Empowered by ITI to Reimagine our Approach to Instructional Technology

Empowered by ITI to Reimagine our Approach to Instructional Technology

By Dr. Elizabeth Lehmann, Principal at West Hollywood Elementary

West Hollywood Elementary School began a journey of instructional technology many years ago, receiving Apple Distinguished School recognition in 2010 and 2014. In 2018, the school community felt we needed to broaden our approach and began looking for the right opportunity to spread our wings. That opportunity came in the form of becoming a Practitioner School.

During Spring Break 2019, a small team of teachers and I took advantage of the 3-day course, the Instructional Technology Planning Cohort, offered by ITI where we began re-imagining our approach to technology and instruction. We began laying the foundation for our technology goals by utilizing the Common Sense Education curriculum for digital citizenship. By the end of the 18-19 school year, 70% of our teachers had achieved the Common Sense Educator Certification. At the end of that year, we were overjoyed to learn that we would become a Practitioner School 4.0 in 2019-2020. Little did we know the transformation we were about to experience as a school community.

Minecraft game West Hollywood Elem Students

As we kicked off the year as a PS School 4.0, our teachers were ready to participate in new learning and new tools to enhance their knowledge, increase the rigor of instruction, and peak student interests. Our teachers transformed projects with the use of technology and empowered our students. For example, third graders used Minecraft for Education to design and build historically accurate Native American villages. Our second graders explored algorithms and patterns to design and build LEGO robots, and then used block code to make them move. Teachers had to creatively reimagine their annual Hall of Heroes project and turned it into a Virtual Event.

Hall of Heroes

Our first graders completed math algorithms to program robots to move along a path, and used measurement and data skill to program with precision.

Students Collaborating

 Fourth-grade students designed presentations for their Mission Projects after their virtual field trip to La Purisima Mission State Historic Park. Our third and fifth-grade students ditched the old book report or brochure options and instead designed an app to showcase their learning. Students collaborated on Google docs, meeting classes and experts across LA Unified, across the states, California Missions, Florida and Alaska, and across the world, heading over to Peru, Australia and India. Technology allowed our students to take virtual field trips to faraway places we couldn’t have visited physically.

Microsoft Global Learning Connection Day

So many exciting projects took place during our year as a Practitioner School 4.0. Students were excited about learning, parents were interested and participated in workshops so they could join in the fun. Through all of this, the remainder of our teachers completed their Common Sense Educator Certification and our school received the distinction of a Common Sense School! We were on a roll and we were making plans for our next set of adventures with technology.

And then, along with the rest of the world, March 2020 came and we found ourselves pivoting to distance learning. The initial shock of attempting to teach from home co-mingled with the need to stockpile supplies, check on our family members, and keep connected to our students seemed overwhelming at first. However, after we recovered from the initial shock, the teachers began to work collaboratively to jump into creating the best online learning environment possible for their students. The experience was similar to studying a foreign language in a class and then moving to the country of that language, now we had to use what we’d learned for survival. Teachers met via Zoom to plan, practice, and implement their class instruction, take virtual field trips, provide social emotional support, and sometimes just to be together. In the Spring our school and our students were geographically located right in the midst of the protests and marches. The discussions were rich and the feelings were real, our first-grade students decided to create a video to show their feelings and support.

Students add a video on Schoology We celebrated together at the end of the year and we are continuing our learning this year as a Practitioner School 5.0, focusing on Digital Citizenship, using our digital presence for good, and connecting with others to continue our learning. Check out some classroom lessons on Digital Citizenship in this virtual classroom walkthrough shared at our Digital Citizenship Community Showcase in October. Our parents have given positive feedback and often rave about our approach to instruction online and in the classroom. The excitement built up around technology had already brought us together as a community, and now our ability to leverage technology to meet the needs of our students has only strengthened those bridges built through our engagement with ITI and the Practitioner School model. ITI, we can’t thank you enough and we can’t wait to see where you will lead our learning, growth, and development next!