With visions of a global classroom and a mobile device for every student and teacher, Paul embarked on a journey to advance education through technology. She’s instituted programs such as BYOD, a teacher technology academy and global collaboration projects with schools across the world. Currently, she is working to move the district to a new email and learning application platform while training both teachers and students.
As a result of the district’s recent participation in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), Paul helped deploy a fleet of Chromebooks, which have been instrumental in changing the student learning experience. “The students were amazing. They took to the Chromebooks like I’ve never seen students take to a technology before,” says Paul in regard to the recent PARCC pilot program. The Chromebooks and other mobile devices are used to supplement the district’s BYOD program, which is available in 6th through 12th grade. However, Paul hopes to expand the program to more teachers and grade levels this coming year. “We thought that BYOD would be a great solution to put more technology into the hands of the students so that students would have more opportunities to use technology within the regular instructional process,” says Paul. Additionally, she recognized that students leaving for college or entering the career world would soon be faced with similar BYOD environments, making the shift even more relevant.
To ensure teachers have the professional development and training they need to successfully deploy technology in the classroom, Paul initiated the Sayreville Technology Academy, which is based on a teachers-teaching-teachers model. Paul identifies teachers who have a strong grasp of a particular technology, or who are implementing technology in an innovative way, and asks them to train other teachers on the same topic. Additionally, Paul hosts some trainings herself on a variety of basic and advanced topics. “We’re trying to do teacher training to get teachers to understand that using technology is not an additional aspect of the instructional process, it’s just a change in classroom management and pedagogy within the classroom,” says Paul. After training teachers on technologies such as Web-based videoconferencing, teachers across the district began using it to talk to kindergartners in Philadelphia about art, or to discuss books with authors during the middle school book club meeting. Most recently, Paul has been working with a few teachers to host a collaborative project on World War II with a school in Hong Kong.
Paul believes this shift in technology is making the global landscape more accessible. “We’re no longer going to be stationed in one country facing our own small communities,” says Paul. “The classroom walls are now broken down, and because of that we have the opportunity of a lifetime - something that’s never before existed. We can reach all parts of the globe and communicate with the ability to understand other cultures and ways of thinking.”
According to Paul, both teachers and students have embraced the new classroom technology - whether it be a mobile device, interactive whiteboard, educational app or collaborative project. “The teacher response is amazing - to be honest, they are blowing me away,” says Paul. Moving forward, Paul hopes the classroom walls continue to break down as more mobile devices and cloud services are introduced into education. “I see kids taking ownership of their own learning and moving through the system at their own pace - whether it be accelerated or delayed, whatever works for them, and taking ownership of their own learning process, allowing them to do amazing things that I never in my wildest dreams thought possible. I am looking forward to it.”