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Immediate Data on Student Progress

KUCHES_KRISTY2 Name:  Kristy Kuches

Position Held: Academic Coach

District/School: Heritage Middle School, Volusia County Schools, Florida

Number of Students in District/School: 61,000 in district, 1,200 in Heritage Middle School

Products: eInstruction CPS Student Response Systems, and  Mobi Mobile InteractiveWhiteboards


The overall goal at Heritage Middle School was to actively engage students in their education, while CPS Pulse2 providing both the teachers and the students with immediate data about the learning taking place in every classroom. As we move toward fully implementing a Proficiency Model in our district, the CPS Student Response System will enable teachers to continuously assess students and provide immediate data as to which students need remediation and which have mastered the material. 


Teachers were excited to have a new technology to engage students in the lesson that would also reduce the amount of papers they would have to grade. The idea of immediate data on student progress was also very enticing to teachers. Parents are thrilled to know how their child did on the math test the same day it is given.

Learning Curve:

The CPS System is relatively simple to use, but after initial trainings of the staff, we realized there were two distinct groups of teachers. One group of teachers is tech savvy and the other group is more intimidated by technology. While the tech savvy teachers were able to jump right in after the training, other teachers needed more support. 

As academic coach, it is part of my job to give the additional training and support to the teachers more intimidated by CPS.  Guiding the more intimidated teachers while they used CPS for the first time or modeling the use of CPS for those teachers has definitely broadened the use of the CPS System. Once teachers use the CPS System with the support of an academic coach, or another teacher, they see how easy it is to use and how much their students enjoy it. Support is essential for making teachers feel comfortable with new technology. 

How We Use It:

The teachers at Heritage Middle School use the CPS Student Response System in a myriad of ways. While many teachers started out using CPS for quizzes and tests only in the beginning, they have quickly realized that having immediate feedback on student learning should not be reserved for quizzes and tests only. Some of our teachers use the “Fast Grade” feature to have student input the answers from the previous night’s homework to determine which concepts need reviewed before moving on. Other teachers use the CPS System daily to ascertain learning during key checkpoints in every lesson. Some of our more creative teachers have students “text in” questions during lessons. Students can anonymously ask for help without having to feel embarrassed in front of their classmates.  

What’s Ahead?:

Heritage Middle School currently has 12 sets of eInstruction’s CPS Student Response Systems that are shared between over 70 teachers.  Purchasing more CPS Student Response Systems for our teachers to use is definitely part of our future plans. Continuous training and support will help teachers create and share lessons for Mobi mobile interactive whiteboards and CPS.

Special Ed Reading Coach

Kristine Rinaldi Reviewer:   Kristine Rinaldi Kid1
Position:  Special Education Teacher

District/School: Smith Academy, Aldine ISD, TX

Number of Students in School:  450

Product:   My Reading Coach by MindPlay


Three years ago our district started using My Reading Coach as a reading intervention for Special Education and Tier II & III students. We wanted Smith Academy students to utilize the My Reading Coach computer program and gain the basic phonics skills they lacked to help them improve their reading. With a virtual reading and speech teacher, and consistent praise and encouragement from the My Reading Coach program, our goal was to schedule groups of 10 students in the lab for about 20 to 30 minutes a day.  The My Reading Coach program keeps records of the time the students have spent on the program, what they are mastering, and where they are struggling. The pre-test not only places the students on the level they should start, but has them complete only the levels they need.   


My Reading Coach consistently reviews phonics sounds and rules, vocabulary, word structure, and reading comprehension. The program is generally self-explanatory making training students and staff unnecessary, but hands-on tasks are available for students who are having difficulty mastering levels. The students love being able to come into the computer lab to use My Reading Coach!  Students who were really poor readers, started putting letters together, forming words, and wanted to read more!   Teachers saw their students excited about reading!  Some students who said they ‘hated reading’ and ‘couldn’t do it’ were now reading in their own classrooms, checking out chapter books from the library, and were no longer on the list for retention or Special Education testing. The teachers were impressed to see the carry over from My Reading Coach to the work the students were capable of completing in their classrooms.

Learning Curve:

When My Reading Coach was first used 3 years ago, we only had 10 site licenses and I was worried about trying to fill those 10 seats a few times a day. Soon the demand by the students to use My Reading Coach became overwhelming; we contacted the company and my district representative and received 10 more site licenses, including 2 in Spanish. Soon kids were lined up across the computer room quietly waiting their turn on My Reading Coach; this was in addition to their daily tutorial group!  Some students came to the lab 3 times a day and still wanted to come back for more!  I heard cries of “Wait, I’m almost done with my level!”, when students were asked to go back to their classrooms. In our first year, 250 students accessed My Reading Coach.

How We Use It:

To give the students daily access to My Reading Coach, we had to become creative. We opened the lab in the morning after they ate breakfast until school started, but we still we needed more time. We then opened the lab during the students’ lunchtimes; after the student finished eating, he/she could go across the hall to the computer lab.  During lunchtime a line formed all the way around the room of waiting children who wanted to use My Reading Coach. Students, who needed a more structured setting after breakfast and lunch, before their teacher came to pick up their class, now had an opportunity to further their learning with the individualized instruction of My Reading Coach and be productively active. We hold tutorial classes on Saturdays during our second semester wherein the students receive small group sessions in Math, Reading, and My Reading Coach. The students seem more receptive to learning on Saturday instead of afterschool tutorials.

What’s Ahead?:

This hands on approach to phonics, by showing the position of the tongue, and mouth, speaking and then slowing down, gives students an understanding of the written and spoken language that you would usually only get from a teacher. We will continue to use My Reading Coach this year for all of our Special Education, Tier II & III students for reading intervention. We will also be using the program RAPS 360, from the same company as My Reading Coach, MindPlay. RAPS 360 is a computerized diagnostic reading assessment program that will be used in conjunction with My Reading Coach, as a Response to Intervention (RtI) during this school year. Someday at Smith Academy I want someone to say that our kids, “just read too much!”

Easy Back Up: Nick Johnson

NickJohnson Name: Nick Johnson

Title:  High School English Teacher

School: Alexander Hamilton High School, Los Angeles

Product: Mozy


Like everyone I have lost files that should have been backed up. I have done a lot of writing over the years and before I had Mozy I lost 83 pages of a piece I had been working on for months. I never wanted that to happen again. I started using Mozy at home and school at the same time. I set Mozy for auto- backups every day. A few years ago I had a big crash over the summer. All my lesson plans and every file since I started teaching in 1999 was on the computer, but with Mozy I was able to get it all back.  Also, if I change or throw away a version and then realize I want an older version- I can check Mozy to see if that version was still there and it was easy to go and find that.

Learning Curve:

It was really easy to get started. It’s been a while since I first set it up, but even in its early stages Mozy had a windows format where files came out of folders to find things easily. If I changed or threw away a version and I realized I wanted an older version- I could check Mozy to see if that version was still there and it was easy to go and find that. Just deciding what should be backed up was really simple to do. I set it all up in 15 minutes.

How I Use It:

I use Mozy to back-up all my lesson plans for the semester. For example, I do a poetry unit that has hundreds of documents, including poems and audio files linked to word documents so students can read poems and hear the poetry out loud. I also store student work- past and present. Most of our students are inner city kids who don’t have a printer at home- they bring work in and store it on my computer so I have a folder of their work so their work is always backed up. 

What’s ahead?:

I haven’t used Mozy’s new mobile app seriously yet but that’s something I’d use more for personal use. Right now I can’t think of a scenario where I would need to look up a lesson plan when I wasn’t at home or school. But the mobile app is easy to use- it worked right away and it was easy to use and find files right away.

I want Mozy to take up as little of my life as possible- which is really how it is most useful to me. It’s just in the background of my consciousness. I just want to know all my files are safe no matter what.

Reviewers Notes:

Having a backup system in place is so important because computers can be stolen and they can break down. The files on your computer are more valuable than the computer itself- having them only on your computer is crazy. Teachers really don’t write things down these days now so it’s just on the machines and they need to have their work safe. I have Mozy set for auto backups every day, which makes it so easy to save and protect my files.

SMART Goals: Principal Jessica Johnson

JjReviewer: Jessica Johnson Smart

Position: Principal

District/School: Dodgeland School District/Dodgeland Elementary, WI

Number of Students in District/School: 820/375

Products : SMART Board 680, SMART Slate WS200Scholastic's READ 180


Our school district goals are to increase student engagement and increase student learning. SMART Boards are a classroom tool that helps us achieve both goals. 


3 years ago, our first SMART Board was  on a stand and portable so all teachers could try it. At first only a couple had interest, but it didn’t take long for several staff to ask for more to be ordered. We purchased 6 additional SMART Boards and placed them in 4th/5th grade classes for teacher collaboration.  We purchased more with ARRA Stimulus funds. Teachers love having a SMART Board with the height adjustable wall mount .

Learning Curve:

Training is a must. I would highly recommend training teachers as in-house trainers. One of our teachers completed the official SMART training, so she is our resident expert. Experienced SMART Board teachers offer differentiated staff development: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Teachers share ideas at our “Tech Tuesday” sessions.
Scholastic Read 180
How We Use It:

There is really an endless use to the SMART Board: PowerPoint presentations, Google Earth/interactive  maps, virtual field trips, Skype chats with others around the world, modeling how to edit/revise, capture class notes, digital story telling, interactive game show activities for review, interactive activities throughout lessons, morning procedures (lunch count/attendance), literacy/centers/Scholastic Read 180, and even recorded lessons for substitutes.

What’s Ahead?:

We have purchased additional SMART Boards for the remainder of our classrooms and will be training staff at our in-service. In the future we would like to add document cameras to our classrooms.

Assistive Technology Creates Independent Learners

Saywire GarzaReviewer: Sally Garza
Position: Upper School Technology Director
District/School: Lawrence School, Upper School, OH
Number of Students in School:  225
Products:  Saywire, Read & Write Gold by Texthelp, Kindle for PC App with Accessibility Plugin


Lawrence School serves students with learning differences, many of whom need assistive technology to read or as a prosthetic processor to make reading an easier task. Our technology goals are to offer tools that allow students to become independent learners, and collaborate and communicate outside of school for school and social purposes.


Once students and teachers are trained it is very easy to use the tools. Saywire has allowed our students, middle school students in particular, to do school work and keep in social contact with their peers in a safe environment. The school monitors within Saywire.

Learning Curve:

Most of the software is fairly intuitive to learn, requiring training for staff but not as much for students. We do about 15 minutes of technology training for each staff member each week on specific tools in Read & Write Gold and Saywire to make it easier to use.

How We Use It:

Using the Kindle App for PC with Accessibility Plugin with Read & Write Gold (assistive technology software) allows books to be read aloud by the computer for students with dyslexia and other visual processing issues. Then students post reviews of the summer reading book in Saywire, the school online learning community as well as post their projects about their books.

What’s Ahead?:

We are going to expand the Kindle App Library to all students in the Upper School. We are also continuing to use Saywire in our classrooms for class/course pages, and incorporate it into “Calamity Days” plans for online school days through Saywire for weather cancellations.

Art and Tech Synergy: Corinne Takara

Corinne_TakaraReviewer: Corinne Takara   

Position: Art Education Specialist

District/School: Alum Rock Union School District/Horace Cureton Elementary School, San Jose, CA. 

Number of Students in School: 572 

Reviewer's Note:
The entire 5th Grade class of 69 students participated in the project.

Products: Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, Repper Pro, and VoiceThread

Reviewer’s Project Notes:

The You are Here Street Banner Project is designed to engage in exploring community identity and geometry through photography and digital pattern design. The patterns created by the students were printed as digital textiles and used as ‘furoshiki’ (Japanese eco-friendly wrapping cloths) and as textiles for public art installations. The final expression of the project for the Cureton Elementary Students will be large street banners for the Street of Alum Rock, San Jose, CA.


Through The You are Here Street Banner Project I hope the children have a strong positive experience of being active creators and curators of culture rather than passive consumers of mass culture. I also believe that it is important to engage students in art technology tools as a way to expand their computer literacy. Being exposed to the synergy of art and technology which drives Silicon Valley hopefully will excite these students on the edge of Silicon Valley to continue to pursue learning technology tools, explore art and possibly a creative career. I am also hoping that with an application process in place and banners up, students from other schools will submit student designed banners in future years. An underlying goal was to engage students in a project that really valued process, collaboration and communication in a creative forum.


Students were proud to share their knowledge of pattern design as they taught others about the radial pattern project and they learned to collaborate in creating though provoking art for their community. The school board members and the Alum Rock Education Foundation honored the project by presenting a Certificate of Appreciation at a Board meeting. The principal, Jason Sorich, was very supportive of the project and selected the fabrics to be displayed in a Visual and Performing Arts Display at the District Offices. The San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs has been supportive of the project from the beginning when I contacted them in the fall of 2010. They offered a special forum for the students to present their designs at City Hall.

Learning Curve:

At the beginning of the school year, I requested that my school district install Repper Pro and allow access to VoiceThread on school computers. The tools were easy to use. Voicethread really requires headsets as once the audio responses are playing, the room can get very noisy. I had intended to have students upload and download photos they took from either Flickr or Picassa through a link on the project website, but since the District does not allow access to these sites, I used USB memory sticks to transfer images onto and off of each computer. Luckily I had the support of students who were in the Mouse Squad program. These students helped me to transfer images before and after workshop sessions. Finally, we got a site license for Repper Pro. This was necessary as only the Pro version enables high enough resolution seamless tile saving for the textile printing. Studio Ludens, the creator of RepperPro, offers free educator site licenses if you contact them via e-mail.

How We Use It:

Using VoiceThread, students peer critiqued other students pattern creations and written explanations.  Using this tool, students wrote comments or recorded their voices to share with the students of the other state. Next the Cureton Elementary students ventured out into their community to capture images using digital cameras and single use cameras. These photos were then used as source images in RepperPro software as students created digital pattern designs for their banners. In teams, students printed out their digital photos and patterns and collaged them to create 8x2 foot banners. Artist statements for the banners were written and drafted in Word for their presentation to the Alum Rock Village Business Association. They will be using a PowerPoint presentation for their banner submissions and present to the approving city board for banner design.

What’s Ahead:

For the upcoming academic year, I am in the process of designing a collaborative project, Slot Shelters, which will include Cureton Elementary, and will expand our explorations of community through pattern and photography. Slot Shelters will explore the design of slot building cards and the downloadable deck of cards will grow as more schools and students participate. There will be a Google Sketch Up online collaboration and Voicethread collaboration with students internationally.

Here is the rough draft of the Prezi which will be used to solicit grant funding to bring the project to life: http://prezi.com/wogjefkryjw-/slot-shelters/

Academy Bridges Special-Needs Reading Deficits: Egli


Egli web file 2 Reviewer: Jacqueline Egli

Position: Executive Director/Principal

School: Bridges Academy, Winter Springs, FL

Number of Students in School: 90 students

Products: Fast ForWord, Reading Assistant

Reviewer’s Note:

Bridges Academy provides academic opportunities for children with specific learning needs and learning disabilities.


Ninety-nine percent of our students have reading deficits. To accelerate each student’s learning and reading success, we created a three-pronged reading program that combines direct instruction with two educational software programs, Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant.


Students love the programs, because they are individualized. Students can see their progress and experience success quickly. This carries over to their day-to-day reading, which builds confidence and motivates them to achieve.

Teachers like the programs because students show significant improvements in their reading skills. In a study at our school, students using the programs showed an average gain of one year and three months over a three-month period.

Learning Curve:

The programs are easy to use, but to achieve success quickly, it is critical to implement the programs with fidelity and strictly adhere to the recommended protocols.

How We Use It:

We use both software programs as part of our daily two-hour reading block. Our three-pronged reading program combines research-proven curriculum methods and technology with hands-on learning strategies.

1.  Direct instruction - Each day, students participate in direct instruction programs, assigned by the teacher, to learn the mechanics of reading.

2.  Foundational skills - Students work on intensive, adaptive exercises in Fast ForWord 50 minutes a day to build brain fitness in the areas of memory, attention, processing, and sequencing. These exercises accelerate learning by improving students’ ability to capture, process, and retain information.

3.  Practice - In addition, two to three times a week, students spend 20 to 30 minutes working on Reading Assistant to strengthen their fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. The software uses advanced speech verification technology to “listen” to each child as he or she reads aloud, providing one-on-one guided oral reading support. Students say reading to a computer feels safe and non-threatening, so they are encouraged to take risks. Teachers and students can also review performance records and audio of each reading session.

What’s Ahead?:

One challenge is finding enough time for students to access Reading Assistant every day. We plan to add more laptops to our classrooms, so students will be able to work on the program three to five times a week.

Reviewer’s Notes:

The ongoing focus at Bridges Academy is to close the academic gap so students can transition into a more traditional educational setting. By giving students the foundational skills, the direct instruction, and intensive reading practice, our school has helped them close reading gaps and become more confident, engaged readers.

 In the 2010-11 school year, three students left our school to attend college and 17 students moved to traditional schools. Many of these students made five years of improvement in their reading skills in only two years at our school.

Chicago Manages iPads: Talha Basit

Talha Basit2Reviewer: Talha Basit

: Client Computing and Software Systems Manager

District: Chicago Public Schools, IL.

Number of Students in District
: 400,000

: Absolute Software — Absolute Computrace, Absolute Manage and Absolute Manage Mobile Device Management


As our school district values integrating technology into the learning experience of our K-12 students, we have deployed more than 10,000 Apple computers. Our students have the opportunity to use technology in the classroom to enhance their learning across our 675 elementary, high school and charter schools. The challenge for our IT staff was how to manage these computers, as well as an initial deployment of 5,000 iPads.

Our goal in using Absolute Software’s three products was to enable our IT administration team to deliver a fast, cost-effective and secure computing experience for our users – freeing our administrators, teaching staff and students to focus on actually using the technology for education purposes. We needed to be able to quickly pinpoint the locations of our devices, administer software and patch management, implement a power management policy and download quick reports on all of our devices. Overall, our goals were to keep track of our mobile inventory, secure our assets, update them, distribute software and reduce IT support costs and time.


Before Absolute Manage, the whole process of managing our devices was painful. Our Help Desk would receive a large volume of support calls, and this all changed when we started using the suite of Absolute products. We can now remotely manage, patch and totally remediate a system, we’ve been able to reduce support calls by 70%. I would say Absolute’s solutions have been well received not only by our IT staff, but also by the students and teachers who use each device.

Further, with the aid of Absolute Software’s Computrace product, we have successfully recovered over 350 laptops. This has directly resulted in substantial cost savings, and we’re able to show this value directly to board members and administrators as well.

Learning Curve:

Absolute Manage is very straightforward to use. That was one of the reasons we chose it over other products in this category.

How We Use It:

We use Computrace to help track, secure and recover the 40,000 Mac laptop computers deployed across our network of schools. We’ve already seen the ROI of installing Computrace, with more than 350 laptops returned to us.

We use Absolute Manage as our computer lifecycle management solution on all of our Mac computers. We are able to use Absolute Manage as a full-featured asset management solution, allowing us to provide a lightning fast rollout and even implement a Power Management policy.

We also keep track of our entire 5,000+ iPads that are distributed district wide to students, teachers and administrators using Absolute Manage Mobile Device Management. Having access to this type of tracking software for the iPad was one of the reasons we were able to commit to using iPads in our district.

What’s Ahead?:

In addition to our major rollout of iPad devices, we plan to integrate our data into our largest asset inventory database so that our IT staff and school staff can easily see all of their assets, including their iPads. We will also be expanding our usage of the Absolute Software product line to more Macs, and potentially PCs as well.

"Did you write this?": Susan Marsh's Answer

Susan2 Reviewer:
Susan Marsh

Position: 9th Grade Civics/Humaniies Geography Teacher

District/School: Shakopee Junior High School, #720, Shakopee, MN

Number of Students in District/School: District/7,000; School/1,000 (Grades 8 & 9)

Product:  Turnitin



I wanted to find a way to check for plagiarism and also to get rid of paper copies.  Answering the “Did you write this?” question can add hours to the essay correcting process


I think the only group that didn’t appreciate it were the students who were plagiarizing. Overall, I see more organized papers, fewer technical errors, and desire to get more good comments. Students enjoy the feedback.

Learning Curve:

It is very easy to learn how to use. I used to spend 3-5 hours for each assignment just checking lines through Google. Now, I am more focused on content, and whether or not students understand concepts, and questions asked. 

How We Use It:

My honors students have four major essays to turn in and regular students have two. All major essays in my class are turned in through Turnitin. This checks papers against the Internet, as well as other students using Turnitin—anywhere in the country.

What’s Ahead?:

I understand the middle school is looking at using it. The high school already does. The high school doesn’t have to teach students how to use it because we’ve already done it, and have set student expectations.

Reviewer’s Notes:

Students now type their essays, and think more carefully about using their own words. It organizes all of their papers on line so that paper is not wasted printing at school. Students have become better editors. When the essay is returned, they note where their technical writing skills need improvement.

Solid Instructional Decisions: Stutzman & Zukor

Belinda_hartzler2 Reviewers:  Belinda Stutzman/Dave Zukor Dave-Zukor3

Positions: Technology Integration Specialists

District/School:  Wayzata Schools

Number of Students in District/School:  10,000+

Products:  Turning Technologies ResponseCard NXT and software from Turning Technologies


  1. A common learning experience for students across our district where teachers can use Standard Reference Data (SRDs) for formative and summative assessments.
  2. A means to efficiently and effectively gather data to store into a data warehouse where teachers/administrators can use data to make instructional decisions.
  3. Increase student achievement, engagement and motivation


Clearly, because we are increasing the use of ResponseCard NXTs in our district, the response of all Nxt stakeholders has been positive overall. Most teachers and administrators are excited about streamlining the collection of data so that the focus of time and energy can be on responding to the individual needs of students. Teachers also are excited about the reduction in paperwork so that they can focus more on instruction.  Some concerns have arisen such as student responsibility for the device, teacher training, and adjusting instruction to maximize the potential of the NXT. We continue to respond to these concerns by providing additional training and support.  We have received positive comments from parents and students regarding engagement, motivation and instant feedback.

Learning Curve:

The students were comfortable with the devices very quickly.  For teachers, training was needed to learn how to incorporate all of the Turning Technologies software options into the teaching toolbox. We, as technology integrationists, provide training after school and on an as needed basis. We also provide in-classroom support, and offer a summer tech institute for more staff development. In addition, our teachers all belong to Personal Learning Teams (PLTs).  These teams provide support in the development of assessments, use of SRDs, analysis of data and response to student needs.

How We Use It:

NXT cards are used in a variety of ways. Our teachers use them for common formative assessments across district curricular areas. For example, our 8th grade Science teachers all give the same unit tests throughout the year even though they are in different buildings, however, they meet in their PLT and analyze data from all district students to make solid instructional decisions. That data is also used to analyze their own instructional strategies and collaborate to make changes as needed.  

Exit slips, on the fly check-ins and pre-assessments are common strategies being used by teachers in all areas including PE, art, music, etc. We also use the NXT cards for summative assessments when appropriate.

Administrators, teachers and specialists use the hardware and software during staff meetings to gather data as well.  

What’s Ahead?:

We are beginning year one of our 1:1 plan for grades 3-12 using the NXT cards across our district. However, we have been using a classroom model for the past two years and because of the success of the pilot we will be moving to a learner model. 



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.