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Massapequa Tech Coaches Foster Innovation
Whether working with teachers behind the scenes or assisting with classroom instruction, the four technology learning coaches in the Massapequa School District support high-impact teaching and student learning through meaningful, authentic and continuous professional learning using the vast array of digital resources.
Executive Assistant for Instructional Technology and Innovation Alison Morgan oversees the team that includes coaches Jarrett Fifield (Massapequa High School main and Ames campuses), Meredith Marin (Berner Middle School), Jennifer Emberley (Birch Lane, Fairfield and McKenna elementary schools) and Marissa Flanagan (East Lake, Lockhart and Unqua elementary schools). All were classroom teachers in the district who were known for the innovative and creative uses of technology in their instruction, curriculum and assessments. Now, they are dedicated to collaborating, supporting and sharing their expertise with their colleagues.
One of the greatest roles of the technology learning coaches this year has been helping teachers with the transition to a new learning management system, Schoology. Through a committee process with all stakeholders, which included various presentations and a classroom pilot, the district selected Schoology to replace PowerSchool Learning. The coaches were part of the committee process and received extensive training on the new system. They then created multiple training and learning opportunities for teachers and have been consistently available to provide individual assistance.
Mr. Fifield said that common questions include page organization, grading, adding items to the calendar and transferring lessons from PowerSchool Learning to Schoology. Aesthetics is important, he explained, because teachers want a page that is easy to navigate for both them and their students.
“We did our best to train every teacher and make everyone feel as comfortable as possible with the new system,” he said.
At the secondary level, assignments can be submitted digitally by students from their district-issued Chromebooks. Teachers can access the assignments from Schoology, put in the grade and add comments. One benefit of the new system is the ability to move from one student’s submission to another’s with one click.
“It’s helpful to know that you have a resource to go to,” said high school Advanced Placement biology teacher Kathleen Frontino after working with Mr. Fifield during a prep period.
Ms. Flanagan said that taking part in the pilot last year as a Berner English teacher inspired her to become a technology learning coach. Because she works with elementary teachers, one of her goals is to help them create Schoology courses that are visually appealing, with colorful graphics that help young learners better navigate a page.
At Lockhart, she worked with math specialist Annmarie Sivert to add a birthday candle counting game to her Schoology page for kindergartners. She also assisted second grade teacher Debra Cirella’s students in creating multimedia fire safety manuals with Book Creator. It was a project students made for several years on paper during Fire Prevention Month in October, but this was the first time it was done in a digital format with video, images, voice and text features.
“We want to find a fun, new way to do something that isn’t just for the sake of using technology,” she said.
As a kindergarten teacher, Ms. Emberley helped create the tech buddies program, in which fifth graders help kindergartners log on to their Chromebooks and use different digital tools like Google Slides and Flip video. Now, as a technology coach, she has worked to expand the program.
Recently, Ms. Emberley helped facilitate a tech buddies meeting between Tara Mathers’ kindergartners and Lauren Marocchi’s fifth graders at Birch Lane. The fifth graders helped their younger peers create a Thanksgiving project to share what they are thankful for on the feathers of a digital turkey.
“I’m so glad to be able to share my ideas with others and inspire them to use the same programs that I enjoyed,” she said.
At Berner, Ms. Marin worked with health education teacher Denise Robertson as her seventh graders made stress-busting slides. Students were tasked with creating a digital one-page sheet detailing a stress management strategy. They had several collaborative tools available including Book Creator, Canva and Google Slides.
Ms. Marin was there to assist and help students with their work, but noted that today’s tech-savvy learners pick it up quickly and turn out some impressive projects.
“You give them a little bit and see what they can do with it,” she said.
Ms. Marin has also been assisting teachers with the cast-to-board feature that allows a teacher to wirelessly display work right from a student’s Chromebook onto the classroom display board for a presentation.
Ms. Morgan, who moved into her new role after several years as a technology learning coach, facilitates the district’s integration of curriculum, instruction and assessment through digital resources. She leads weekly meetings of the coaches in which they share ideas.
“Massapequa’s technology learning coaches all bring their different levels of expertise and experiences to share with the teachers and staff throughout the buildings they serve,” Ms. Morgan said. “We’re excited about implementing new and innovative ideas in our classrooms.”