Herald American

Bellflower school district spends $3 million on technology

BELLFLOWER — The Bellflower Unified School District has spent $3 million this school year to create a system of tablets, laptops, document cameras and projectors that allows teachers to integrate the latest technology into classroom lessons emphasizing critical thinking, hands-on learning and student collaboration, a district spokesperson said.

The effort combines hardware and software purchases, professional development, as well as improvements in Internet access, system upkeep and maintenance.

The system installation will be completed by April 1. Planning began in 2013 with new funding provided through the local control funding formula and priorities set in the district’s first local control and accountability plan, the spokesperson said.

“It’s all about how to integrate the technology into a teacher’s lesson,” district Superintendent Brian Jacobs said.

“The tools help meet the emphasis on technological know-how that is both a part of our California Common Core Standards and a requirement for succeeding on the state’s new computer-based standardized tests this spring.”

Teachers can use document cameras to capture images of living plants to project onto whiteboards, where students can work together to label parts and functions.

Or teachers can alternatively project work from up to nine student collaboration groups onto the board so students can review and compare their work.

Part of the key to success is ongoing professional development, including time for teachers to share their successful efforts with peers during regular grade-level planning conversations, said Lisa Azevedo, assistant superintendent of academic accountability and curriculum improvement.

“It’s not just about what teachers have available,” Azevedo said. “It’s what they do with it.”

Ruth Lopez, a teacher at Washington Elementary for nearly 20 years, said she is not as adept with new technology as some of her peers.

A sixth-grade math teacher, she started using the document camera to bring individual items to the screen at the front of the room, but quickly realized the system had much more potential.

With the help of two technically proficient colleagues, she devised some techniques that are helping her to connect more directly with all of her students. Now, she loads lessons into her projector, using the screen in front of the room for class-wide elements, such as questions and guides. Her students use learn pads that are easy for students to master.

Daniel Fong, a tech-savvy teacher who has taught social science at Mayfair High School for eight years, said the higher level of student engagement and elimination of the need to constantly check progress student by student means class times can focus on student-driven discussions.

“This creates much more of a free-flowing conversation,” Fong said. “It means as a teacher I have to be ready for all sorts of situations. The energy is terrific and the students are engaged at levels never before possible.”