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Project Description: The purpose of the Smart Start grant is to develop, implement, and share innovative programs that provide professional development and support to increase expertise in computer science, engineering, and/or educational technology among teachers in grades K-8.

Smart Start programs (and component activities, materials, professional development resources, etc.) will support the mission of the NYS Board of Regents, which is to ensure that every child has equitable access to the highest quality educational opportunities, services, and supports in schools that provide effective instruction aligned to the state’s standards, as well as positive learning environments so that each child is prepared for success in college, career, and citizenship.

Partners: Proposal Narrative Overview & Plan:
  • Overview:

    The Greater Southern Tier (GST) BOCES will partner with the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education to lead a consortium of nine component school districts (Arkport, Bath, Campbell-Savona, Canaseraga, Elmira, Elmira Heights, Hornell, Spencer-Van Etten, and Watkins Glen) in the Tech Tools for Teachers (T3) project. This focused professional development and support program will utilize the cohort model to increase the educational technology expertise of 250-300 K-8 teachers across 25 participating schools. Six of the nine districts are classified as high needs relative to district resource capacity (5 rural, 1 urban/suburban) for a maximum of 10 bonus points.

    This consortium of schools, located within 2,100 square miles of urban, suburban, and rural settings, are generally economically depressed and largely homogeneous. Of the 14,016 students served by the districts, 8,165 students are economically disadvantaged (58%) and 1,966 students are identified as having disabilities (14%). Shackled by generational poverty compounded by low parental education levels, students lack the skills and mindsets necessary to successfully use digital technologies in today’s 21st Century global economy. (Need #2). This poverty combined with the rural nature of more than half of the participating districts limits access to digital technology and student exposure to experiences. Thus, the classroom is where they must acquire the skills needed to successfully enter college and/or the workforce.

    Additionally, consortium teachers have limited capacity to effectively leverage digital technologies and transform daily classroom instruction. (Need #1). Teachers in the GST BOCES region seek to implement a flipped classroom design that moves instruction from teacher-centered lessons to student-centered inquiry-based learning. This 21st century classroom utilizes educational technology to extend, support, and engage students in their learning. Although districts have an abundance of devices, teachers have varying degrees of comfort and expertise in utilizing them during instruction. For example, only 6% of regional teachers report asking students to write online using digital communications on a monthly basis and 62% never ask students to use the internet to receive information. Seventy-five percent of teachers responding to a Bright Bytes educational technology survey report that they would like to learn more about effective technology use for teaching and learning and to differentiate instruction for their students. However, many have limited capacity to design and facilitate digitally-rich learning experiences for students without intensive coaching and job-embedded support. The consortium districts offer professional development for teachers; however, these opportunities are not meeting the specific needs of individual teachers and are often only training on the basic features of a new specialized software program. Teachers report they would like to collaborate with colleagues from other districts to see how others are approaching lesson planning, but the distance between districts and the limited release time are obstacles to implementation. In the meantime, in the GST BOCES region, a generation of students for which technology is their native language are being unserved. This situation is even more dire for the high percentages of traditionally underrepresented (economically disadvantaged) youth attending regional schools. Students desire change and innovation and want to take responsibility for their education. They desire to use technology to learn in ways that are natural and native to them.

    Informed by the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework, as well as cognitive apprenticeship and identity theories, the T3 project will immerse participants in a series of scaffolded in-person and online professional development experiences targeted at meeting the following goals:

    • Goal 1: Teachers will increase their capacity to effectively leverage digital technologies Greater Southern Tier BOCES – T3 Project 2020-2025 Smart Start Grant Program, RFP#GC19-010 and transform daily classroom instruction.
    • Goal 2: Students will increase their technology skills, soft skills, and digital fluency skills in order to be competitive in today’s 21st century workforce.
  • The T3 project will build educational technology proficiency among teachers to create a digitally-rich environment that supports the curriculum and differentiates instruction for all students. Each one-year cohort of 50-60 teachers recruited from the 9 participating districts will participate in engaging experiences that build needed educational technology and digital literacy skills. Through participation in the proposed project, K-8 teachers in the participating consortium districts will incorporate new technologies into their teaching pedagogy leading to integration of technology-enhanced lessons into the classroom curriculum.

  • Program Plan:
  • Each year a new cohort of teachers will attend a 2½ day T3 kick off Summer Learning Institute. Facilitated by the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester (U of R), the consortia’s professional development and support provider, this hands-on learning experience will immerse participants in authentic learning supported by educational technology. Teachers will engage as learners while being reflective about how students learn and how to create the optimal environment for student growth. Five high leverage digital teaching practices will be explored: identifying digital resources, creating new digital resources for students, promoting technology supported communication and collaborative learning, leveraging technology to differentiate instruction, and digitally-rich assessment. The new NYS Standards for Computer Science and Digital Fluency, including digital citizenship, will be introduced and discussed.

    Professional learning communities (PLCs) will be established consisting of 4-6 teachers across participating districts who share similar teaching assignments. Mentored by an educator from the University of Rochester, these PLCs will engage in collaborative planning and sharing of resources in-person as well as utilizing the online platform Zoom throughout the cohort year. T3 project participants will meet online utilizing the Zoom platform 1 time per month after school from September through April (total of 7 meetings). These online meetings will eliminate the need for teachers to miss valuable classroom time to attend training.

    Each cohort year will wrap-up with a ½ day meeting in May. T3 participants will share their experiences with colleagues and finish preparation of their digital artifacts to be shared on the project website, the GST BOCES website, and k12digital.org. Cohort year end evaluation data will be gathered and any necessary revisions to the program will be made.

    An external evaluation will be conducted to assist GST BOCES in documenting its efforts to implement the T3 project. The evaluator will analyze data in a robust, recursive way to shed light on program strengths, weaknesses and suggestions for continuous improvement.

    The T3 project was developed in collaboration with the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council. The region is home to several multinational corporations and in recent years, Advanced Manufacturing has seen a resurgence in the area. Current high demand occupations in this industry include computer systems specialists and programmers, network specialists, mechanical technicians, industrial machinery mechanics and technicians, and all types of engineers.1 Skills such as collaboration, problem solving, communication, identifying and accessing information, and basic foundational computer skills are highly sought after by Southern Tier employers. The T3 project creates future ready learners with the skills and knowledge necessary to compete in the 21st century.

    1 https://www.labor.ny.gov/stats/PDFs/Significant-Industries-Southern-Tier.pdf

Award Amount:
  • GST BOCES was awarded $249,887 for year 1 of the Smart Start Grant with a maximum total of $1,250,000 over the course of five years.

Outline of the Planned Program:
Event Brief Description Dates of required synchronous sessions
Summer Institute (SI) A 3-day equivalent virtual SI, including three 2.5-hour Zoom sessions and 10-11 hours of asynchronous work (w/ feedback).
PLCs will be launched during this summer institute.
dates and times will vary each year of the grant.
Monthly Zoom sessions Seven 1.5-hour Zoom sessions (each including breakout time for PLCs) dates and times will vary each year of the grant.
Final Showcase Zoom event One extended 2-hour Zoom session. This session will provide an opportunity for each PLC to showcase the online instructional materials they created and get some preliminary feedback before making them public. dates and times will vary each year of the grant.

GST BOCES Smart Start Grant – Summer Institute plan Audience: 50-60 K-8 teachers (who will be working in PLCs during the school year, with Monthly Zoom meetings)

Structure: Fully online Summer Institute equivalent to 3 full days; including the following key components:
Essential Questions Key Essential Question: How can you build on what learned from the pandemic to use technology in support of your students’ learning?

Additional related questions:
  1. What does high-quality “digitally-rich instruction” look like in practice?
  2. What are potential benefits and challenges of digitally-rich learning for students?
  3. How can technology be leveraged to strengthen some key teaching practices that cut across subjects and grades?
  4. What does it take to get started implementing some digitally-rich learning experiences in the classroom?
  5. What are resources teachers could take advantage of to learn more about how to leverage technology?

Learning Goals and Desired Results (for Summer Institute ONLY)
Goals Desired Results Opportunities to demonstrate the desired results
1. Develop an appreciation for the value of digitally-rich teaching, and affordances and limitations of its various modalities a. Participants will experience as learner high-quality digitally-rich instruction, using both synchronous and asynchronous modalities

b. Participants will come to appreciate the potential value (and challenges) of using online assignments to complement face-to-face lessons

c. Participants will come to appreciate the potential value (and challenges) of using technology to support inquiry-based lessons

d. Participant will come to appreciate that high-quality digitally-rich lessons need first of all to be high-quality lessons – that is, have high-quality goals and design

e. Participants will come to appreciate technology as a tool to transform teaching practices, instead of focusing on learning about specific tools

g. Participants will know the SAMR and PIC-RAT model for evaluating uses of technology in the classroom

h. Participants will be able to make informed decisions in their planning about when and how to best use face-to-face, online synchronous and online asynchronous teaching modalities

Informal comments & observations throughout

2. Build on uses of technology made during the pandemic to design more effective digitally-rich lessons for their students a. Participants will come to appreciate that they can build on uses of technology made during the pandemic to enhance their teaching

b. Participants will become aware of tech tools other teachers have found useful during the pandemic, and will be able to identify valuable uses for post-COVID instruction.

c. Participants will be able to use appropriate technology they were introduced to during the pandemic in the design of “traditional” learning activities

Contributions to discussions (a)

Final journal (a)

Use of technology in the designed student activity (Assign. 2.2 & 3.1) (b)

3. Learn about how to leverage technology to become more effective at a few selected high-leverage teaching practices (i.e., eliciting prior knowledge; synthesizing learning; conveying content online; sharing students work; giving directions for independent work; providing feedback) a. Participants will come to appreciate the value of mastering high-leverage teaching practices

b. Participants will know a few complementary ways in which technology can be used to support each of the targeted high-leverage teaching practices

c. In their design of digitally-rich lesson, participants will be able to leverage technology to make use of at least a few high-leverage teaching practices

4. Develop a foundation for PLCs a. Participants will know valuable information about other PLC members

b. Participants will be able to develop a “team contract”/shared expectations for their PLC
Team contracts
Key Learning Activities & Assessments:

Preliminary Assignment (~1 hour)
Brief Description Rationale
1. Online introductions + memorable story (~20 min) – participants will be asked to introduce themselves online, including a memorable teaching experience during the pandemic involving technology + read each other’s introductions

Modeling: How to start developing a learning community online; eliciting prior knowledge

Mentors’ role: Provide your own introduction to be posted on Padlet in advance; read everyone’s introduction
(goals 2&4) This activity is intended to get the participants to know something about each other, and begin the practice of “sharing” online; the information will also be helpful for the instructors to get to know the students and their past approach to technology; it will also provide important information to assign participants (and mentors) to specific PLCs – so we need to get this information a few days in advance of the start of the SI.
2. Identifying tech tools participants are familiar with (~10 min) – participants will be asked to list tech tools they have already used in their classrooms during the pandemic, and mark those they plan to continue to use post-COVID

Modeling: Eliciting prior knowledge

Mentors’ role: Identify potential “tool experts” within your PLC
(goals 2&4) Responses will help the instructors gage what participants already know – and possibly also leverage individual expertise with specific tools in specific activities as well as “app slams” .
3. Thought-provoking readings on “digitally-rich teaching” (~15 min) – participants will be assigned a few short readings (ideally a mix of articles and videos) to spark their interest in the SI topic

Modeling: Conveying content online; “Engage” stage of 5Es

Mentors’ role: Do all the readings
(goals 1) We want participants to get a sense of what this PD is about, but even more importantly we want them to start challenging some preconceived notions. By choosing different media to convey this content, participants will also experience as learners the affordances and limitations of each format.
4. Preparing for redesigning digitally-rich lessons (~15 min overtime) – participants will be asked to identify one of last year “digitally-rich” lesson that worked, and one that did not and they would like to improve

Mentors’ role: none
(goal 2) This pre-thinking will save time during some of the Zoom activities

1st Synchronous Zoom Session (2.5 hours)
Brief Description Rationale
5. Beginning to develop a Professional Learning Community (~20+ min - breakouts by PLC) – in small groups by PLC, participants will be asked to share about themselves and that they hope to take out of the program

Modeling: Building a community of learners; Eliciting prior knowledge

Mentors’ role: Facilitate discussion; no report back
(goal 2 & 4) This activity will allow for PLC members to do a sort of “in-person introduction” that will lead to get to know each other better, as well as to continue to elicit prior knowledge about tech tools that can be leveraged later.
6. Introduction to high-leverage teaching practices - modeling with “Eliciting Prior Knowledge” - (5’) brief presentation of HLT practices + (10’) ask to post reflections on “Eliciting prior knowledge” + mini-break (5’) intro to key decision points and other things to pay attention to (goal 3) This activity will help model what the participants will be asked to do on their own in the first online module
7. “Experience as learners” – Pet Activity (~1.5 hours - involving large group + breakouts) – Participants will be paired up in groups of 2-3 in breakout rooms (best if from the same PLC/group) and asked to choose a pet and estimate the costs to be incurred for that pet’s lifetime. This will involve gathering information about the chosen pet’s care and various costs on the Internet, with the option of using a spreadsheet created by the instructor to organize and manipulate the relevant data thus gathered, and recording key findings on Padlets (as a support for selected presentations of those findings to the rest of the class). The reflection that follows may be preceded by watching the PIC-RAT video, to provide a framework for technology integration in instruction.(For more information, see Detailed Plan)

Modeling: Building a community of learners; Eliciting prior knowledge

Mentors’ role: Ensure that small group activities are completed as directed; (if requested) report back key insights
(goal 1 & 3) This “experience as learners” has been designed not only to have participants experience the power of specific tools, but eve more importantly to engage in an inquiry lesson supported and enhanced by technology

Asynchronous Structured Work (~4 hours)
Brief Description Rationale
8. Reflections on the teaching practices modelled in the SI (with choices) (30 min) Participants will be asked to share their “experience as learner” with each of the targeted high-leverage teaching practices in a padlet (https://rochester.padlet.org/ra592/DRSI_HLTpractices_Refllections )

Mentors’ role: Review all posts
(goal 3) These reflections are critical to help participants recognize affordances and limitations of the practices they experiences as learners in the PD so far.
9. Multi-media readings on digitally-rich teaching + related discussion board - see padlet for details

Mentors’ role: Do the same readings; be prepared to discuss them
(goal 1) We want to model the potential of using asynchronous learning to convey content - and have participants experience different kinds of media and genres
10. Prepare for “App Slam” and discussion - In preparation for the next Zoom session, participants will be asked to be ready to share at least one tech tool they plan to continue to use post-COVID, with a focus on HOW that tool could support specific HLT practices, and also to reflect on how they may want to redesign a specific lesson by using technology

Mentors’ role: none
(goal 2) As most participants will expect to learn about new tools, having participants share what they have already used within the framework of these practices will meet this need, while also showing how they can rely on each other as resources. Some pre-thinking on the lesson they are going to revise will make the group activity in Zoom session 2 more productive.
11. Journal #1 (15-30 min) – participants will be asked to identify key take-aways and new questions emerging from the work done so far

Modeling: Individual reflections/ journals to synthesize learning

Mentors’ role: Review and comment on your PLC members’ journals

(goal: all) We want participants to experience the power of journal as a way to synthesize learning. (goal 3) By sharing the journal just wit their group facilitator, we will ensure a level of privacy while also the opportunity to receive some feedback (as part of the “experience as learner” of “providing feedback”)

Second Synchronous Zoom Session (2.5 hours)
Brief Description Rationale
12. Reflection on asynchronous online module & implications for teaching (~20 min – PLCs) – After some framing considerations from the instructor, in their PLCs, participants will reflect on what worked and did not work for them as learners in this carefully structured online module – and draw some implications for their teaching.

Modeling: Power of reflecting on the learning process

Mentors’ role: facilitate breakout + report back
(goal 1) To get the most of the “unusual learning experiences” the participants had in the online module, we want them to reflect on these experiences and see how different people reacted to the same experiences - while also deriving concrete implications for their teaching.
13. Follow up on high-leverage teaching practices (~40 min – whole group+PLCs, w/ working break) Building on the reflections shared on padlet, the facilitator will revisit key elements of “high-leverage teaching practices” while introducing the resources available in the LiDA eModule; participants will engage with the materials related to ONE assigned teaching practice (as part of a working break), followed by discussion of implications for their teaching in their PLCs.

Modeling: Building on students’ prior asynchronous work

Mentors’ role: Get familiar w/ eModule; facilitate breakouts; report back
(goal 3) This activity will deepen participants’ understanding of the targeted HLT practices and also get them familiar with an online resource that can use to support the design of their digitally-rich lessons.
14. App Slam (~20 min) - In their PLCs, each participants presents an app they found especially valuable, with focus on the HLT practices it could support (and how) + report back highlights

Modeling: Sharing student work

Mentors’ role: facilitate breakouts + record apps shared on a common padlet; report back highlights
(goal 2 + 4) As most participants will expect to learn about new tools, having participants share what they have already used within the framework of these practices will meet this need, while also showing how they can rely on each other as resources.
15. Designing high-quality DR lessons (~1 hour) – After a brief introduction to “backward design” illustrated with the design of the Pet Activity, in their PLCs participants will brainstorm ideas to redesign their chosen lesson. This session will also include the identification of another set of apps to be shared in the next session.

Mentors’ role: Facilitate PLC’s work
(goal 2 & 4) This activity is intended to launch and support the participants’ own design of their first digitally-rich lesson, while also developing some practices for the PLC members to support each other work during the school year

Asynchronous Student-Driven Work (~3 hours)
Brief Description Rationale
16. Use the LiDA eModule to explore another practice of your choice (~1 hour) - and include some reflections/ key take aways in a padlet organized by “practice”

Modeling: Students working more independently on a self-paced asynchronous task

Mentors’ role: Read all reflections
(goal 3) Gain a better appreciation of the LiDA eModule as a resource for their future planning + deepen their understanding of another practice - this time giving them choice about what to focus on
17. Prepare to share on a specific app requested by your PLC (as identified in session #14) (goal 2 & 4) To continue to build participants’ repertoire of tech tools and their appreciation for serving as resources for each others
18. Independent work on redesigning a DR lesson of their choice (2+h) – creating written materials/artifacts to be shared in the next session (decide whether we will ask for some written document to be posted)

Modeling: Students working more independently on a long-term asynchronous project

Mentors’ role: NONE
(goal 2) This activity is intended to develop the foundations for the participants’ design of their first digitally-rich lesson, to be shared in the next Zoom session for feedback with their PLC

Third Synchronous Zoom Session (~2.5 hours)
Brief Description Rationale
19. Analysis of affordances & limitations of different modalities (~30 min) – The facilitator will first reconstruct how this PD was designed (so illustrated decisions made about synch vs. asynch work), and then have participants discuss in breakout rooms affordances and limitations of synch vs. asynch learning

Mentors’ role: Facilitate discussion; report back key insights

(goal 1) We think it is important that participants reflect on their own experiences in this SI with synchronous and asynchronous learning activities, and generalize the affordances and limitations of these two modalities, so they may be more open to include asynchronous activities in their planning and best use their synchronous time
20. Second app slam (~30 min) -- In their PLCs, participants share about the app they were assigned by the group to report on

Mentors’ role: Facilitate discussion; report back key insights
(goal 2 & 4) As most participants will expect to learn about new tools, having participants share what they have already used within the framework of these practices will meet this need, while also showing how they can rely on each other as resources.
21. Feedback on lessons (~60 min – by PLC) – After a brief whole group introduction about expectations for the final assignment of completing the design of a lesson they will be implementing during the school year, each PLC will devote time to discuss each member’s initial ideas & design for their chosen lesson.

Mentors’ role: Facilitate discussion; report back key insights
(goal 2 & 4) This session will allow participants to share and refine some initial ideas for their lessons, while also
22. Deciding on a “team contract” (15+ min. – Tier 2 PLCs only) – Discuss and agree upon expectations and roles for the PLC’s work over the school year

Mentors’ role: Facilitate discussion; record decisions
(goal #4) We hope that discussing a “team contract” will help each PLC establish expectations and ways of operating early on, that will make their work more effective.

Closing Independent Work (~3 hours)
Brief Description Rationale
23. Draft lesson plan for the student activity to be implemented in Sept-Oct. (~1.5 hours in addition to what it would normally take to prepare a lesson plan) – each participant will prepare a first draft of their plan for the lesson they plan to implement in one of their classes, share it with their PLC mentor (or group facilitator for Tier 1 teachers) to receive preliminary feedback, and then revise and share the final version with their PLC (for further feedback, in preparation for the first monthly Zoom session)

Modeling: Iterative planning process, and role of revisions

Mentors’ role: Review and provide detailed feedback on first draft of each PLC member
(goal # 3& 5) As preparation for fulfilling the expectation of implementing at least one activity related to some of the standards in their classes in sept/Oct, we want to provide the opportunity for all participants to receive more feedback from their PLC facilitator and hopefully also some of their peers.
24. Final Reflective Journal (30 min) – participants will be asked to identify key take-aways and new questions emerging from the work done so far

Modeling: Power of individual reflections/ journals to synthesize learning

Mentors’ role: Review and comment on your PLC members’ journals

(goals: all) We believe it is always important to conclude a summer institute by asking participants to identify what they learned – as a way for them to better appreciate the significance of their experiences and think about possible applications, and as a way for the facilitators to evaluate what was learned.


Common structure for first 5 meetings (August-December):

Focus themes for the first 5 monthly meeting: Note: Order of themes may change if it seems appropriate

Spring meetings: