The technology team at the Hollidaysburg Area School District in Pennsylvania has five full-time employees to service 270 teachers and 3,500 students. Despite the small staff, the district had a big vision for technology, and in 2006 set technology benchmarks for students at each grade level.
Technology was already being used across the grades in Hollidaysburg, but not consistently. The skills being taught were dependent on both the comfort level of the teacher and the skills students had been exposed to in earlier grades.
To ensure more consistency, the district decided to standardize on skills and expectations at each grade level, so that when students reached a certain age, teachers could expect specific skills and students could expect to be engaged by more complex technology tasks.
The district embraced the International Society for Technology in Education’s NETS for Students, but made them their own through district benchmarks. While NCLB benchmarks aren’t formally assessed until 8th grade, the technology committee, which included grade level teachers, didn’t want to wait until that time to address technology skills. They set benchmarks starting in kindergarten, with the expectation that skills grow as students do.
The Hollidaysburg Area School District realized the primary grades would need a new tool to meet their new benchmarks. Having used Tech4Learning’s ImageBlender for a couple of years, the district evaluated Tech4Learning’s newly-released primary-grade creativity tool Pixie and determined it was user-friendly for this group.
Hollidaysburg felt that Pixie accessible enough to integrate at the younger grade levels, and their experience working with Tech4Learning made them confident they would get the support their teachers needed. “We knew Pixie would be a quality product after using ImageBlender and working with Tech4Learning trainers to integrate that tool,” shares Robin Smith, Education Technology Specialist for the district.
But with a limited staff, and only one instructional technology specialist, Hollidaysburg needed to be strategic with their training. They asked for volunteers and started with a train the trainer workshop. These teachers supported teachers at their site as they rolled out Pixie.
The district also offered Pixie training during in-service days , summer trainings, and a district-wide technology day that included sessions on Pixie for primary teachers. Hollidaysburg also utilized the expertise of Tech4Learning staff, who provided small-group trainings for teachers and are currently helping the district plan a Pixie Party for primary teachers.
Teachers in Hollidaysburg are now using Pixie in a variety of ways. “One of the reasons the teachers love Pixie so much is its flexibility, that it can be used in so many subject areas, and it’s user-friendliness. It was easy for the teachers to learn and is easy for the students to use,” explains Smith. For example, Kindergartners start with Pixie’s All About Me activity, first graders work with Pixie to build projects that support a unit on animals, and third-grade students use Pixie to explore the life cycle of a frog as well as build a school newsletter.
The use of Pixie is growing in popularity with both students and teachers in Hollidaysburg. Kristin Cramer, a district K-12 technology lead teacher, explains, “students enjoy creating something of their very own, and Pixie allows them to add individual creativity to any project we do.” Now that Kristin is back in the classroom , she is getting requests from teachers she worked with last year for ideas and support as they begin to implement Pixie projects on their own.
Pixie includes hundreds of activities, which makes it easy to find and implement curriculum-based projects. Tech4Learning also provides free training materials in the form of Recipes and Snacks for Pixie. “Our trainers might use the Recipes to teach classes, while a teacher references the Activities, Snacks, and Recipes to find new ideas,” explains Smith.
Pixie’s ease of use for both students and teachers helped Hollidaysburg achieve success with a small staff and minimal training. Hollidaysburg capitalized on their existing relationship with Tech4Learning and the training resources it provides to support those learning - and teaching - with Pixie. Pixie helped Hollidaysburg meet its goals for student technology use in the primary grade classroom.