Category Archives: City Arts and Technology High School (CAT)

After the amazing results we saw last year in our Algebra I Blended Learning classes, on of our math teachers decided that to truly take advantage of everything technology has to offer he should take matters into his own hands. After playing around with some different ideas and programming languages, this dedicated teacher spent the summer teaching himself how to program specifically so he could build the best possible tool he could imagine. Let me proudly introduce

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Now where to begin… I guess I will start by describing the user experience. On the second day of class the students were asked to log into their chromebooks, proceed to the url, and create accounts for themselves. This initial set-up process is similar to other social networking sites, add a photo, send friends requests to all your friends, write a short blurb about your interests etc..

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What sets this apart from other tools such as Facebook, instagram, or twitter is that there are lessons that you can do, there are quizzes, there is a spot to keep track of all your homework from all of your classes, there is a forum where you can ask questions about the content and where you are encouraged to discuss mathematical ideas. For the first few days of class the students focused heavily on writing blog posts about a variety of math related topics. Writing in math class? I know, it’s amazing!!

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From a teacher’s perspective this tool provides a centralized system for reaching all of your learners, both during and after the school day. All lessons can be uploaded so that students can work at their own pace, and so that you can spend valuable class time focused on higher order thinking tasks, class discussions, projects etc. Not only this, but our wonderful developer ( by day Algebra I teacher) is very focused on generating a system that has Learning Management System – like features, but that actually work for teachers. For example, certain quiz grades are posted to the students’ pages so that they know exactly what grade they have, and what they need to work on. Student attendance is also posted to their page. This may seem trivial, but there are many students who do not realize exactly how much school they are missing until it is easily accessible, right there for them to see. This system also allows the teacher to specifically generate modified versions of course assignments, or quizzes and post these for students who require these modifications.

Now I know that this sounds very similar to something like Edmodo, and indeed I think that this is probably the existing platform that most resembles However, there is one significant design objective that sets us apart – a vision that we hope to nurture into existence over the coming months. Envision Schools has a unique pedagogical perspective that, among other things, highly values deep and engaging tasks or projects. All Envision Schools students must generate several tasks and present this work in portfolio defenses throughout their high school career. This new platform that we are building will not only support the acquisition of small skills and applied practice, but teachers will be able to develop and implement portfolio tasks and projects using the system, and be able to personalize and individualize, as well as easily monitor student progress. This is an exciting new territory for all of us and I look forward to sharing our learning with the educational technology and blended learning teaching communities as we forge ahead.


Kick off for 2012-2013 school year

The new school year is officially underway and, despite a delayed start, the Blended Learning programs and my coaching schedule is up and running. I spent the first two weeks of school helping our tech department get our Chromebook carts ready and in classrooms. Due to an overwhelming number of orders (note to self, order Chromebooks in February if possible) our order arrived on the first day of school. To make matters even more complicated they all arrived at our Support Office in Oakland in giant piles.

photo taken with photosynth

So I sifted through them all and organized them into piles for each site, arranged for their transportation, unpacked boxes, charged them, turned them on, enrolled them into our domain, tagged them, inventoried them, carted them etc… All this set up is nothing in comparison to that of a macbook cart, for example, but it is still a significant number of days work.

Envision School is embarking on two new ventures this year. We are expanding the use of Chromebooks in Algebra I classes to all four sites.

Metropolitan Arts and Technology High School – known as Metro, in San Francisco

City Arts and Technology High School – known as CAT, in San Francisco

Impact Academy – known as IA, in Hayward

Envision Academy – known as EA, in Oakland

We are using a Flexlab model at two of our schools (Metro and CAT) for language classes, credit recovery, and extension classes. We are also continuing to work with our highest need students individually to provide blended learning opportunities through integrating technology with the general education curriculum. My role as Blended Learning Coach is to support the teachers in implementing these programs, continue to monitor the effectiveness of the each program and, of course, write about it.

Our efforts are unified in that we are focused on individualized and differentiated pathways to success within the structure of A-G requirements and standards aligned courses. We strongly believe that all students will experiences success when given appropriate opportunities and tools. An important part of this equation is using technology as both a tool and thus an opportunity to access individualized and differentiated learning experiences. I look forward to sharing these experiences with you over the coming school year as I write about what is working and what is difficult. I always welcome suggestions, comments and feedback as I learn from active engagement with my audience.

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