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Digital training pays off

​Just as each child is unique, so is every teacher.

That's why the rollout of Chromebooks at Jurupa USD required both broad and tailored teacher training – not a one-size-for-all regimen.

So last year, JUSD began building an ecosystem of digital learning – with teachers themselves in the vanguard.  The result was a smooth rollout of digital lesson plans for all students in grades 2-12 to start the 2016-17 school year.

"The idea is providing as much support to the teachers as possible" through a range of training options to suit varied interests and proficiencies, said Joshua Lewis, Director of Education-Information Technology at JUSD.   That support centers on teacher choice, teamwork, and training led by classroom instructors themselves.

The district seeded the program last school year with Chromebooks in six classrooms at each school site.  That experiment, led by Veronica Gonzalez, Coordinator of Education Technology, helped educators learn about training needs and fix glitches before the broader rollout this year.

After feedback from the site tests, the training branched in multiple directions, featuring just in time how-to videos, Online Trainings via Haiku,  Skype videoconferences, Twitter chats, campus visits by technology coaches and more.  The instruction is ongoing, evolving, based on the needs of the teacher, at the teacher's own pace, collaborative and voluntary.

Much of the training grew from JUSD Summerjam, held in June at Mira Loma Middle School.  Nearly 300 teachers attended the half-day series of breakout sessions; about 40 modules were led by JUSD teachers on such topics as digital classroom fundamentals; Chromebooks and science curriculum; honoring student achievement with Digital Badges; and new ways to engage students via digital Q&A.

"What really made the training unique was that teachers could go to topics that interested them," Mr. Lewis said.  "Teachers had choice."  It also helped connections click among the instructors, prompting further teamwork.

"It really comes down to teachers leading teachers in our district," said Amy Noyes, a JUSD teacher who serves as a Technology Curriculum Coordinator for Jurupa Unified.  And teachers embraced this approach, based on a sampling of their feedback on Summerjam:

  • "I thought it went great and heard an amazing buzz among attendees."
  • "More time to go to more sessions please!"
  • "I came home telling my husband in my 33 years, this is ONE OF THE BEST, if not THE BEST professional development days I have ever attended." 

As the school year unfolds, the training continues.  There is specialized help to fit all grade levels, interests and teacher schedules.  And the district encourages the sharing of tech-related tips, ideas and illustrations via the Twitter hashtag #JUSDshares.

"A teacher will say, 'Here's what I do,' said Daniel Richards, a teacher and Technology Curriculum Coordinator for the district.  "And it opens new possibilities, breaks down barriers.  If a teacher is making a concept work in second grade, then another teacher might say, 'Actually, maybe I can do that in high school, too."

​The Chromebooks not only facilitate basic curriculum and support California Standards and new standardized testing, but also spark innovation in areas such as computer coding, robotics and special effects for student presentations.

"One of the key takeaways here is to get the devices into people's hands," Mr. Lewis said.  "Then they start exploring on their own and making great things happen." 

​Building a culture of support and collaboration helps cultivate such ingenuity.  Just as each child is unique, so is every teacher. 

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