Deia Scott understands it takes a village to teach children. And technology helps, too.
The veteran third-grade teacher at Chavez Science Magnet School in east Bakersfield has just wrapped up her first year of using a new Bakersfield City School District online curriculum system called Learning Village. It's changing the way educators work together to teach kids, not only here but nationwide.
Hundreds of BCSD teachers used the system this year, but Scott has taken it to another level by gathering a community of teachers throughout the city to share interactive lessons children are soaking up.
"It's an amazing network she started and she developed," said Chavez Principal Ruscel Reader. "It's exciting to see that a single person can assist so many. She's a leader."
BCSD rolled out Learning Village this school year. The program, which the district purchased for $500,000 for three years, is the first of its kind implemented districtwide in California.
The system holds digitized textbooks, easing educators' burden of lugging around books and paperwork home to create lesson plans. And educators can create lesson plans online, from anywhere, and share them with others.
The system also allows teachers to connect their lesson plans to SMART boards, interactive white boards students and teachers use.
How far teachers take and use the tools, however, is up to them, said John Sipe Jr., vice president of K-12 sales for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's western region, an education publisher that developed Learning Village with Microsoft Corp.
The company features BCSD on its Learning Village homepage because it was the first major district in California to adopt the software (BCSD is the largest elementary school district in the state). Education magazines and school administrators have also visited BCSD to see how the system works.
"Learning Village allows for collaboration and social networking," Sipe said. "A teacher can unlock hidden assets within a district that normally would stay hidden."
That's where Scott comes in.
Scott's class on Tuesday studied vocabulary words from "Elena's Serenade," a story about a young Mexican girl who wants to be a glassblower.
What's the best way to explain to third-graders what glassblowers are and how they do their work? And what's the best way to show students what a "burro," featured in the story, looks like?
Scott uses the SMART board to go through an interactive slide show of lessons she and other teachers helped make. An audio file she added explains what a glassblower does. A picture of a burro shows kids the burro is actually a donkey.
The kids then play a spelling game on the interactive board to help them remember key words.
Through Learning Village, the same lesson is available to all third-grade teachers districtwide.
Starting with her campus, Scott formed a group to share lessons that were working for them. By year's end this week, the group had 10 teachers who converted their material into lessons that were being used by more than 90 third-grade teachers districtwide.
It not only helped teachers stay aligned to mandated district and state standards, it eased each's burden to create time-consuming lessons individually, Scott said.
Scott spent many hours outside of class working on lessons, and adding multimedia components --audio, pictures and video, she said. A single lesson can take six to 12 hours to make.
CHANGING TEACHING, LEARNING
Garza Elementary School teacher Valerie Barksdale said the teacher group headed by Scott was invaluable for her. In an e-mail to teachers she wrote:
"It has made my first year of teaching incredible. I can't begin to imagine all the hours you've spent creating the (lessons) and want you all to know how appreciative I am. My students really enjoyed them. It takes learning to a whole new level!"
Barksdale said Scott's system "unifies all of the teachers."
"It's been a dream," she said. "Teachers like (Scott) really encourage the importance of working as a team."
In fact, many of the teachers who worked together were spread throughout Bakersfield and had never met each other except online. That changed for a small group that recently took Scott out to lunch to Luigi's as a token of appreciation.
Julie Campe, a veteran teacher at Mount Vernon Elementary School, called Scott "the chief" to whom other teachers reported their lessons.
Since they started sharing the teacher-made lessons, Campe said, students' level of engagement has been at an all-time high.
"Our children are media savvy. Their brains are wired for this," she said. "It's changed the way we teach, but I think it's more positive for the kids."
WORTH ITS WEIGHT
Since this is Learning Village's debut year, there aren't test scores to indicate if it and Scott's group are making a difference. But teachers and administrators say they have no doubt the effort is working.
"We are all about sharing what's good for the kids," said Kathy Walker, BCSD director of curriculum and standards. "This vehicle benefits them."
Learning Village is also being used at some of the largest school districts in the nation, including in Florida and Detroit.
BCSD Assistant Superintendent Marvin Jones called Learning Village "the way of the future for professional development" and that it's "worth its weight in gold."
In the next phase, BCSD will classify "best practices" among teachers' use of Learning Village and videotape lessons so others at BCSD and possibly other districts can learn from them. Nine teachers in BCSD have already been taped, Jones said.
Administrators hope more groups like Scott's will form for all grades and subjects. The district has roughly 1,700 teachers.
Expansion is what Scott plans to work on during summer break. It's fun, she said.
She recalled that when she was pursuing her degree, someone told her: "It can't be Disneyland every day in the classroom."
With the new technology and teacher collaboration, Scott said, it can be.