BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Technology is making a significant and positive difference in the schools and on how the district communicates with parents and students. That’s the gist of the Five Year Strategic Plan Update presented to residents and the board at its Aug. 16 school board meeting.

The presentation was made by District Technology Coordinator Mike Skara and Technology Specialist Kevin Rafferty, as well as Governor Livingston Principal Rob Nixon, Columbia Middle School Principal Frank Geiger, and Assistant Superintendent Scott McKinney.

Among the statistics presented were some details of where the 266,060 visitors to the district website in the past 12 months went. They visited:

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1.       The Meeting Agenda Page 10,945 times;

2.       The 2017/2018 Meeting Minutes Page 4,057 times;

3.       BOE Briefs Page 1,273 times

4.       News From the Schools Page 958 times.

As for the District App, it was downloaded 1,672 times.

Twitter accounts related to people or activities are earning increasing followers:

1.       The GL Hilltop Players – 163

2.       Highlander Claymore – 123

3.       bhpsalerts – 310

4.       GL Guidance Department – 106

5.       Scott McKinney – 164

6.       Rob Nixon – 160

The Honeywell App is so versatile and precise that it allows the district to “send a message to a bus route,” so if construction or an accident is delaying a bus, the parent or student, can be notified that the bus will be late, Rafferty said.

At Mary Kay McMillan, students will begin learning STEM skills, including how to program (code) robots to run obstacle courses, hit targets, establish sequences, loops and timing, and enter if-then-else commands.

When elementary school students return to school in September, they will find Chromebooks are now in Grade 2, which is an expansion of the Chromebook initiative.

At CMS, there will be a different iPad rollout for grade six students, so there will be fewer steps required to begin operating the iPad and fewer calls to IT for help. When the students receives his or her iPad, the Apple ID will have been created, iCloud already set up, keyboard synced and main apps for the tablet installed.

In middle school, MathSpace is used on iPads as a personalized learning tool; in language arts Google Classroom allows collaboration and peer review, and, in seventh grade, creating a video will even be part of the curriculum.

Apple Classroom will allow teachers in grades six to 12 to monitor and guide students throughout their lessons.

Apple TVs have been added to most academic spaces, and the Stiefel theater, at Governor Livingston High School (GL),

At GL, the iPad was used to create historical documentaries, see them on GLHS TV.  The iPad is now being used in the art curriculum and apps including Adobe Draw and Photoshop Express are available to students.

Students already use Bluetooth sensors and probes on their iPads to collect and analyze data In chemistry and physics classes.

Nixon said the iPads at GL allow students to do “advanced searches on the web and get feedback from teachers and students” in real time.

It’s also changed the campus itself – Environmental Science students placed tags on trees which will allow students to walk by with a mobile device and learn about the tree – what it is, when it was planted, its original size and more.  By updating the information, people will be able to read the tag for years to come and learn about its history.

There were eight training sessions available to teachers during the summer. McKinney said many teachers are now in a position of saying “I’m a level three, not a level one.” They then require more personalized training at that level.

Rafferty said, “Teachers are collaborating with each other,” now that the technology is in place and they are sharing tips and information about apps and more.

Geiger said the Chromebooks are “transforming learning … they allow us to teach students at their own pace.” He said he finds collaboration in every classroom and “teachers are evolving into a different type of teacher.” For the students, and many of the teachers, what technology can do is “not amazing … it’s part of their life.”

A complete copy of the presentation can be seen on the district’s website, here.