Revitalizing Technology and Culture at Belvidere & Harmony School Districts
Belvidere School District and Harmony Township School, two districts which share services and administration in Warren County, NJ, worked with the iSchool Initiative and Promedia-New Era to implement programs aimed at transforming the culture of technology in the districts. Belvidere and Harmony were looking for a way to transform the culture of technology in their schools, and found the iSchool Initiative programs as a way to provide the initial push.
“We rolled out a lot of technology very quickly in our districts, but without a lot of work with the staff to make sure they fully understood how to use it,” said Superintendent Chris Carrubba. Carrubba and Belividere’s high school principal heard iSchool Initiative’s message at the 2015 NJSBA Workshop and a seminar hosted by Promedia-New Era, and decided that the iSchool Advocate Student and Certified Teacher programs might help speed up the understanding and adoption of technology in the districts.”
“We loved iSchool’s message,” said Carrubba, “It’s not technology for technology’s sake, its really to improve learning. And ultimately, we look at it as not just for learning but for preparing students for the jobs and careers that are in front of them.”
Belvidere and Harmony worked with iSchool Initiative to create their program and invite teachers and students from both districts to participate during a summer session prior to the 2016-17 school year. The Advocate Student program consisted of 15 students participating in workshops designed to improve real-world skills related to leadership, teamwork, presentation, and technology literacy. They also worked with the districts’ technology committee to identify problems they would like to solve throughout the school year, including the revitalization of the high school wireless networking infrastructure. The Certified Teacher program brought together 22 educators from the two districts, who left with improved skills and understanding of using technology in the classroom, as well as “a greater understanding of what we’re trying to get out of technology for our students,” according to Carrubba.
The Advocate Student program has already had an impact beyond the initial threeday summer session. Students are not only working with the district on a new wireless plan but have also set up the Advocate team as go-to technical trainers in the district, who teachers and peers can email with questions on topics like Google Classroom, email troubleshooting, the school’s student management portal, and more. The Advocate team even took on a larger role at the district’s back to school night, spending half an hour presenting to parents and walking through some of the technology plans in the district. District personnel reported that this visibility at back to school night created even more buzz around the Advocate program, with more and more parents asking how they could get their children involved.
Taken together, the Advocate Student program and the Certified Teacher program have already started to transform the technological culture of the district.
“In the first week and a half of this school year I’ve seen more technology used in the classroom than I have in the last five years, it’s just tremendous,” said Carrubba, who continued, “Our main goal was ultimately to empower our students to be part of this change and transformation. We’re impressed with them and how they’ve taken to the challenge and ran with it. The students are now driving change in the district as much as anyone, and because of their enthusiasm the teachers are hooked and parents are excited, and we’re all going to work together to continue to push for positive change in our schools.”