Berkeley Unified School District implements technology literacy program

Phillip Downey/Senior Staff

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The Berkeley Unified School District is rolling out a new technology program over the next three years geared toward increasing student engagement with online learning materials in the classroom.

The program consists of three parts  providing professional development for teachers, instilling digital literacy in students and introducing Google Chromebooks in classrooms for third through fifth graders. Berkeley Unified School District Instructional Technology Coordinator Allison Krasnow said teachers and principals intend to expand the program to district middle schools and high schools as part of the three-year process.

“This whole institute was Berkeley teachers giving workshops for other Berkeley teachers to share ways they’re using technology in innovative ways, and how they’re trying to improve upon ways that kids are learning with paper and pencil alone,” Krasnow said.

As part of the first phase of the program, which took place in August, 68 teachers became Google Certified Educators, and 32 more received training to use Google Apps for Education. During the training, teachers learned methods to align current curriculum for math, social science and reading and writing with Common Core State Standards.

Lesson plans include ways to help students use YouTube in the classroom, conduct research with Google and use Google Chrome to cultivate presentation skills.

In addition, 1,460 Chromebooks were purchased with district funds for fourth- and fifth-grade classes, with one Chromebook allocated for every two students. While teachers typically share one cart of Chromebooks between each other, teachers who have completed the Google Certified Educator training will be given their own carts.

“This program is really the coming together of a lot of professional development for teachers … and (has) a strong focus on digital literacy in terms of students knowing how to use tech and the internet safely and responsibly,” Krasnow said.

The program also aims to ensure equal access to technology education for all students, regardless of income. According to Chad Lund, principal of Jefferson Elementary School located in Carlsbad, California, not all students have the same at-home technology resources that others do.

Lund said Chromebooks were first implemented in classroom lessons at Jefferson Elementary School in Carlsbad about three to four years ago. He added that providing students with access to Chromebooks early on in their education helps provide a technological foundation to prepare them for high school and college.

“Kids are not as intuitive on the computer as we think they are — the reality is they still need to be taught quite a bit, Lund said, adding that utilizing this education plan will help prepare kids for the technology they will encounter as adults.

Third- through fifth-grade teachers will reconvene Wednesday for a two-hour after-school training session on literary scope and sequence, and using Google Classroom.

Cassandra Vogel is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact her at [email protected].

A previous version of this article may have implied that Chad Lund is the principal of Jefferson Elementary School in Berkeley. In fact, Lund is the principal of Jefferson Elementary School in Carlsbad, California.