East Williston tech use has grown, teachers say

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Wednesday’s East Williston school board meeting was different than most: a small robot walked back and forth on a table and two students presented short, animated videos they had coded themselves.

Keeping with the district’s support of the implementation of technology into its classrooms, director of science and technology David Casamento led a presentation with teachers from multiple disciplines about various technological tools students are using and how they further their education.

“I’m always wondering, where are we with technology?” Casamento said. “Because we are considered a pretty technologically advanced school and we do a lot of great things, so I’m always wondering, what’s the next thing? Where are we going? What are we doing?”

Starting Sept. 1, Audra Beberman’s role in the district shifted from technology instructor to technology integration coach.

Previously a classroom teacher, Beberman now oversees and assists with the use and integration of technology across all grade levels and disciplines, and in all three of the district’s schools.

To help teachers learn the technology so they can smoothly integrate it into their classrooms, Beberman holds classes, meetings and one-on-one help for technological tools such as Twitter and Google Chromebooks.

“A lot of really good things are happening in professional development right now,” she said. “I feel that taking on this assignment was really beneficial for both me and for the faculty and staff of all three schools.”

At North Side School, the elementary school, 37 percent of the staff had seen Beberman at least once for assistance in technology implementation by Oct. 30, she said. That number rose to 56 percent by Dec. 23.

From early September to the end of November, there was an 118 percent increase in the number of people logging into Google Drive, one of the main tools used in classrooms by both teachers and students.

“Anecdotally, I can tell you that a lot of the department chairs, a lot of teachers, have been coming (to me) saying we’re using more of the resources, more of the technology than we’ve ever used before and they’re really happy about it,” Beberman said.

Beberman’s special assignment is to last until the end of this school year, she said; but she and others in the district are hoping it will be extended because of its success.

Students also presented how they’ve been using technology in the classroom.

Kim Kelleher, who teaches computer education, had two of her female students present their coded videos, to which everyone in the audience applauded.

“Kids are absolutely loving coding,” Kelleher said.

Though the benefit of technology may not be as apparent in an English class, Wheatley School English teachers Daniel Burke and Jenna Stein said Chromebooks and Google Classroom have helped their students develop better organizational and writing skills.

With Google Classroom, students and teachers can access their work at home, allowing Burke and Stein to offer immediate feedback for their students.

Students can also work together to write a story even if they’re not together in the classroom.

“We love how writing can now be collaborative,” Stein said.

Across disciplines, students and teachers presented the benefits of technology in their classrooms. Beberman, whom Casamento called his left and right hand, has been fundamental to the district’s success in technology implementation.

“I really believe in what I’m trying to sell everyone,” Beberman said. “I love technology and I think that it really helps in the practice in the classroom. I don’t try to make it an extra thing that people have to do; I try to make it integral to their practice.”

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