District Administration magazine has chosen the Rush-Henrietta Central School District as one of its honorees in the 2018 Schools of TechXcellence program. This competitive national program recognizes school districts for outstanding technology initiatives. Rush-Henrietta is being recognized for the use of capstone projects in measuring student learning related to using digital tools. The projects are based on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards and have been established for third, sixth and ninth grades. For their projects, students select a topic and then complete a series of tasks related to it. These tasks take several weeks and include both online and print research. Students use a variety of digital tools to create a presentation at the end of their projects.
Created by District Administration magazine, and sponsored by HP and Intel, TechXcellence recognizes schools that have implemented innovative technology programs that contribute meaningfully to student or operational success. The December 2018 honorees reflect programs that demonstrate effective and replicable success.
 
             “Over the past five years, Rush-Henrietta CSD has worked toward the seamless integration of technology devices in every classroom that allows students access to the internet to obtain information, communicate and collaborate with others, and create products of their learning,” says Brad Malone, Rush-Henrietta’s director of information and communication technology. “This has included a 1:1 computing initiative which provides each student with a district-issued Chromebook.” Malone explains that in order to ensure the devices were leading to increases in learning and achievement, the district adopted the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards for Students.
 
             Rush-Henrietta faculty created a five-year technology plan that started with the 2014-15 school year. As a result of this plan, each student in grades K-12 has a district-issued Chromebook which students in grades 4-12 are able to bring home with them after school. After the adoption of the ISTE Standards, the district focused on the areas of curriculum writing and professional development as well as implementing specific assessments called ISTE Capstones (given currently in grades 3, 6 and 9) that allow all students to demonstrate progress towards the ISTE Standards.

             The Rush-Henrietta capstone projects then began in the 2017-18 school year with third graders and showed that 79 percent of students rated proficient on skills necessary for meeting the ISTE standards. These include citing sources, communicating clearly and concisely, providing details about the main idea of a text, organizing information, evaluating sources, and leveraging digital tools. The results were used by library specialists and technology coaches to work with teachers on how to reinforce and improve key skills among students. “The capstones are designed to be rigorous assessments of information and technology skills that cannot be taught and mastered in one year,” says Malone.

             Moving forward, a significant portion of Rush-Henrietta’s technology vision is to make the previous efforts more viable and self-sustaining. Rush-Henrietta plans to also add additional focus on instructional shifts for all teachers to maximize the potential of the devices in their classrooms. As Malone shares, “Given the demographics of the district, we also plan to focus on ways in which equity for all students, specifically English Language Learners, can be promoted.”
 
             Locally, Rush-Henrietta is unique in its focused approach of measuring progress toward the ISTE standards district-wide in order to ensure all students have mastered the technology and information literacy skills necessary to be college and career ready. With the district’s move to 1:1 devices for students, effective use of technology for meeting learning standards is a key goal. Not only did nearly 80 percent of students achieve proficiency on the ISTE standards, but they also made a notable improvement on the latest ELA state standard test results, showing that the skills being taught have a positive impact on overall learning.

             However, using technology as a tool for academic success is just one way in which technology is valuable to students. While Malone is clear that emerging technologies must be used to facilitate how teachers and students interact and engage with the content and the world around them, he describes the benefits of technology education as reaching far beyond the classroom. “To reach today’s learners, teachers must move beyond traditional teaching methods and shift to more authentic, real-world experiences, ensuring students are producers instead of consumers of knowledge,” Malone explains. “In-depth technology integration includes creativity, innovation, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving.” Technology also helps students become more thorough, collaborative and global learners. Says Malone, “Students are able to find information on demand regardless of the topic. They can collaborate with peers and experts all over the world as well as create work intended to be viewed and reviewed by others instead of for their and their teachers’ eyes only.”

             While these technological benefits seem ideal, the question is, of course, Is it working? According to Brad Malone, the answer is yes. “If you were to walk into a classroom at Rush-Henrietta, you may see students researching a topic of their choice using databases. In another classroom you might see students collaborating on a science experiment by sharing lab data in realtime. Other places, you may see students determining which form of media to use to present their learning based on their message and audience. In third, sixth, and ninth grade you would see our students completing their ISTE Capstone Projects which assess an expansive array of digital age skills.” Malone goes on to explain that, looking toward the future, Rush-Henrietta would like to expand the current uses of technology into every classroom. Its faculty are also excited to be designing their Senior High ISTE Capstone Project which would be a truly culminating experience for their students over the course of their entire education at Rush-Henrietta.

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