Going Paperless: New Visions Awarded i3 Grant to Empower Digital Classrooms

Distributing, collecting, and assessing student writing is typically a time-consuming process for teachers.  Cloud-based tools promise to simplify and automate these processes, allowing teachers to focus more time on classroom instruction.  Although these tools have been widely adopted in suburban schools across the country, urban schools often lag behind because they lack the infrastructure and support to leverage them. 

New Visions is looking to change this inequity with a new pilot program that aims to improve student literacy in high-needs high schools in New York City by providing teachers and administrators with curricular resources and Google Apps for Education (GAFE) tools to organize, manage, and facilitate student writing projects.

This project, “Personalization at Scale: Technology Integration to Drive Common Core Writing,” in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, was selected as one of the 13 highest-rated applications for the U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation (i3) 2015 competition. 

The i3 grant will directly impact 5,000 students in New York City by supporting high school English Language Arts (ELA) and social studies teachers, who are using New Visions-developed curriculum, in delivering writing instruction aligned with Common Core standards.  The pilot project will help teachers use the free GAFE platform to improve their ability to distribute, collect, and offer feedback on student assignments.

“With this Investing in Innovation grant, we’re poised to demonstrate how low-cost, cloud-based software and hardware devices can revolutionize teaching and learning and empower teachers with 21st century solutions to age-old, analog problems,” said Bob Hughes, president of New Visions.

The grant will enable New Visions to test the theory that cloud-based technology can improve the amount and quality of student writing, even in high poverty urban schools.  New Visions will work with 10 New York City high schools, selected from its network of 77 district and charter schoolsMDRC, an independent evaluation partner, will study the impact by analyzing the program at 10 project and 10 comparison schools.

Program teachers will learn how to use the Google Apps for Education suite of productivity apps and Add-ons, including Google Classroom and the New Visions Cloud Lab-developed Add-ons, Goobric and Doctopus.

Daniel Voloch, director of instruction at New Visions, said, “The key to the success of the pilot is that these cloud-based tools will be used in conjunction with Common Core-aligned curriculum materials developed by New Visions.  ELA and Global History teachers will receive training on assigning students digital writing tasks and offering timely, actionable feedback.  Technology will enhance this exchange between teachers and students, making writing a more seamless and frequent classroom activity." 

Thousands of teachers already using Google Apps for Education find the platform invaluable.

“I’m convinced that the file management and assessment tools that Doctopus and Goobric provide can create truly paperless classrooms that are functional for teachers.  I use the GAFE tools and Doctopus to access work and track student engagement, view progress in real-time, and determine which students need more attention during particular lessons,” said Jeremey Wilder, a science teacher at Grand Haven High School in Michigan.  “Continual written feedback, both from myself and their peers, has allowed students to hone their writing skill and concisely explain their understanding of complex topics and questions.”

Since the tools run on Google’s free platform and the curricula is open source, once piloted and proven, this approach can scale at radically low costs to schools across the country.

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