Tech gadgets bring plenty of learning to SFUSD 

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As you may have heard, we're making big strides in bringing technology to our classrooms thanks to the leadership and the vision of our educators as well as Mayor Ed Lee and local tech companies. San Francisco Unified School District students and teachers now have more access than ever to things like personal computing devices and online learning, but we are a long way off from where we should be, especially given our location in the tech capital of the world.

I've talked about our strong partnership with the Foundation because it is helping us create a true 21st-century educational experience with the largest donation in SFUSD history. And how other local organizations like Zynga, Adobe and Microsoft (and too many others to name) are helping our kids learn about coding, game design, computer science and more.

What's really happening for students?

Yes, we plan on teaching some aspect of computer science throughout a child's educational career in the SFUSD, but these partnerships are not just about technology.

What I see when I walk into a classroom with these devices that so many of us use daily are also tools for transforming the way our kids learn. Students are using these tools to think critically, solve problems, collaborate and communicate effectively. We are challenging every student to kindle her or his unique spark, chart a course for a meaningful future and build the knowledge and skills to achieve their aspirations.

Here's an example of what I mean:

Students at Roosevelt Middle School turned a routine physics lesson into a multimedia event. Instead of reading definitions of speed versus velocity, the teacher asked students to create a two-minute video to show the difference between the two. Student teams wrote story boards for their videos. While they shared their videos with the class, classmates used their computers to send real-time feedback to their peers. This is just one of many daily examples of students using technology to learn content and then show how they mastered that content.

Techies are teaching, too!

Our partners are bringing more than just hardware and apps into our schools. They are bringing people, too. Salesforce volunteers are going to the San Francisco Zoo with our students and helping them conduct field research and record findings on their iPads. The nonprofit Mission Bit provides free programming classes taught by experienced engineers and entrepreneurs. And with Zynga's support, we now have a teacher in two high schools teaching a game-design class for credit.

I am proud to say we are one of the many hubs of innovation in this great city. Working with our tech industry and philanthropic partners to make learning a true 21st-century experience -- and watching kids go deeper into what they are learning because of it -- is an important milestone for us all. We have made tremendous progress in our work to transform teaching and learning in our schools, but there is still work to be done. Over the course of the last year, the SFUSD involved hundreds of community members, including students, parents, teachers and business leaders, in developing a vision for the skills the class of 2025 should have and how our schools need to transform in order to ensure this year's kindergartners graduate with the most important 21st-century skills. This group developed Vision 2025: Reimagining Public Education for a New Generation to point the way for where we are headed as a school district.

We know that in order to prepare our students to truly succeed and thrive in the 21st century, our efforts to increase access to technology and real-life experiences are absolutely critical and require a collective effort. While we are well on our way, we will need to significantly multiply the current investments in technology to make this vision for our students a reality.

Richard A. Carranza is the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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Wednesday, Mar 21, 2018


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