Pittsfield Schools to begin Innovation Project in elementary classrooms


PITTSFIELD -- The aptly named Innovation Project aims to create a "model incubator classroom for 21st century teaching and learning" in each city elementary school.

Deputy Superintendent N. Tracy Crowe said new computer, camera and projection equipment for the grant-funded program should begin arriving by spring, and the initiative will be fully implemented in the fall.

She told School Committee members that the program, which was developed in-house by educators, principals and other personnel, is unique to Pittsfield. It will provide eight "innovation teachers" in city elementary schools with Chromebooks for students and one MacBook Air, along with a wall-mounted projector, high-end document camera and a compatible electronic whiteboard.

The eight teachers will be backed up by Crowe from the central office, curriculum, learning and technology specialists and three coordinating principals, said Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless.

The general goals, Crowe said, are to "foster innovation, encourage collaboration among educators, provide a venue for technology-rich elementary education, and create a model incubator classroom for 21st century teaching and learning."

"We also see this as the first phase, to set the stage," Crowe said.

It is hoped that the technology and innovative approaches will become available throughout all the classrooms over time, she said.

The eight teachers were chosen because they are instructional leaders and lifelong learners for instruction and assessment, Crowe said. They also have demonstrated an ability to collaborate with other educators, are "models of best practice and constantly adapting;" have "inspired and motivated colleagues," and are "risk-takers and pioneers with technology," she said.

The teachers and others involved will focus on "the four Cs of 21st century skills," Crowe said. Those include critical thinking and problem-solving, communication skills, collaboration and creativity and innovation.

Funding for the project comes from Race to the Top funding for Pittsfield. The purchase of the Chromebooks, Crowe said, will serve an additional purpose when city schools begin the pilot phase of the new online Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers standardized student testing, which is being implemented in Massachusetts districts.

Crowe said the teachers selected for the first phase of the Innovation Project are Jessica Bazinet, at Allendale; Melissa Fawcett, Capeless; Karen Pearce, Conte; Annie Ruttledge, Crosby; Julie Hart, Egremont; Lidia White, Streans, and Sharon Gilmore, Williams.

The team of principals acting as coordinators will include Lisa Buchinski, Aaron Dean and Candy Jezewski, and the technical staff will be James Schultz, Karen Shields and Howard Marshall.

Curriculum and learning skills advisers will be Holly Goodrich, Kay Latham and Diane Wespiser.

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