New technology curriculum in place at Norwin

| Saturday, Aug. 21, 2010

Norwin School District officials are continuing to integrate technology into the classroom for the upcoming academic year.

As students prepare to return to the district's seven buildings Monday, educators are hard at work incorporating the district's new K-12 technology curriculum. Dr. Tracy McNelly, assistant superintendent for secondary education, said a committee spent the last year writing the new curriculum and is excited to implement it now.

"We really focused, not only on technology, but also on 21st century skills," she said. "As we know, technology changes daily. So it's important that students really build those skills."

Committee members have developed model lessons that incorporate technology, with those teachers guiding fellow educators, especially those who aren't as familiar with new methods and who haven't used as much technology in the classroom previously.

Superintendent Dr. William Kerr, who joined the district July 1 following the retirement of former Superintendent Dr. John Boylan, said one of his goals is to "make certain students can compete in 21st century society.

"We want our students to have positive opportunities to grow, expand and meet future demands," he said. "A strong academic background coupled with sophisticated technical skills will provide the best opportunities in the workforce."

McNelly emphasized that technology education cannot be an "add-on" and must be incorporated throughout the curriculum.

One way teachers across the board will be able to achieve this is through Voice thread, a web-based program that provides a secure way in which teachers can post items to the web and students can comment.

"They'll be able to post through text, drawing, video and audio," McNelly said. "When we did the pilot last year, we found that all the kids had these really in-depth comments. We're excited about how this can be used in the classroom."

Parents of elementary students also will have access to additional mathematics resources as the district has added the online component that accompanies the math series textbooks.

Kerr said the district will keep up-to-date on new technology through professional development and a new partnership with Duquesne University's Center for Advancing the Study of Teaching and Learning.

He said the focus will be on formative assessment, with open lines of communication between teachers and students, building principals and teachers, and teachers and administration.

"We want to encourage not only multiple types of assessment, but also specific and instant feedback," Kerr said.

For the first time in a number of years, no parts of the district are under construction after renovations to the administration building were completed earlier this year. Other district projects included the demolition of the Shaw building in 2002 and the building of Sheridan Terrace on that site in 2003; the 2003 renovation of Hillcrest Intermediate; the construction of Hahntown Elementary in 2007; the construction of Sunset Valley Elementary in 2002; the demolition and rebuilding of Stewartsville Elementary in 2009; and renovations to Norwin Middle School in 2005 and Norwin High School in 2003.

The projects were part of a comprehensive plan to update all buildings within the district, beginning with the academic buildings.

"That's quite an accomplishment," Kerr said. "Now we get to really focus on educational issues and make sure we're advancing and providing as many resources as possible for students."

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