Community Blog: The EDge

In Kuna, fusing a technology pilot with Common Core

Teachers in Kuna Middle School and 10 other Idaho schools are facing a unique juggling act.

Like teachers across the state — and across the nation — they are having to align curriculum to the new Common Core standards in math and English language arts.

Meanwhile, teachers in 11 schools are also on the front line of a $3 million technology experiment. Their schools are sharing state technology pilot grants — testing out ways to use computing devices in the classroom.

The results will be watched closely, by politicians and parents alike. The tech pilots, such as Kuna’s $890,000 project to put Chromebooks in the hands of 800 students, represent a big change and a high-stakes experiment. And the pilots just happen to  coincide with the rollout of Idaho Core Standards.

The combination of the two can be daunting.

Shelby Harris II
Kuna Middle School teacher Shelby Harris

“It’s pretty in my head,” Kuna Middle School math teacher Shelby Harris said this week. “But pretty in my head is great until I’ve got 30 kids staring at me.”

Harris is no neophyte to the Kuna Chromebooks experiment — she is the impetus for it. Since spring, her students have been working on Chromebooks — a less expensive and smaller cousin to the traditional laptop — under a grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation. Her work is the template for Kuna’s schoolwide Chromebooks pilot. And on Friday night, her work will be profiled on the CBS documentary “Teach.”

If Harris is nervous about melding technology with new standards, what does that say for her colleagues in Kuna and the other pilot schools?

Harris does see an artful combination of the two — centered on Chromebooks, and the corresponding Khan Academy software that allows students to brush up on their weak spots.

Principal Deb McGrath also sees the Chromebooks complementing the shift to Common Core. As the new standards encourage students to think independently and critically, the Chromebooks can tie right into this objective. As the Chromebooks project rolls out this year, McGrath is hoping to see students that are not only more energized, but more in control of their education.

While she says Chromebooks could foster more rigorous learning, in conjunction with Common Core’s new and rigorous standards, McGrath recognizes that her faculty will be facing a challenge. “It’s a lot of work, all at once.”

More reading: Here’s our story on the Kuna Middle School technology pilot project. And watch Idaho Education News in the weeks ahead for more stories from the pilot schools.

Disclosure: Idaho Education News is funded through a grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.  

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

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