Notes from visiting Central Queens Academy with @elemenous and @donbuckley:

Lucy Gray (@elemenous), Don Buckley (@donbuckley), and I visited Central Queens Academy (CQA) today.

11373 is the most diverse zip code in the US.

CQA is the only charter school option in a Community School District 24. Their charter authorizer is the SUNY schools, not the DOE.

The school’s genesis came through a group of professionals, Chinese Apex Program, who put together a team to serve a high immigrant population of English Language Learners. Also, a goal is to create a rigorous college prep program at CQA. Hence the rooms are named after colleges the teachers went to.

We met with:
Jesse – Principal
Karishma – Staff Developer
Brandon – Blended Learning and Tech Support

This is the first year of the school – just 5th grade for now with an eye toward 5-12.

The school is housed in a former residential building that was then transformed into a Montessori school and then abandoned. Most of their initial budget was exhausted just putting in Wifi and purchase Google chrome books. They have 75 computers for 110 students. Teachers carry MacBook Airs.

Social Studies teacher has been using the tech the most – research, Google Docs, Google Pres, Discovery Learning (trial version), Khan Acadamy, typing program

There is the possibility of adding a Computer Block – for skill development – rather than lots of integration. While there is a need to create a space for innovation to happen, this space can often be the classroom for an integrated project.

After walking around, multiple classrooms (ELA and Social Studies) and hearing teachers address students as “scholars” and asked them to Define the Problem and Distill the Problem (both processes that Don teaches and preaches when introducing the Design Thinking process).

Students/teachers at CQA partner with advocacy groups in the area to have real world examples and conversations.

We saw students students asked What is the problem? What is the issue? Why is it important? to the following issues:
– Corona Flushing Meadows park improvement
– Stop, Question, and Frisk Program
– Immigration reform

For next year, the school has $50,000 and is looking for a “next step” plan. Karishma showed us 5 topics she wants to focus on: differentiated instructions, inquiry based projects, school culture, family engagement, data testing. Lucy likes to chunk tools into a “3-bucket” metaphor: teaching tools that are practical, pedagogy that incorporated authentic connections to the real world, and assessment/data analysis.

Lucy zeroed in on one part of their tech plans for next year: SmartBoards. She recommended NOT buying them and instead installing HD TVs and using Apple TV to mirror from an iPad to the wall screen. Don and I suggested painting the walls with @IdeaPaint and installing ceiling-mounted Epsom Brightlink projectors to include some sort of interactivity.

Don recommended considering BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) and be willing to prototype.

Don reminded us all about the difference between utilizing User-Centered versus Content-Centered tools. Using a GoogleSite to host eportfolios employs a more content-centered platform while posting that stuff to Edmodo instead would embrace a more user-centered environment.

Lucy mentioned Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR method: Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition. More info here: http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2013/05/29/SAMREnhancementToTransformation.pdf

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