At their March meeting, members of the WakeEd Partnership Board of Directors welcomed two kindergarten teachers from Hunter Magnet Elementary School, who gave a short presentation about their Teacher Innovation Grant project.

Kerry Ann Martinez and Cullen Eller attended the North Carolina Technology In Education Society (NCTIES), North Carolina’s premiere education tech conference, where they learned about Seesaw. Seesaw is an app that empowers students and engages parents in student learning using student driven digital portfolios. Kerry and Cullen saw it as opportunity to develop student leaders who collaborate digitally with their peers to meet literacy goals.

“As a Kindergarten Professional Learning Team (PLT), we believe in the power of reading and literacy. Moving forward into the 21st century we see the need to integrate collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking with digital literacy to promote student success.”

 

Soon after, they pitched their idea to the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) Grants Office, which directed them to WakeEd’s Teacher Innovation Grants program. “It was a perfect fit!”

Now approximately 120 kindergarteners in five classrooms have the opportunity to capture and showcase their learning through photos, videos, drawings, notes, and blogs using Seesaw technology. The open-ended nature of digital portfolios allows students to take ownership of their learning and encourages them to think critically about how to present their best work.

Seesaw also provides a unique way to engage parents in their child’s education, as student work is automatically shared with parents. “Imagine being in a meeting at work and hearing your phone buzz. Your child has just published a book and it’s only nine in the morning!” Kerry and Cullen have found that digital portfolios provide an authentic audience, so students can write with a purpose.

Additionally, collaborative, digital apps like Seesaw, Explain Everything, and Felt Board, are flexible, multisensory, and they cater to students who are verbal, kinesthetic, visual, or auditory learners.

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All of these benefits, and more, have contributed to the success of this Teacher Innovation Grant project at Hunter Elementary. In less than one year, their success has inspired teachers throughout the school to integrate digital literacy portfolios into their classrooms.

To help fellow educators secure the resources they need to bring their own innovative projects to life, Kerry and Cullen have become grant leaders at Hunter and enthusiastic ambassadors for the WakeEd Teacher Innovation Grants program. They are excited to work with other teachers on developing their grant proposals so that Hunter students will continue to benefit from teacher innovation.

Before they shared their project with the WakeEd Board of Directors, they presented their work at NCTIES 2017, where they encouraged teachers across the state to utilize technology in the classroom.

Educators across Wake County have experienced this ripple effect, so they understand the impact of Teacher Innovation Grants. They have seen how one innovative idea spreads from a single classroom to an entire grade level, to an entire school. Successful projects like these spread to other classrooms in the district, are shared statewide, and are soon on their way to becoming best practices in education.