This Kingston School Introduces Kids to Tech Through Blended Learning | Sponsored | In the Classroom | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
Third-graders at Kingston Catholic School using Ozobots to learn basic coding.
  • Third-graders at Kingston Catholic School using Ozobots to learn basic coding.

In the US, women make up roughly 59 percent of the workforce, but account for barely 20 percent of jobs in the technology sector. This gap often starts with societal cues that young girls pick up from the time they start school. “If we can get girls from preK through first grade to embrace technology in the classroom, we can start to move them forward and close that gap in a meaningful way,” says Jill Albert, principal of Kingston Catholic School.

As a way to make technology a prominent part of the curriculum, Kingston Catholic School has implemented a blended learning model for grades K-8, which combines online and traditional classroom learning and can adapt to students’ individual needs and learning paces. At recommendation from the Archdiocese of New York's Department of Teaching and Learning, the school began a pilot of the program for its second- and sixth-grade math classes in 2016, with integration across all subjects and grades the following year. 
Second-grade students with teacher Dianna DiIulio in a blended learning lesson.
  • Second-grade students with teacher Dianna DiIulio in a blended learning lesson.
With Kingston Catholic School’s model, the teacher typically begins class with a 10-minute lesson, then students break up into smaller activity-based rotation groups for the remainder of the time. The teacher will typically be based at one activity station, while two other stations offer students the opportunity to work independently or in small groups. Students might complete additional reading or coursework assigned in their Google Classroom portal or participate in hands-on activities like programing tiny Ozobots, hand-held robots that help teach young kids basic coding.

“The biggest thing technology does for our students is open up a world of possibilities,” says Jodi Vines, the school’s instructional specialist. Students in subjects like history or English “get the opportunity to see and interact with things that are very hard to integrate into a traditional classroom, like what it’s like to visit the Louvre or experience World War II. Everything becomes more alive and real,” she says. To that end, the school is also piloting the use of virtual reality goggles with its seventh-grade students, who are studying the state’s trout by virtually exploring streams and rivers.

Two seventh-graders use VR googgles in class.
  • Two seventh-graders use VR googgles in class.

According to Albert, the school has seen the results of blended learning on its annual New York State English language arts (ELA) and math assessments. Since the program was introduced, the school’s students have consistently outperformed their peers at the city, county, and state levels, as well as within the Archdiocese of New York itself.

“Introducing blended learning has been a journey for our whole faculty, but it’s fostered a lot of camaraderie, goal sharing, and peer support,” says Albert. “Technology is just a tool, and the real magic is the dedicated and talented teachers behind it.”

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