When Meg Ormiston launched an ambitious writing project in 2015, she turned to Indian Trail teacher Beth Hatlen for help. Ormiston, a national leader in educational technology, envisioned writing a book series that could serve as a technology curricular resource for teachers. She sought fellow experts to contribute authentic voices to the books.
“I have known Beth for over 20 years, and when I thought of innovative primary teachers, Beth was the first one I called,” Ormiston said.
Hatlen jumped on the opportunity and recruited her Indian Trail colleagues—teachers Kristy Hopkins, Whitney Cavanagh and Janice Conboy; instructional coach Nicole Ring; and principal Robin Bruebach.
“When we met for the first time I knew this was the right team to bring together because they were integrating technology in the classroom the correct way, focusing on teaching and learning before the technology,” Ormiston said.
Together with 19 other leading experts in educational technology, they embarked on a two-year intensive writing and editing journey.
“One of the most amazing parts of the project was collaborating with colleagues from both Indian Trail and other schools and having the ability to see what other innovators are doing in their classrooms,” Hatlen said. “I learned a great deal from these colleagues, and we enjoyed working together to put all of our ideas into writing.”
The team published their final product – a five-part NOW Classrooms book series – in fall 2017 to national acclaim. The first four books focus on different grade levels (K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12), with the fifth book offering leadership skills for principals. The books follow similar formats and aim to help educators seamlessly incorporate technology into their instruction. Its target audience includes school districts new to using 1:1 instruction, as well as new teachers (or veteran teachers) looking for innovative ways to implement technology.
“The goal is to help encourage teachers to use technology in the classroom in a meaningful way,” Ring said. “The books keep the focus on learning and help teachers identify how best to use technology to enhance the learning experience.”
Hatlen added that the books serve as a reference guide, with each chapter covering a skill, such as critical thinking, and its application to technology. Educators can flip to any chapter and immediately gain knowledge and real-life novice, intermediate and advanced ideas for integrating technology related to that skill.
“The books help educators to differentiate lessons for ability and/or grade levels where teaching and learning come first and technology fits naturally into the lessons,” Hatlen said. “Technology should never stand alone. It should be authentically integrated in a meaningful way throughout all lessons.”
To date, the NOW Classrooms series has sold 1,785 copies to school districts worldwide, including some copies here in District 58. The books’ authors have presented at local education conferences, and have been lauded as leaders in educational technology. Their project was recently featured in an EdSurge article, and the team has continued to offer its users ongoing support by regularly contributing to the NOW Classrooms blog, which features additional real-life examples and ideas not featured in the books.
“The District 58 teachers involved in the NOW Classrooms project are incredible professionals going above and beyond their outstanding work in their classrooms,” Ormiston said. “These teachers are hard workers! All of the planning, writing, editing and revising was all done after school, on weekends and over the summer with many meetings and collaborative online work. This dedicated District 58 team is helping impact teaching and learning with technology locally, nationally and globally!”
Technology in District 58
In District 58, there exist countless examples of teachers successfully integrating technology into learning. For example, Hatlen shares a “day in the life” observation of how technology is used in Indian Trail’s K-2 classrooms:
“Every day I walk into different grade levels and see how our teachers naturally integrate technology into the classroom. In a first grade classroom, students were doing an art smashing activity. They had read the story “The Leaf Man” by Lois Ehlert and created an art project about their own leaf man. Then, they were able to use ChatterPix to have the leaf man talk about it. It was easily uploaded to Seesaw and shared with parents and the teacher. It is such a simple lesson that integrates art and writing, but now thanks to technology, it is also a language development lesson as well. And the bonus is, that it is easily and instantly shared with parents to get a glimpse of what each student’s day looks like.
“Meanwhile, in a kindergarten room, students were simply reading their sight words on their iPad. This simple task saves so much class time for teachers doing 1:1 assessments.
“In second grade, the teachers have become instant experts with uploading tests and materials to students for the new Benchmark reading series. By having access to leveled materials online, iPads have helped to access curriculum with ease that is at each individual student’s level.”
– Beth Hatlen, Indian Trail reading specialist (former kindergarten teacher)