Technology takes the lead at Allendale Elementary School


PITTSFIELD >> By the time they're in the first grade, most students at Allendale Elementary School know how to independently remember their own computer password and log in to do Internet based research and activities.

Over the past few years, the school has been investing in technology and networking teachers to help boost students' digital literacy and integrate the use of technology into its curriculum.

Principal Brenda Kelley said the investment comes from both the school's budget and outside support.

For example, this year, the Allendale PTO donated two carts stocked with 30 Samsung Chromebooks each.

A Crane & Co. classroom grant also helped to purchase what are known as "Elmos," or Elmo-brand digital interactive visual presentation systems.

Asked why the push of investment in and use of technology, Kelley said, "We've always been interested in technology, and with the state mandates leading towards online testing, it's important for us to be getting children comfortable with using keyboards and digital tools. We really have to start now, at this age."

Kelly said she'd ultimately like to have every Allendale classroom outfitted like the first-grade classroom of Jessica Bazinet.

Her classroom last year was designated as an "innovation classroom." There, digital interactive white boards and an Elmo projection system, iPads and Chromebooks and other devices are used to deliver lessons.

Bazinet practices a blended learning approach, which uses both the technology-based and pencil-and-paper activities, and having kids work independently, in small groups, and as a class.

Each building within the Pittsfield public school district has a teacher or team of innovation teachers, like Bazinet, who are comfortable and trained in using different devises, and who work with other teachers to help them create lesson plans, or simply support them as they expand their own knowledge.

For last week's lesson on Earth Day, Bazinet worked with a group of teachers to develop an online resource for students using the interactive media platform, ThingLink.

The platform allows educators to develop a secure resource for students to browse by clicking on text, videos, photographs and links selected by teachers to relate to the topic being taught.

Down the hall, in Paula Marinaro's fourth-grade classroom, students have been researching states in the U.S., to develop projects for a public May 12 "Academic Evening of Excellence."

Marinaro's students started by using books, then moved on to multimedia sources.

The whole school accesses a suite of literacy instruction programs through Lexia, and math through IXL.

Students said they like the programs because they coach them on how to find the solutions when they don't get it the first time.

"They're not just clicking and going forward. We get reports on their progress and based our instruction on their results," Marinaro said.

"I think it helps you," said fourth-grader Mitchell McCann, "and you get better."


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