About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Supporting STEM Education: Raul Santana

Raul Santana2Reviewer: Raul Santana

Position: Director of Technology

District/School: Upland Unified School District (UUSD), Upland High School (UHS), California

Number of Students in District/School: UUSD serves more than 12,000 students in 14 schools, which includes 10 elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools

Products: HP Workstations Hp


Upland Unified School District (UUSD) faced two of the same challenges that most public school districts are facing nationwide—we had a lack of funding to pursue programs of excellence, and the need to improve student achievement in math and science. UUSD’s ultimate goal was to find a way to provide educational technology to support rigorous programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.


In an effort to improve students’ math scores and skills in a cost effective way by leveraging outside funding, UUSD laid out plans to participate in Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a national program that provides rigorous and innovative science, technology, engineering and math education for middle and high schools. In order to meet the needs of the courses of PLTW, the district’s IT team created two 21st Century Classrooms at UHS, which are equipped with HP Z Workstations, digital projectors, an electronic white board and more.

The community has been incredibly supportive of PLTW and the implementation of HP technology. In fact, in 2008, the community passed a construction bond that has enabled the district to remodel many classrooms and incorporate leading edge educational technologies to create the 21st Century Classrooms needed to support PLTW.

Teachers believe that PLTW is helping to increase student success: “It’s not our goal to make engineers out of every kid in the class,” says Doug Hutchings, teacher, Upland High School, “But it’s very likely that students who participate in Project Lead the Way will have a better chance of being admitted to college and doing well once they get there.”

The program and school district are receiving support from local colleges and universities as well. California Polytechnic Institute at Pomona and the University of California at Riverside actually guarantee admission to students who complete the entire sequence of PLTW courses.

Learning Curve:

The district’s first PLTW course, Introduction to Engineering Design, is a methods course involving product design using Autodesk Inventor software. UUSD runs the software on HP Workstations. We have found that because Autodesk applications are thoroughly tested and qualified on HP Workstations, that they are the perfect fit for the classrooms where the PLTW courses are taught. Together, HP, Autodesk and PLTW have offered a wide-designed platform for science, technology, engineering and math education that has helped integrate the program pretty seamlessly.

How We Use It:

Using HP Workstations, students tackle four design projects in the introductory PLTW course. The first is a puzzle, which students design and engineer for manufacturing. Subsequent projects include a toy train, a full-size boat, and a fourth project serves a real-life community need and changes each year. Last year, the class is designed and built a mobile scoreboard for the local Little League.

Now in its second year of involvement with PLTW, UUSD has added a second PLTW course, Principles of Engineering. Students use HP Workstations to tackle more rigorous engineering challenges and are exposed to a wider range of engineering software packages.

All told, the high school has roughly 135 students taking PLTW courses today and that number should continue to grow as new courses are added.

Reviewers Note:

UUSD has a solid reputation for preparing its students academically, and several schools in the district have been cited as California Distinguished Schools.

Classrooms Collaborate with Projects by Jen

WagnerReviewer:  Jennifer Wagner

Position:  Online Project Coordinator

Online Site:  ProjectsByJen.com

Number of Students in School: 825

Products:  Voice Thread, Animoto, Smilebox, Google Docs & Forms, Dreamweaver, Microsoft Office, and the ProjectsByJen site - http://www.projectsbyjen.com/.


The primary ProjectsByJen goal is to seamlessly and effortlessly weave various opportunities of tech into Jw1 the PreK – 6th grade classroom, while at the same time setting up collaboration activities for interaction.


My first project in 1999 had 125 responding classrooms, most current project over 1300.
Because standards are shared with each project, and the projects can be molded to fit within each teacher’s schedule and curriculum, the response has been positive. I receive emails from teachers, admins, and parents thanking me for offering these projects online so their students can participate. Each classroom is also earns a participation certificate to showcase their involvement.

Learning Curve:

The learning curve is different within each classroom; however, detailed instructions are provided with each project as well as activities and extension ideas. Tutorials are provided as well as several online community forum areas. If a teacher has any difficulty, there are many ways to get support. If any teacher is creating their own worksheets, etc, they usually share out their ideas there. 

How We Use It:

Reviewer's Note: All of my projects can be found here:  http://projectsbyjen.com/archives.htm

Sample Projects:

Most teachers in the Prek – 6th grade level will have some sort of harvest lesson during the last week of October, which will probably involve a pumpkin. The Pumpkin Seed project takes what will already be done and weaves in a math lesson, pumpkin costume show, and many other activities, which can easily be used during this harvest theme time. If a teacher wishes, there are also opportunities for the classroom to collaborate with other classrooms via Skype, e-mail, snail mail, or various other ways.  At the end of this project, all results collected are displayed in graph form, available in a downloadable spreadsheet, and participants are placed on a map. This project easily incorporates math, literature, science, art, history, technology, spelling, and more.

What’s Ahead?:

ProjectsByJen has 6 more planned projects for the school year, including The Holiday Card project in December, which truly brings the holiday spirit into your classroom in a very geographical way. The St. Patrick’s Day project blends graphing, sorting, and estimation into the K3 classroom. A new project, “Picture This”, where 24 different classrooms will share in creating a masterpiece of collaboration will be hosted for Spring. 

Reviewer’s Notes:

ProjectsbyJen is offerered at no charge to classrooms around the world.  However, to subsidize website expenses, I do offer a monthly newsletter, Wordle Packets can also be found at http://www.projectsbyjen.com/, along with  a book entitled “35 Tech Tips for Teachers”. 

Scholastic Math and Reading Inventory

Loversky 2Reviewer: Tim Loversky

Position: Principal

District/School:  Lakewood School, Community Unit School District #300, Carpentersville, IL

Number of Students in District/School: 19,700/780

Products: Scholastic's Read 180 Next Generation, System 44, Read About, Expert 21, Fastt Math, Fraction Nation, SMI, SRI

Reviewer's Note: We never rely on one piece of data. Along with the data from the SMI and SRI, our teachers use a variety of other resources to know where our students are. But we have found that the data we get is usually right on target.


As a Title I school, Technology helps our students access information, helps them to be creative, SMI Screen_Student2inquisitive, and knowledgeable.  It also helps our students learn to read, and build math skills. The Scholastic Math Inventory (SMI) and Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) help our staff and students to understand the progress they are making in math and reading.


A couple of years ago, our staff resisted looking at data; now they are highly involved in the data—they own it. Our district leadership, especially our Superintendent, CFO, CTO and Director of Grants, has been outstandingly supportive in increasing the technological tools that we give to our staff and students. The Board of Education and our community are committed to giving students the technology resources necessary to succeed.

Learning Curve:

SMI and SRI are easy to use. Students hop on computers, logs in, and do the short assessments.  We initially struggled with how we use the data. With some clear guidance from Scholastic, along with some data analysis helped us figure it out. 

How We Use It:

Every student in our school takes the SMI and SRI. If a new student comes in, we use those assessments to place that student in the right intervention class. We also use the data to look at classroom progress, determine growth targets, and differentiate. We even use the SRI Lexile data to help guide students towards choosing books that are at an appropriate level.

Reviewer's Notes: A couple of years ago, our staff resisted looking at data; they tended to rely on “gut instinct”. Today, we still rely on our instincts, but we follow that by “prove it”. The teachers at Lakewood School now are highly involved in the data- they own it! When they talk with me about student achievement, they don’t “think”- they “know”.

For example, teachers know that there are 3 students who have seen little gain in the SRI. They know that they have a group of 5th graders at 490 Quantile and still need work on the basics of understanding fractions. 

What’s Ahead?:

Each year we understand a little more about the SRI and SMI. When we look back at SRI history and at students using Read 180, we see record of  sometimes more than a year’s student growth. We still need to deepen our understanding of the SMI and the Quantile Framework, which is a newer component for us.

Exploring The Sketchpad App: Karen Blumberg

Key Karen Reviewer: Karen Blumberg

Position Held: Technology Integrator

District/School: The School at Columbia University is an independent school on the Upper West Side of New York City.

Number of Students in School: 500 students in grades K-8

Product: Sketchpad Explorer app from Key Curriculum Press


I have been a huge fan of The Geometer's Sketchpad for years (since I was introduced to it in 1994!), and I believe it is one of the best educational tools out there. Therefore, I was incredibly excited when I learned about the release of Sketchpad Explorer. I will be supporting the 5th grade team as they incorporate the Sketchpad Explorer app and the Dynamic Number Project  into their math curriculum this year. We're looking to fully engage the students and encourage them to hypothesize, investigate, understand, and share mathematical principles.


The School at Columbia University has a 1:1 iPad program in grades K-2 and a 1:1 laptop program in grades 3-8. Our website reinforces the four pillars of our school community: Innovation, Collaboration, Diversity, and Technology. Hence, our administration, parents, faculty, and students support our efforts to fully explore ways to integrate technology. My personal goal is to teach my students how to use technology academically, respectfully, and responsibly. 

Learning Curve:

After opening Sketchpad Explorer on the iPad, teachers and students are able to quickly navigate through a variety of mathematical investigations. Within seconds, students can adeptly explore and interact and make sense of mathematical concepts. 

How We Use It:

In addition to capitalizing on our students' enthusiasm and willingness to embrace technology as a learning and collaboration tool, the teachers and I are planning lessons and activities to integrate Sketchpad Explorer into the 5th grade geometric and algebraic curriculum. Also, there is a robust online community sharing ideas and lesson plans at the Sketch Exchange!

What’s Ahead?:

We are excited to use this year to examine how Sketchpad Explorer may engage, empower, and educate our students. I am hoping we can eventually build an in-house repository of homemade sketches for our students to use as a resource archive...sort of like our own version of a Khan Academy



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Best in Tech Today are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.