I learn a great deal from these events due to the rubbing elbows with visionaries and learning from Apple Distinguished Educators like Emy Flores, Principal of Valencia Park Elementary School in Fullerton, CA.
The school was in fourth year PI, with an outdated curriculum and low API of 695. Principal Flores knew they had to find ways to individualize the learning experience for each and every student. She created a sense of urgency due to the emphasis that kids have to come first, and they have little time to figure out ways to improve student learning. They had to act now! With this theme, she and her staff worked hard in aligning all their decisions around the priority of kids first.
One of those decisions was the use of technology had to be part of the solution. The focus was not about the technology, but it was using the technology in a way that is best for kids. They planned their use of technology thinking about creating the right types of learning opportunities for students.
She was able to attract a great deal of teacher buy in through an application process, advertising successes of teachers and students, and great beginning results of reading fluency for second graders from 8 to 39 in just 8 weeks! They were also successful in using iPod touches and iPads to differentiate instruction and conduct learning in small groups.
In just a five-year period the school moved its API from 695 to 826, and Principal Flores felt the recent use of technology has been a huge piece for students and staff.
It was impressive to hear how they invested 60 hours of professional development in every teacher. The research advocates 49 hours are necessary to invoke change in practice. Another novel approach in their professional development is the first one third of the training is introducing new ways to use technology and the remaining two thirds is play.
She gave examples of teachers producing videos posted on their websites including pictures of site words with annunciation for students and parents to preview and review to be reinforced at home!
Admittedly Principal Flores shared the best outcome thus far with their use of technology is in the teachers being so motivated.
The school has received the following awards: Golden Bell Award, Title I Academic Achievement Award, and Apple distinguished program.
Finally, she sends a clear message to her staff in her belief in her school since her daughter attends her own school even though it is in a neighborhood not far from gang activity.