Innovative Teaching Initiative

The Innovative Teaching Initiative has two main components.

  • The first is support for new teaching practices, whereby the FBE will provide funds for professional development to learn and hone innovative teaching practices. These funds will be available for teachers K through 12.
  • The second part of the campaign will focus on providing the technology necessary to create 21st century classrooms and help implement several of the innovative practices. Specifically in 2013, the FBE will begin rolling-out iPad technology in those grades best suited for integration (8th – 12th grades).

The Innovative Teaching Initiative is a 4-year, $450,000 project.

These practices include, but are not limited to:

  • student-centered classrooms (the focus of the activity is shifted from the teacher to the learners. Students, individually or in groups, solve problems, formulate questions, debate, discuss and brainstorm during class)
  • project-based lessons (students explore real-world challenges and problems in class)
  • integrated studies (brings together traditionally separate subjects so students can acquire a more authentic understanding)
  • differentiated instruction (individual student needs are met within the context of a large classroom)
  • use of technology to promote 21st Century skills

According to the United States Department of Education, advances in learning sciences show that students learn better when they are actively engaged in the process and not simply passive participants. Transforming the classroom from a teacher-driven instructional model to one that is student-centered enhances the educational experience for students. Student-centered classroom have been proven to elicit more engagement and motivation from students thereby leading to more in-depth and meaningful study. Students, individually or in groups, solve problems, formulate questions, debate and discuss during class and thinking critically and deeply on a given topic. Curriculum that is individualized and project-based allows students to acquire knowledge in specific content areas while supporting the development of adaptive expertise that can be applied to other areas. This model allows for individualized instruction to meet the needs of all learners.

Fueled by the power and flexibility of technology, Belmont’s classrooms will more closely mirror those of higher education and, ultimately, the 21st century workplace. Technology supports this type of learning in several important ways by providing:

  • engaging learning environments
  • tools for understanding and remembering content
  • access to a wider and more flexible set of learning resources
  • connections to a wider set of educators
  • effective learning experiences that can be individualized or differentiated

In addition, students need to know how to use the technology that various professionals now use in their disciplines. By allowing students to use technology to engage in real-world problems, they begin to see themselves in “productive professional roles”. The Belmont Public Schools face budget issues that are not likely to go away. We need to be forward thinking, find new ways for our teachers to deliver content effectively and provide our students the preparation they need to succeed in the global economy.

Belmont teachers are among the best in the state and some of these innovative methods are already in use in our schools. With support from FBE dollars, here are a few examples of exciting projects currently in our schools.

  • Earthwatch Initiative: Last spring, the FBE funded part of a special initiative whereby two teachers, Brian Bisciglia-Kane (2nd grade, Butler), and Shoba Reginald (7th grade, Chenery) participated in a Live from the Field expedition in Nova Scotia. These teachers were able to actively participate in field research for two weeks. Utilizing technology, they were in communication with their classrooms via podcasts so students could learn in real time. This integration of technology exposed hundreds of students to experiential learning models and actual field research in environmental science. These students and teachers are in the process of creating a community action project that builds on what they learned from the field research. This project-based learning experience will allow students to apply knowledge to help solve real environmental concerns faced by the Town of Belmont. In addition, the BPS will send a group of high school students accompanied by one teacher on a two-week expedition to Nova Scotia this summer.
  • Colonial Day: This spring, the FBE funded a day-long, historically rich, hands-on learning experience for 3rd graders at the Burbank School. Students stepped back in time to spend the day as students in Colonial New England. Students danced the Virginia Reel to the accompaniment of Colonial music, churned butter, dipped candles, played nine pins, and talked with a Menotomy Militiaman and a British soldier. Children, teachers, and more than 40 parent volunteers arrived at the school wearing traditional Colonial apparel. With the help of FBE funded SMART Boards and document cameras, teachers were able to use a variety of primary source material to prepare students to play their parts as Colonial children.
  • 10th Grade American Studies iPad Pilot Classroom: Below are examples of innovative projects that Jeff Shea was able to do with his class with the help of iPads. (1)Students created Great Depression Museum Exhibits using their iPads. During one class, students searched through two online photo essays, chose and analyzed images, and put them together in a multimedia presentation using the app Educreations, providing an “audio tour” to accompany the photos. (2)After completing their thesis papers, students created a fictional interview with either an historian or an eyewitness at the event they researched. During one class period, they recorded their interview on iMovie with the help of a single classmate. (3)Over the course of their civil rights unit, students watched clips from a civil rights documentary, “Eyes on the Prize,” at home and then reflected on events of the Civil Rights Movement in class. As a summative assessment, students chose and analyzed meaningful images and read their favorite journal entries, putting it all together in a multimedia presentation using the app Educreations on their iPad. (4)As part of an American Studies interview project, students used their iPads to record an interview with someone that was alive during the 1950s & 1960s. After editing the project on iMovie, and adding primary source images and subtitles, students uploaded their final product to You tube for other students to learn about the experiences of their interviewee.
  • Coming Soon with iPad implementation in 2013-2014: 8th Grade Science Classrooms: Cell Town Campaign Project: This project aims to help students understand the function of different cell parts and their roles within the cell as part of the 8th grade Biology curriculum. The premise of the project is that the job of “Mayor” in “Cell Town” is open because “Nick Nucleus” has decided not to run for reelection. Each student will be responsible for acting as campaign manager for another cell part in their bid to be elected Mayor. Students must create campaign slogans and posters using their iPads that will be shared with the class via the SMART Board. This project will allow students to gain a more in-depth understanding of the function and importance of each part of a cell through creativity and group work.

The goal of this Innovative Teaching Initiative is to help create more learning experiences like those listed above. With your help, these student-centered, project based opportunities will be happening on a wider scale throughout the district and benefitting all Belmont’s students.

As part of the Innovative Teaching Initiative, and beginning with the class of 2017, each high school student will receive an iPad, which will be available for use on and off campus. Beginning in 2013, the iPads will be funded by the FBE and, over the course of the next four years, the cost will gradually be assumed by the School Department.

Utilizing iPads at Belmont High School will enable faculty members and students to expand teaching and learning opportunities with the use of iPads’ universally available curriculum materials and electronic textbooks. Students will be inquisitive, open-minded learners who use technology in a balanced and responsible manner along the way to becoming discerning and self-directed adults.

iPads will be used to differentiate instruction through flexible grouping or to deliver a lesson through whole group instruction. The iPad is used to enhance instruction throughout the content areas while at the same time to transform the classroom from a teacher-driven instructional model to a student-driven one.

Providing students with iPads in a one-to-one model creates opportunities to improve students’ 21st century skills for problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, data gathering and analysis, oral and written communication, and technological competence, among others. These are difficult skills to master. With our current levels of technology, we are limited in how many times per year we can fully expose students to these skills and work to develop mastery. The one-to-one model provides students with greatly increased opportunities to practice 21st century skills and provides teachers with multiple opportunities over the course of the year to assess student growth. Specifically, we anticipate students will become more engaged and capable in research, creative projects, argumentation, demonstrations, summaries, and other artifacts that grant evidence of the growth of knowledge and skills.

By increasing the frequency with which students practice selecting academically reliable sources, annotate and analyze those sources, synthesize the information from multiple sources, and then create an argument, teachers will be able to chart student progress and differentiate instruction in order to support struggling learners and to increase the level of mastery for all students.

Several options for the use of electronic devices were reviewed. Ultimately, BPS chose the iPad2 because:

  • They were looking for a tablet (as opposed to a laptop or laptop replacement).
  • They wanted the ability to choose between using a touch screen or keyboard.
  • They were interested in a device which could run textbooks and applications natively without a connection to the internet.
  • They wanted to have access to thousands of education-related applications.
  • They desired an operating system and compatible hardware produced by the same company for integration and reliability.
  • They sought an interface which is already familiar to most students and staff who also own iPods or iPhones.
  • They needed devices that can run 10 hours without charging.
  • They wanted a device that is lightweight and boots up quickly.
  • The product had to be supported by a company with extensive experience in the education market.
  • The provider would be a significant developer and offer a user support community.
  • The provider needed to demonstrate an installed base in thousands of K-12 schools, including many in our immediate area.
  • The system had to offer accessibility features natively, including text-to-speech, and accept assistive technology devices.
  • The system needed to be supported by hundreds of vendors who produce hardware specifically for the iPad, including microscopes, probes and other science equipment, musical instruments, midi devices, and recording equipment for music.
  • The device needed to have a rear-facing camera for content capture.
  • The system had to be easily integrated into our existing SMARTBoard, remote access, and Edline technologies.
  • The device needed to have an ability to produce multimedia content.

Although cost reduction is not the primary goal of this 1:1 model it is anticipated that cost savings will be achieved by reduced printing and copier costs, fewer PC and printer purchases, fewer Windows and Office license renewals, and a reduction in network storage space.

Based on data from the BHS 2012-13 iPad pilot program, we feel it is best to start with incoming freshmen and to then gradually increase the number of iPads annually. One advantage of deploying iPads over multiple years is to keep costs down through a manageable and deliberate approach.

The pilot involved 85 sophomores in the American Studies Honors class. Throughout the year, they used the iPads to access course materials, an electronic textbook, and to take notes in class. They also researched, created, and submitted class projects and participated in online assessments.

Yes. A survey of families showed a significant number of families would like to use their own iPads. Families of grade 9 students will be surveyed in June to indicate whether they will be providing their own device or will be asking the district to provide one.

iPads will be placed on a four year replacement schedule with repairs and in-service replacements as needed. It is important to understand that the iPad2 (current unit in service) was introduced in 2011. This means even districts which purchased iPads as soon as they were available for large scale shipment have had them for only two years. Apple does not publish statistics on the lifespan of an iPad, nor do they predict device longevity. We are reminded that iPads are a relatively new technology, and there are no reliable predictions of useful life.

At the beginning of year four, an assessment would be made of the iPads and if they can stay in service. If they are still viable, they will be repurposed after year four for use at other Belmont schools.

iPads will be placed in the current technology inventory and identified in real time via the LightSpeed Mobile Device Management tool.

The expectation is that students will keep the iPads in the provided protective cases and use the strategies outlined in the iPad Usage Requirements and Guidelines document.

iPads are considered part of the educational setting just like books, calculators, or binders. If an iPad is required in a given class, the student is expected to possess it.

Theft of technology has been historically low in Belmont. Of course, iPads, which are small and travel with students, are at a much greater risk; but in the pilot program, there were no thefts. Our research has shown the best way to prevent theft is to have a solid education campaign about use and protection. This introductory program and instruction are incorporated into the iPad Usage Requirements and Guidelines agreement and student/parent information sessions.

Yes. Professional development will be provided not only on iPad use, but also about educational applications and in curriculum development. The first series of training is scheduled for June 26-28, with additional curriculum development throughout the summer and professional development throughout the school year. What kind of training will teachers receive so they are prepared to teach with iPADs in the fall?

BPS has determined that professional development (PD) around iPad implementation will occur this summer and will fund this PD from an anonymous grant. The first day of training (June 26) will be used to teach the basics of the iPad (parts of the iPad, general functions, care), classroom management with the iPad and digital citizenship. This training will be led by BPS staff.

An Education Technology Teacher has been hired to provide two days of professional development (June 27 and 28). Training will focus on a few foundational apps and the workflow required to get assignments to the students and then back to the teachers. BPS expects that teachers and students will need:

  • a notebook app like Evernote,
  • an app for consumption so students can use PDFs like Good Reader,
  • an app for formative assessments (clickers) like Socrative, and
  • an app (or 2) for creation and curation so students can demonstrate their knowledge in innovative ways, such as Explain Everything, Educreations, VoiceThread or Show Me.

In addition to training on foundational, non-subject specific apps, BPS will focus training on the basics of workflow: “sharing materials, collecting student work, making comments and grading, and passing student work back.

After completing the three days of training, the teachers will be paid for two days (at the summer curriculum rate) to apply their learning from the first three days of training to their specific content area to develop curriculum. Teachers in the same subject area will collaborate on this work.

BPS is very fortunate to have highly skilled and knowledgeable IT professionals, curriculum directors, and high school administrators who are dedicated to supporting all educators in the important work of optimizing the benefits of a 1:1 environment and developing innovative instructional models to improve student learning. Additionally, BPS hopes to create lead teacher positions to tap into the expertise of teachers who have already begun this work to enhance teacher curriculum support. BPS is confident that the investment made in this initiative will have a tremendous positive impact on our students’ learning.

On May 8, 2013, Principal Dan Richards presented the concept and explained the professional learning opportunity to the high school’s educators. While he was careful to explain that the implementation in September is not definite at this time, the professional development will happen this summer, and it will be combined with paid curriculum development time for teachers to apply what they learn in the training to develop curriculum and instruction materials incorporating iPads. The response was very positive and enthusiastic. He asked teachers to email him if they wanted to participate in the training. Within one day of the presentation, there were more than enough teachers to fill the June course, and there are 9th grade teachers from all the core academic areas on the list. In addition, BPS will add additional support later in the summer and during the school year for those who are interested but unable to participate in June.

The following statement, from the Belmont School Superintendent, addresses this question:
“Preparing all students for college, career, and life-long learning is the first and foundational goal of the Belmont Public Schools Strategic Plan, and achieving this by supporting educators to experiment and innovate is the means. We are committed to developing innovating instructional models that improve learning for all students. The Foundation for Belmont Education and their Innovative Teaching Campaign are key to the success of accomplishing our goal. It is through their support and funding that we are able to explore alternative models of instruction and provide professional development to all teachers to achieve this goal. We are grateful that they are willing to partner with us in this important work.”

It has not been determined which classes will be adopting electronic textbooks first. That decision will be made this summer and depends upon which teachers are selected to participate in year one. Certainly, Curriculum Directors may take this opportunity to adopt a new text since there are a growing number of quality electronic textbooks now available.

Students in the pilot program have indicated no real difficulty with typing notes. In actuality, they have found the iPad to be helpful in their note taking and organization. There is no doubt students have plenty of experience communicating with devices which do not have keyboards. Students who experience difficulty typing have the option of adding an inexpensive keyboard.

Families will be responsible for insuring the device against damage or loss, whether by self-insuring, through purchase of one of several inexpensive insurance policies commercially available, or by simply adding a rider to their existing home insurance. Alternative insurance providers have policies around $35-$50/year, with varying deductibles. and are just two of the many companies which offer iPad insurance. During the 2012-13 pilot involving 85 students, there was one damaged screen, one lost iPad, and no thefts. If a student qualifies for the federal Free and Reduced Lunch program, they do not need to purchase insurance. The district will insure the device for them.

Work saved to the iPad is the student’s responsibility to backup. The District assumes no responsibility for lost work due to malfunction or user error. Students will be able to use iCloud, DropBox, Drive, and e-mail to backup files. More information on the iCloud back up process and other options will be available at the summer information sessions.

iPads are to support teaching and learning. All policies of the Belmont Public Schools apply, including the Student Acceptable Use Policy. Furthermore, students and parents will be asked to sign the iPad Usage Requirements and Guidelines agreement which details additional usage requirements.

All iPad internet traffic on the Belmont High School network will be filtered and monitored in the same way we monitor regular PCs and laptops. When the iPads are used off campus, we plan to filter, but reserve the right to remove the filtering if there are technical issues that impede efficient use of the iPad; and only after informing parents of our intention to do so. BPS is unable to filter student-owned iPads while off campus. It is the responsibility of the student to use the iPad appropriately. Parents should discuss appropriate use as they would with any internet enabled device in the home.

Yes. Any parent who does not wish their student to receive an iPad should do so by sending a request to Daniel Richards, Belmont High School Principal,

Next year’s 9th grade students and their parents will be asked to attend an information session this summer where they will learn how iPads will be used in the fall and expectations for use. There will also be general information sessions held at Belmont High School – June 10, 6:00PM and June 11 (two sessions), 8:00AM and 6:00PM. Additional information is available by e-mailing Steve Mazzola, Director of Technology,