad program for third grade to high school will allow students access to the online math resources, assessments, extra practice, video tutorials which are all aligned to grade-level math standards.”
She said "students can access materials and assignments from anywhere, so if schools resort to hybrid or remote learning everyone will be able to work on their devices. Meanwhile, the curriculum ties into the technology and augments learning for students whether they are in school or at home, plus it all helps the district keep up with the times." Kosanovic added that overall it allowed the district to be in a much more proactive, forward-thinking mindset. Clark interjected that Bridgeport prioritizes technology as a key educational resource that is valuable to student learning.
Superintendent Brent Ripley concurred, saying officials always strive to give students the best education possible. “Every three years, we can sell back old devices and the cost saves the district money. We received $67,000 and it helped lower the cost of the iPads. We expanded the devices to the third and fourth grades,” he explained. “In case we go remote, almost 100 more kids have devices at home and grades K-2 can utilize them in class. With the math curriculum, teachers have resources kids can use at home that line up with the iPads if we go remote. It worked out for us perfectly. Our hope is as we flip our instruction where lessons are taught for homework and homework is brought into the classroom, it allows us to take what we learned last year and use that to make it more effective for our students moving forward.”