Schools along the Peninsula are getting a hand in adjusting to new standards that integrate technology into classrooms with UClass, a new K-12 curriculum resource.
The San Mateo County Office of Education, UClass’ flagship group, will pilot the UClass.io For Schools program. It is a centralized, searchable districtwide resource exchange that allows teachers to share, find and organize resources created for the new Common Core Standards. Teachers can pool their resources, tag them and have limitless access to others’ resources.
The office applied and was accepted into the program. UClass Co-founder Zak Ringelstein, a former teacher, said his company has had a relationship with the office for a few months now when UClass made a presentation to the Redwood City Chamber of Commerce Education Committee. He notes the office is really focused on student achievement that encompasses the whole child — emotionally, academically and by preparing students for the world.
“We wanted to make sure we had one of the most innovated counties in the country,” he said. “Something they’re well-known for is that they’re very tech innovative and interested in finding new solutions to old problems. The county administrators we’ve spoken with are really, really open-minded about the various solutions to increasing student achievement.”
The education field is traditionally dominated by a small number of publishing companies and UClass.io For Schools is an opportunity to use crowdsourcing in the K-12 setting, according to the company. With that said, some school leaders may not be quite ready to trust the resources of a random teacher all of the way across the country, but that same superintendent is clamoring for a curriculum solution that is more engaging and personalized than a textbook, Ringelstein said. From talking with hundreds of school administrators, the company learned schools do want to maximize the talent within their own school districts first by creating efficient, effective ways to share top-of-line resources in-house.
During the pilot, the San Francisco-based company’s engineers will outfit 10 selected county offices of education or school districts with a custom-built solution that teachers can access from any device. There will also be free access to UClass’ more than 2,000 Common Core aligned resources, professional development sessions, troubleshooting and technical support.
Meanwhile, the new curriculum includes more project-based and team collaborative learning in schools, emphasizing the use of technology in the classroom. There is also the new Smarter Balance computer-based testing, which aligns with these new standards, that will go into effect during the 2014-15 school year.
“The concept was intriguing as a way to leverage technology to facilitate collaboration among teachers — a timely notion as schools and districts throughout the state are making the shift to the Common Core State Standards,” Gary Waddell, deputy superintendent for the San Mateo County Office of Education, wrote in an email. “This shift means that teachers will be engaging in instructional design — identifying resources, planning lessons and assessments — that respond to the Common Core State Standards. ... Some of our districts are exploring the potential for how technology-based solutions, such as UClass, might be a solution to support teachers in planning and delivering innovative instruction.”
While each district needs to make its own decisions regarding how best to move forward with specific instructional resources or programs, the collaboration of teachers has always had a powerful impact on the quality of instruction, he said.
“We are at a time when we need to be finding new solutions to old problems,” he wrote. “Solutions, such as UClass, provide the opportunity to leverage technology to increase collaboration. It takes the idea of master teachers sharing lessons with colleagues to scale through technology. While each district makes their own determination about the resources and tools that are most appropriate to their context, we are at a moment in public education when schools and districts are engaging their best creative thinking and continually identifying new technologies that deepen our shared work and its impact on students.”
Schools and district administrators can find more information and apply to the pilot at uclass.io. The deadline to apply is Feb. 15. The pilot will begin on March 1. For more information contact Chris Yim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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